Patience is a virtue they say…..

28 05 2016

I wish I could say a whole bunch of stuff I’ve started is finished….. but I can’t. Even Matt my neighbour thinks I’ve entered a state of Zen…

20160525_150756

Ready for action…

Having now discovered my new batteries take 3.5 litres of Potassium Hydroxide electrolyte each (140L in total – I was originally under the impression they needed 1.2L each, but apparently they’ve improved the design) and being unable to access distilled water anywhere in Tasmania in that sort of quantity, I decided to make a solar still and make my own…….. but if those results are what Tasmania has in store for me with respect to solar power, I will give up.  My still made a cupful of distilled water on one sunny day.  I now wish I had taken the advice of one of my readers and bought a reverse osmosis filter setup, but such is life.  Matt has rescued me once again, and I’m taking 40L batches of his filtered rainwater from his kitchen.  His roof’s brand new, and with Tassie having the cleanest air in the world, I figured I would take the chance, especially after a local told me he’d been doing this for years with no negative repercussions…

Mixing the electrolyte is a slow and tedious process.  You have to add the KOH flakes to the water (and definitely not the other way around…) very slowly.  I stir it with the supplied thermometer, and the liquid quickly heats up to 50 and even 60 degrees.  And if you are too aggressive with this process, the ensuing exothermic reaction can bite you in the butt and start boiling covering the operator with highly caustic stuff!  Which is why I of course wear the supplied rubber apron, heavy duty gloves, and eye protection.  Once or twice, the electrolyte started hissing at me, causing a few steps backwards to occur…… not for the faint hearted, but it’s all fine really.  I’ve just mixed another 40L, and I’ll wait until it cools overnight before filling the next 12 or so cells such a batch will do.  I still don’t have my slow burn fuses anyway. I’m definitely going to have to make a list of all these people I’m waiting for!!

All the batteries are now on a custom made stand. The wiring is all but finished, needing20160528_113511 the aforementioned fuses to close the final circuit; once the batteries are full of course. I’m rather pleased with how it all turned out, looks quite professional……

The pile of timber in the shed has grown, but I haven’t seen the sawmillers in well over a week, I have no idea what’s happening on that front either.  There are seven logs left to mill, and one of them is too large for me to roll towards the mill on my own.

20160528_115613Last weekend, Trev the excavator operator turned up and started scraping topsoil off the base clay, stockpiling it in huge growing mounds…. and also found loads of floaters (rocks to you) which no doubt Glenda will find use for as landscaping material once the house is built.  The machine had only been going for one hour when its bottom radiator hose burst, silencing it for good.  Trev was back today, but must have had the wrong part…. all 12cm of it.  It’s still sitting exactly where it stopped a week ago. Such is life…. all good things come to those who wait.  But a bit more action would be nice…..

Earlier this week, mother nature turned on an amazing frosty show…. coldest morning I’ve seen here yet, -1.5C in the shed, making it hard to get out of bed…..  but out of bed I did get, the sunrise alone was worth putting on four layers and breaking out the down jacket!

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View “from the bedroom”

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Across the road





We can fix it….

28 05 2016

markcochrane2

Mark Cochrane

Another gem from Mark Cochrane….

It is simply human nature I guess to forever fight to maintain the status quo if we cannot improve upon it, in a shortsighted manner. It is reasonable to question whether any problematic situation is simply a momentary problem that can be ignored over the long run or is just a minor correction that can be compensated for with a tweak here and there, but there is rarely if ever a serious consideration of changing economic or social course voluntarily. Politicians cannot sell pain to the masses even if they can consider it themselves.

The latest example I saw today was from India.

India to ‘divert rivers’ to tackle drought

Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti said transferring water, including from major rivers like the Brahmaputra and the Ganges, to drought-prone areas is now her government’s top priority.

At least 330 million people are affected by drought in India.

The drought is taking place as a heat wave extends across much of India, with temperatures in excess of 40C.

The Inter Linking of Rivers (ILR) has 30 links planned for water-transfer, 14 of them fed by Himalayan glaciers in the north of the country and 16 in peninsular India.

Environmentalists have opposed the project, arguing it will invite ecological disaster but the Supreme Court has ordered its implementation.

What could possibly go wrong with this? Since no studies have been done no one really knows but there are good reasons to suspect there will be many problems. Taking polluted or poisoned waters from diminished rivers such as the Ganges (link) and spreading them across the land or into other river courses is unlikely to greatly benefit the recipients or the dying rivers. However, given that India has had poor monsoon rains the last two years and is questionably facing its worst-ever water crisis (link), it is not surprising that there are efforts to appear to be doing great things to address the problems. Even if the rivers can be harnessed to support strained agricultural and power needs, despite the ecological costs, it does little to address the underlying problems of melting ice in the Himalayan headwaters or the rapidly draining aquifers. Those aquifers currently supply 85% of the nation’s drinking water but levels are dropping in 56% of the country (link).

India has a population of 1.3 billion and growing. Soon, years like 2016 will become the norm for water availability unless serious adaptations and mitigation efforts are made. However, instead of making serious efforts to improve efficiency of the woefully inadequate water systems, there will be a major effort to ‘fix’ everything with some massive crony-funding projects that will further impact the region’s ecosystems while doing little to manage the real problems of population and changing hydrology.

India is not unique in this though. You can look at China’s Three Gorges dam, Brazil’s massive efforts to install hundreds of dams across the Amazon, Ethiopia’s damming the Blue Nile above Egypt’s existing Aswan Dam or the United States dams and project including its (mis-) management of the Colorado river for examples of trying to engineer solutions to water/energy scarcity. Water is much more precious than oil when scarcity bites.

Whether we are talking about water, oil, fish or anything else the question is always how to get more instead of how to need less. Regardless of rules, treaties, or laws, expect the grab for resources to increase as true scarcity looms. This will likely hold true with climate change as well since ‘geoengineering’ is always in the wings as the proposed cure to our current ills. Why us less water when we can potentially make it rain more (here), or cut greenhouse gas emissions when we can make more clouds to keep it cooler (at what cost?).

I’ve got an engineering degree of my own and so I understand the Siren’s song of a technological ‘fix’. It is a strategy that has worked well for us for a long time now. It can still work well if we just set the parameters and incentives right. Challenge people to do more with less and they will. We need to get off of the uncontrolled ‘growth’ of consumption at all cost mantra and move to one more like continued growth in well-being of human populations and ecosystems. On a finite world there really isn’t another sustainable option.





Global warming accelerates: “so much for the pause”

27 05 2016

Here’s an updateon global temperature trends  from NASA and asset-manager Jeremy Grantham at GMO.

The global-warming skeptics had an encouraging run for a while, but the acceleration of warming over the past year and a half is alarming……..

Quoting Mr. Grantham:

Global warming accelerates: “so much for the pause”

Because 1998 was an outlier warm year due to a large El Niño effect in the Pacific, many subsequent years, including 2013, had lower global temperatures and led some to believe, or claim to believe, that global warming had ceased. But it turned out to be, after all, just another series…with a little steady signal often obscured by a very great deal of noise.

As it turned out, the below-trend 2013 was followed immediately by a modest new record in 2014. And then came the real test as a new powerful El Niño started to build up in 2015. Ten of the twelve months of 2015 set new all-time records, an unheard of event, and 2015 in total became a monster, not only the warmest year in recent millennia but by a record increment.

Yet, the early months of 2016, still under the influence of what had become one of the most powerful El Niño effects, showed temperature increases that were even more remarkable. This current El Niño has accelerated underlying warming caused by increasing CO2 — as all El Niños do — but this time the combined effect has been far ahead of scientific forecasts that in general remain dangerously conservative. January 2016 was the hottest January ever on the NASA series and by a new record amount. It was a full 0.22 degrees Celsius above the previous high for January. Then February became the new shocker, washing away that record by being 0.33 degrees Celsius above the previous February record. Most recently, March was once again the warmest ever March, although not quite by a record amount (see Exhibit 2).

The exhibit makes the scary point clear: global temperature is not just increasing, but accelerating. The average increase from 1900 to 1958 was about 0.007 degrees Celsius per year. From 1958 to 2015 it doubled to 0.015 degrees Celsius per year, and from February 1998 to February 2016 it rose by an average of 0.025 degrees Celsius per year! Time is truly running out.

Read more at GMO >





Jobs and growth

26 05 2016

Many moons ago, I ‘met’ this guy on The Conversation who called himself Harquebus…. which is French (more or less) for a flintstock rifle.  Why he picked that word as his internet identity, not even I know, but what I do know is that we agreed on nearly everything…!  He found me by following the many links to DTM I had left behind, and now, as a result, I get a sort of ‘newsletter’ from him.  Here is his latest.

Lots of links, as usual….  enjoy.

Hi all.

We are less than three weeks into the Australian federal election campaign which, was called because the Australian Building Construction Commission legislation could not pass the senate. So far I have not heard it mentioned once. What I have heard ad-nauseam is the slogan, “jobs and growth”.

Our Prime Minister, his deputy and ministers can not string two sentences together without including this slogan. In the myriad of interviews that I have seen so far during this campaign, not one journalist has queried the need for pursuing this destructive ideology.

Rather than create jobs, no one has instead considered reducing populations. Not only would it reduce unemployment and put more in peoples hands and pockets, it will also reduce pollution, environmental destruction, urban sprawl, traffic jams, smog, inequality and poverty etc.

“Jobs and growth” is not being called for by the general population. It is being promoted by the very small minority that benefit from it. The rest of us will suffer from it until the point of no return when, rich and poor alike will perish because of it.

There are no vast habitable expanses left to inhabit, there are no large quantities of easily accessible resources to exploit and there is no cheap and abundant energy left to provide the growth that we have seen these past two centuries.

Every politician using the slogan “jobs and growth” is displaying their ignorance of the exponential function, the limited finite resources that are available to us and the consequences of our attack on the natural world.

Do you really want more traffic jams, more over crowding, more urban sprawl, limited access to resources, more pollution, more inequality, more poverty, more CO2, depleted fish stocks and more unemployment etc. until, we can not sustain ourselves any longer and have to endure the inevitable bloody consequences? This is what those that pursue growth at any cost will bring you.

I urge all journalists on my list, for all of our sake, query this destructive ideology before it is too late. As it is, the damage already done will take centuries to recover, humans surviving or not.

I have included an attachment listing various alternative news sources. A lot are already on my reading list, some I come across regularly and a few I have never heard of before.

If you are turned off by the endless trivia and propaganda being spoon fed to us by the corporate controlled main stream media (MSM), please take a look. The differences between MSM and the alternative media are large.

Here again is my list of various articles along with excerpts.

Avagoodwun.

Cheers.

“a well-established and rarely challenged narrative. “We must grow the economy to produce jobs so people will have the money to grow their consumption, which will grow more jobs…” Grow. Grow. Grow.”
“Contrary to the promises of politicians and economists, this growth is not eliminating poverty and creating a better life for all. It is instead creating increasingly grotesque and unsustainable imbalances in our relationship to Earth and to each other.”
“Humans now consume at a rate 1.6 times what Earth can provide.”
http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/36033-why-the-economy-should-stop-growing-and-just-grow-up
“Absolutely NOBODY up at the top EVER talks about what the REAL problems are, Resource Depletion and Population Overshoot.  “Growth” is constantly put forth by EVERY candidate of EVERY political persuation Lefty or Righty as the ULTIMATE solution to all problems!  We can GROW our way out of debt!  The fact this is a finite planet with finite resources is never discussed anywhere except on fringe websites like this one.  The reality is we can only solve our problems if we STOP GROWING and START SHRINKING!”
“The difference between “them” and “us” is they are in positions of power where they could effect change.  Sadly the only change they wish to effect is to “increase shareholder value” of the corporations they run, and then by extension increase their own compensation packages.  It doesn’t matter to them what the consequences are, child slave labor in 3rd World countries, topsoil depletion from unsustainable Industrial Agriculture practices, endangering the safety of the food supply with GMO foods, destroying the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico…none of that matters.  All that matters is the bottom line of corporate profits.
http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/blog/2016/05/22/who-are-the-we/
“Whenever somebody with a decent grasp of maths and physics looks into the idea of a fully renewables-powered civilised future for the human race with a reasonably open mind, they normally come to the conclusion that it simply isn’t feasible.
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/11/21/renewable_energy_simply_wont_work_google_renewables_engineers/

“Despite our widespread willful ignorance, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that a consumptive way of living that devours non-renewable “resources” with reckless abandon cannot last.”
“It is the sixth mass extinction event that gets little airtime in our truth suppressed world.”
“The planet cannot regenerate itself as quickly as industrial culture is destroying it.”
“If all the insects were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all life on earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.”
http://www.debozarko.com/letting-go/
Degradation of the world’s natural resources by humans is rapidly outpacing the planet’s ability to absorb the damage, meaning the rate of deterioration is increasing globally, the most comprehensive environmental study ever undertaken by the UN has found.”
“In rich countries, these problems have built up over decades and centuries while economic growth was pursued at the expense of the environment.
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/19/humans-damaging-the-environment-faster-than-it-can-recover-report-finds

“new Green technologies designed to save humanity from CO2 may kill humanity through energy starvation”
“If we used more energy to get the energy we need to survive then we will surely perish.”
“ERoEI = energy gathered / energy invested” “net energy = ERoEI-1”
“An inevitable consequence of this aspect of human nature commonly known as greed is that we have already used up the highest ERoEI fossil fuel resources and as time passes the ERoEI of new resources is steadily falling.”
“The greatest risk to human society today is the notion that we can somehow replace high ERoEI fossil fuels with new renewable energies like solar PV and biofuels.”
http://euanmearns.com/eroei-for-beginners/

“CO2 brings peak heat within a decade of being emitted, with the effects then lingering 100 years or more into the future.”
“low probability/high impact events such as a rapid release of methane currently stored in permafrost provide as much, if not a greater, urgency to reduce emissions.”
http://www.climatecentral.org/news/co2-emissions-peak-heat-18394

Nature has been wounded too extensively to heal herself. Apocalyptic change has already begun, and our only hope of averting our own imminent extinction is a gamble on geo-engineering.”
“We actually need to go carbon-negative, so that the net effect of our human activities is to take large amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere. Otherwise the temperature will continue rising rapidly, and will kill us all.”
“it’s astonishing how fast the polar ice, the glaciers, and the mountaintops are all melting now, after being frozen for so many thousands of years. Once they’re all gone, watch out! The rest of the world will start heating up a lot faster.
“runaway warming has already begun”
“We must stop basing our society on buying and selling everything.”
https://leftymathprof.wordpress.com/runaway-warming/

“Children living in agricultural areas are developing leukemia, brain tumors and other childhood cancers at an accelerated rate”
http://www.naturalnews.com/054040_children_agricultural_pesticides_childhood_cancers.html

“any reduction in our corporate tax rate would result in US multinationals operating in Australia paying less tax to our Treasury and more to the US Internal Revenue Service”
https://newmatilda.com/2016/05/17/foreign-investors-are-the-real-winners-in-turnbulls-new-economy/

“the 2016 Federal budget benefited the rich over the poor, and sole parents (among the nation’s least well-off) were the biggest losers of all.
https://newmatilda.com/2016/05/17/the-new-australia-nimble-agile-greedy-and-inequitable/

“You want to cut tax breaks on my fifth investment property? Wah! You won’t give me more corporate tax cuts? Wah! You want working class kids to be able to sit next to my precious darling at university? Wah! Why won’t poor people stop interrupting the experts on Q&A? It’s a communist plot! Wah! Wah! Wah!
“It’s true that there is a class war in this country. But it is being waged every day of the week against workers and the poor, relentlessly, by these spoilt, entitled born-to-rule brats.”
https://redflag.org.au/node/5282

“Almost 2,000 West Papuans were arrested by Indonesian authorities in early May”
“Activists were separated from the main group and put in cells at the main police headquarters. They were beaten – police stamping on their chests and backs and hitting them in the head with rifle butts. They were threatened with death and stripped of their clothes.”
https://redflag.org.au/node/5289

“5 Huge Stories the Media Ignored While Arguing Over Which Bathroom to Use”
http://theantimedia.org/5-stories-media-ignored-bathroom/

“With no region of the Earth untouched by the ravages of environmental destruction, the state of the world’s natural resources is in a rapid downward spiral, a comprehensive assessment by the United Nations has found.”
http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/05/20/un-assessment-global-destruction-mother-earth-fast-track

“China’s debt is approaching $30 trillion. The fresh credit alone created since 2007 is greater than the outstanding liabilities of the US, Japanese, German, and Indian commercial banking systems combined.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/05/18/chinas-communist-party-goes-way-of-qing-dynasty-as-debt-hits-lim/

“Thanks to a combination of global warming and an El Nino, the planet shattered monthly heat records for an unprecedented 12th straight month, as April smashed the old record by half a degree, according to federal scientists.”
“The last month that wasn’t record hot was April 2015. The last month Earth wasn’t hotter than the 20th-century average was December 1984, and the last time Earth set a monthly cold record was almost a hundred years ago, in December 1916, according to NOAA records.”
http://phys.org/news/2016-05-april-12th-month-row-global.html

“50,000 people are dying every year in Europe and the US from infections that antibiotics have lost the power to treat.
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/may/19/englands-chief-medical-officer-warns-of-antibiotic-apocalypse

“Australia now has one of the biggest housing bubbles in history.”
http://wolfstreet.com/2016/05/23/hedge-funds-bet-meltdown-australian-banks-housing-bubble-record-short-positions/

“Of those at the top of food chain, so to speak, a small collection of families dictates both domestic and foreign policy — mainly through fueling war and conflict for the good of the military and pharmaceutical industries, and to a greater extent, corporate and central banks.”
http://www.activistpost.com/2016/05/the-illuminati-were-amateurs-the-facts-show-these-five-families-rule-the-world.html

Harry aka Harquebus
Salisbury North.
South Australia.
harrycebex@hotmail.com




Another sublime article on ERoEI

26 05 2016

ERoEI for Beginners

Not sure if I can come to terms with the concept of kite flying with wind turbines, but there you go……  doesn’t make renewables look good, that’s for sure.  Reblogged from Euan’s excellent website…..

The Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERoEI or EROI) of any energy gathering system is a measure of that system’s efficiency. The concept was originally derived in ecology and has been transferred to analyse human industrial society. In today’s energy mix, hydroelectric power ± nuclear power have values > 50. At the other end of the scale, solar PV and biofuels have values <5.

It is assumed that ERoEI >5 to 7 is required for modern society to function. This marks the edge of The Net Energy Cliff and it is clear that new Green technologies designed to save humanity from CO2 may kill humanity through energy starvation instead. Fossil fuels remain comfortably away from the cliff edge but march closer to it for every year that passes. The Cheetah symbolises an energy system living on the edge.

I first came across the concept of Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERoEI) several years ago in Richard Heinberg’s book The Party’s Over [1]. I had never contemplated the concept before and I was immediately struck by its importance. If we used more energy to get the energy we need to survive then we will surely perish.

Shortly thereafter I joined The Oil Drum crew and had the great pleasure of meeting Professor Charles Hall,  the Godfather of ERoEI analysis who developed the concept during his PhD studies and first published the term in 1977. ERoEI would become a point of focus for Oil Drum posts. Nate Hagens and David Murphy, both Oil Drum crew, have now completed PhDs on ERoEI analysis aided and abetted by the conversation that the Oil Drum enabled.

But recently I have received this via email from Nate:

10 years on the same questions and issues are being addressed – (and maybe 40 years on for Charlie). A new tier of people are aware of EROI but it is still very fringe idea?

Are we wrong to believe that ERoEI is a fundamentally important metric of energy acquisition or is it simply that the work done to date is not sufficiently rigorous or presented in a way that economists and policy makers can understand. At this point I will cast out a bold idea that money was invented as a proxy for energy because ERoEI was too complex to fathom.

And I have this via email from my friend Luis de Sousa who did not like the Ferroni and Hopkirk paper [3] nor my post reviewing it:

On the grand scheme of things: PV ERoEI estimates range from 30 down to 0.8. Before asking the IEA (or whomever) to start using ERoEI, the community producing these estimates must come down to a common, accepted methodology for its assessment. As it stands now, EROEI is not far from useless to energy policy.

And while I disagree with Luis on a number of issues, on this statement I totally concur. So what has gone wrong? Professor Hall points out that it is not the concept that is at fault but non-rigorous application of certain rules that must be followed in the analysis. In this post I will endeavour to review the main issues and uncertainties, and while it is labelled “for Beginners”, I will flirt with an intermediate level of complexity.

What is ERoEI?

ERoEI is simply the ratio of energy gathered to the amount of energy used to gather the energy (the energy invested):

ERoEI = energy gathered / energy invested

Note that in common vernacular the term energy production is used. But in fact humans produce very little energy, but what distinguishes us from other species is that we have become very efficient at gathering energy that already exists and building machines that can convert the energy to goods (motor cars, televisions and computers) and services (heat and light and mobility) that collectively define our wealth.

This began by gathering fire wood and food and progressed to gathering coal, oil and natural gas. This led to gathering U and Th and learning how to convert this to enormous amounts of thermal and electrical energy. And now we attempt to gather solar energy through photovoltaics, wind turbines and liquid biofuels.

The prosperity of humanity depends upon the efficiency with which we gather energy. 100 years ago and 50 years ago we hit several jackpots in the form of vast coal, oil and gas deposits. These were so rich and large that energy virtually spewed out of them for next to no energy or financial investment. Examples include the Black Thunder coal field (USA), the Ghawar oil field (Saudi Arabia) and the Urengoy gas field (Russia) to name but a few. But these supergiant deposits are now to varying degrees used up. And as global population has grown together with expectations of prosperity that are founded on energy gathering activities, humanity has had to expand its energy gathering horizons to nuclear power, solar power and energy from waste. And it is known that some of the strategies deployed have very low ERoEI, for example corn ethanol is around 1 to 2 [2] and solar PV between 1 and 5 [2,3] depending upon where it is sited and the boundaries used to estimate energy costs. Consider that an ERoEI greater than 5 to 7 is deemed necessary to sustain the society we know (see below) then it is apparent that we may be committing energy and economic suicide by deliberately moving away from fossil fuels.

Low ERoEI is expected to correlate with high cost and in the normal run of events investors should steer clear of such poor investment returns. But the global energy system is now dictated by climate concern, and any scheme that portends to produce energy with no CO2 is embraced by policymakers everywhere and financial arrangements are put in place to enable deployment, regardless of the ERoEI.

Net Energy

Net energy is the close cousin of ERoEI being the surplus energy made available to society from our energy gathering activities. It is defined simply as:

net energy = ERoEI-1

If we have ERoEI = 1, then the net energy is zero. We use as much energy to gather energy as energy gathered. The “1” always represents the energy invested. If ERoEI falls below 1 we end up with an energy sink. Low ERoEI systems are effectively energy conversions where it may be convenient or politically expedient for us to convert one energy carrier into another with little or no energy gain. Corn ethanol is a good example where fertiliser, natural gas, diesel, electricity, land, water and labour gets converted into ethanol, a liquid fuel that can go in our cars. But it does leave the question why we don’t just use liquefied natural gas as a transport fuel in the first place and save on all the bother that creating corn ethanol involves?

The Net Energy Cliff

Many years ago during a late night blogging session on The Oil Drum, and following a post by Nate Hagens, I came up with a way of plotting ERoEI that for many provided an instantaneous understanding of its importance. The graph has become known as the net energy cliff, following nomenclature of Nate and others.

Figure 1 The Net Energy Cliff shows how with declining ERoEI society must commit ever larger amounts of available energy to energy gathering activities. Below ERoEI = 5 to 7 such large numbers of people would be working for the energy industries that there would not be enough people left to fill all the other positions our current altruistic society offers.

The graph plots net energy as a % of ERoEI and shows how energy for society (in blue) varies with ERoEI. In red is the balance being the energy used to gather energy.

It is the shape of the boundary between blue and red that is of interest. If we start at 50 and work our way down the ERoEI scale moving to the right, we see that energy invested (red) increases very slowly from 2% at ERoEI=50 to 10% at ERoEI=10. But beyond 10, the energy invested increases exponentially to 20% at ERoEI=5 and to 50% at ERoEI=2. At ERoEI = 1, 100% of the energy used is spent gathering energy and we are left with zero gain.

This is important because it is the blue segment that is available for society to use. This pays for infrastructure, capital projects, mining and manufacturing, agriculture, food processing and retailing, education, healthcare and welfare, defence and government. In fact it is the amount of net energy that powers everything in society as we know it today. The net energy from past energy gathering has accumulated to create what we identify as capital and wealth. Nothing could be more important, and yet the concept remains on the fringe of energy policy and public awareness. One of the problems is that measuring ERoEI consistently is difficult to do. One problem is retaining objectivity. If you manufacture PV modules you are unlikely to claim that the ERoEI is less than 5, and there are a multitude of variables that can be adjusted to provide whatever answer is deemed to be good.

This depiction of Net Energy is also useful in defining that all energy and labour can be divided into energy and labour used in the energy industries and the industries that support them and energy and labour used by society that consumes the surpluses produced by the energy industries. More on this later.

It has been assumed by many that ERoEI > 7 was required for the industrial society we live in to function although the source of this assertion remains elusive. But the blue-red boundary provides a clear visual picture of why this may be so. Below 7 and humanity falls off the net energy cliff where a too large portion of our human resources and capital need to be invested in simply staying alive to the detriment of the services provided by net energy such as health care, education and pensions.

System boundaries

Energy Inputs

One of the main uncertainties in ERoEI analysis is where to set the system boundaries. I have not found a simple text or graphic that adequately explains this vital concept.

Figure 2 A simplified scheme for an energy system divided into construction, operation and decommissioning with accumulated inputs and outputs. Graphic from this excellent presentation by Prieto and Hall

Figure 2 provides an illustration of the life cycle of an energy system divided into three stages 1) construction, 2) operation and 3) decommissioning. Energy inputs occur at each stage but energy outputs will normally only occur during the operational phase. It should be straight forward to account for all the energy inputs and outputs to calculate ERoEI but it isn’t. For example many / most of our energy systems today are still operational. We do not yet have final numbers for oil produced from single fields. And the decommissioning energy costs are not yet known. Most wind turbines ever built are still operational, producing energy and the ultimate energy produced will depend upon how long they last. And then perhaps some turbines are offered a new lease of life via refurbishment etc.

Energy inputs can normally be divided as follows [2]:

  1. On site energy consumption
  2. Energy embedded in materials used
  3. Energy consumed by labour
  4. Auxiliary services

Moving from 1 to 4 may be considered expansion of the ERoEI boundary where energy embedded in materials and energy consumed by labour are added to on-site energy consumption. There follows some examples of ambiguity that remains in deciding what to include and what to leave out. These examples are given for purely illustrative purposes.

No one should question that the electricity used by a PV factory should be included. But do you include electricity / energy used to heat or cool the factory? Or just the electricity used to run the machines? Including heating or cooling  introduces a site specific variable which will mean that the energy inputs to a PV panel may vary according to where it was manufactured. There are many such site specific variables like transport, energy costs, labour energy costs, health and safety energy costs etc, which when combined in our globalised market has made China the lowest energy cost centre for PV manufacturing today.

It is clear to me that the energy cost of all materials used in the energy production process must be included. And this should include materials consumed at the construction, operational and decommissioning stages. In the oil industry this will include the materials in the oil platform, the helicopter and the onshore office. In the solar PV industry this will include all the materials in the panels, in the factory, and in the support gantries and inverter. As a general rule of thumb, massive energy gathering systems that contain a huge amount of materials will have reduced ERoEI because of the energy embedded in those materials.

It is also clear to me that the energy cost of all labour should be included in the ERoEI analysis for construction, operation and decommissioning. But it is far less clear how it should be calculated. The energy consumed by labourers varies greatly from country to country and with time. Should we just include the energy consumed by a labourer on his/her 8 hour shift? Or should we include the full 24/7? Should the energy consumed by labourers getting to and from work be included? – of course it should. Should the energy consumed on vacations be included? – not so clear. And how can any of this be calculated in the first place?

The standard way to calculate the energy cost of labour is to examine the energy intensity of GDP. For most countries, the total amount of primary energy consumed  is roughly known and the total GDP is known. This provides a means of converting MJ to $ and we can then look at the $ earnings of a labourer to get a rough handle on the notional energy use that may be attributed to his salary scale. This is far from perfect but is currently the only practical method available.

Auxiliary services become even more difficult to differentiate. Some argue that the energy cost of the highway network, power distribution network and services like schools and hospitals should be pro-rated into new energy production systems. My own preference is to generally exclude these items from an ERoEI analysis unless there are good reasons for not doing so. I think it is useful to go back to the question are we expending energy on energy gathering or are we expending energy on society and most of the infrastructure upon which new energy systems depend was built using prior surpluses allocated to society. In my view it becomes too complex to pro-rate these into an ERoEI calculation. The power grid delivering power to the PV factory already existed. But if a new power line needs to be built to export renewable electricity then that should be accounted for.

Energy Outputs

One might imagine that measuring the energy output would be more straightforward, but it is not so. Many earlier studies on the ERoEI of oil set a boundary at the well head or on site tank farm. And it is relatively straightforward to measure the oil production from a field like Forties in the North Sea. But crude oil itself is rarely used directly as a fuel. It is the refined products that are used. To actually use the oil we need to ship or pipe it to shore and then on to a refinery. The energy cost of transport may add 10% to energy inputs and refining may add yet another 10%. It has been suggested that one approach is to calculate ERoEI at Point of Use. Crude oil on an offshore platform is of no use to anyone. Gasoline in a filling station is what we want and all the energy inputs involved in getting the gasoline to the forecourt need to be counted.

But here we meet another dilemma. The refinery may produce paraffin and gasoline. The ERoEI of both are likely to be similar at the refinery gate. But the gasoline is burned in an engine to produce kinetic energy used for transport and in so doing about 70% of the energy is lost as waste heat. The paraffin may be burned in a stove with near 100% conversion efficiency to space heating. Do we reduce the ERoEI of gasoline by 70% to reflect energy losses during use?

This introduces the concept of energy quality where we know that final energy conversions are in three main forms 1) heat 2) motion and 3) electricity that has a myriad of different uses. Is it really possible to compare these very different energy outputs using the single umbrella of ERoEI? The routine followed by ERoEI analysts to date is to adjust ERoEI for energy quality though I’m unsure how that is done [2]. Another option that I like is to hypothetically normalise all outputs to a single datum, for example MWh of electricity (see below). But this again gets to a level of complexity that is beyond this blog post.

There are some other important energy quality factors. Dispatch for electricity is one. Producing a vast amount of electricity from wind on a stormy Sunday night has little to no value. While the ability to produce electricity on demand at 6 pm on a freezing Wednesday evening in January (NH) is of great value. Curtailed wind should clearly be deducted from wind energy produced in the ERoEI calculation. Just like the oil spilled from the Deep Water Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico should not be counted as oil produced from the Macondo field.

External environmental factors may also have to be considered as part of the energy quality assessment. It is clear that the oil spilled from the Deep Water Horizon had to be cleared up immediately and the energy cost of doing so almost bankrupted BP. But it is less clear that the energy cost of eliminating CO2 emissions needs to be borne by the energy production industries. For example, the cost of carbon capture and storage would fall on the consumer and not the energy producer.

Using energy proxies

In ERoEI analysis direct energy use can normally be measured, for example gas and diesel used on an oil platform or the electricity used in a factory. But the indirect energy consumed by, for example materials and labour, are less easy to measure and are often based on proxies.  It is nearly impossible to measure the energy embedded in an offshore oil platform. Instead the mass of steel and the number of man days of labour used in construction can be estimated and from these the energy expended and now embedded in the platform can be estimated.

As already discussed, the standard way of estimating the energy cost of labour is to use the energy intensity of GDP data from the countries in question combined with workers salaries.

For materials Murphy et al [2] provide this useful summary (Figure 3)

Figure 3 The estimated energy content of common materials [2]

From this the most striking feature is the vast range within certain materials and between materials. For example aluminium ranges from 100 to 272 GJ/tonne. Steel 9 to 32 GJ/tonne. Part of this will be down to methodological differences in the way the numbers are derived. But part of it may be down to real differences reflecting different energy efficiencies of smelting plants.

ERoEI of Global Fuels and Energy Flows

So what is the current status of ERoEI in the global energy mix? Hall et al 2014 [4] provide the following summary table which is the foundation of the summary graph below.

Figure 4 Summary of the ERoEI for a range of fuels and renewable energies.

Figure 5 Placing main energy sources on The Net Energy Cliff framework shows that hydro-electric power, high altitude kites and perhaps nuclear power have very high ERoEI and embracing these technologies may prevent humanity from falling off the Net Energy Cliff. The new bright Green energies of bio-fuels, solar PV and buffered wind (see below) are already over the cliff edge and if we continue to embrace these technologies human society may perish as we expend too large a portion of our energy endowment simply getting energy. Fossil fuels remain comfortably to the left of the cliff edge but are marching ever closer towards it with every year that passes. Eeq = electricity equivalent (see below).

In order to compare fossil fuels with electricity flows on a single diagram it is essential to reduce all of the energy types to a common datum. Its quite simply not valid to compare the ERoEI of coal at the mine mouth with nuclear power since in converting the coal to electricity, much of the energy is lost. The easiest route is to rebase everything to electricity equivalent (Eeq) where I follow the BP convention and adjust the ERoEI of  fossil fuels by a factor of 0.38 to account for energy conversion losses in a modern power station.

In an earlier thread, Owen posted a link to a pre-print by Weisbach et al [5] who follow similar methodology reporting all data as electricity. To a large extent their numbers are similar to those reported here with the exception of nuclear that is quoted to be  75. Weisbach report values for solar PV and wind that are “buffered” to include the energy cost of intermittency. This reduces the ERoEI for solar PV by about half and wind by a factor of 4. “Buffered” ERoEIs are therefore also included in Figure 6.

The inclusion of high altitude kite is based on a calculation provided by site sponsor KiteGen. I have checked the calculation and am satisfied that the ERoEI is potentially >>50. This will be the subject of another post. But suffice to say here that wind speed at altitude may be double that on the ground and power increases by the cube of wind speed. And the mass of the KiteGen structure is a small fraction of a large wind turbine. Hence it is theoretically straightforward to reach an ERoEI at altitude that is many multiples of the ERoEI of a wind turbine.

Figure 6 At altitude the wind speed may be double that on the ground. Accessing that kinetic energy resource provides potential for a 2 to 4 fold uplift in the power available for wind generation. This calculation does not include further uplift from higher capacity factor and reduced intermittency at altitude.

The key and fundamental observation from Figure 6 is that three energy sources potentially have ERoEI >> 50 making them vastly superior to all others using this metric. These are hydroelectric power, possibly nuclear power (depending upon whose numbers are believed) and possibly high altitude wind power once the technology matures.

These primary high ERoEI sources are followed by coal and natural gas which are the most viable and easily accessible energy sources for electricity today. And yet energy policies are dictating that coal be phased out. This will not matter for so long as natural gas remains plentiful at high ERoEI. The high ERoEI group may also include nuclear power depending upon whose ERoEI numbers one believes.

Biofuels are already over the net energy cliff and should never have been pursued in the first place. Solar PV is at best marginal, at worst an energy sink.

There is a vast range in estimates for nuclear power from 5 to 75 [4, 5]and it is difficult to make sense of these numbers. Nuclear power either sits close to the cliff edge or is a high ERoEI low carbon saviour of humanity. Oil will not be used for electricity production and the fact it sits close to the cliff edge today in Eeq form does not matter too much since the energy quality of oil has a special status as an essential transport fuel and this will unlikely change much in the decades ahead.

Concluding thoughts

The concept of ERoEI is vital to understanding the human energy system. 50 years ago, our principal sources of energy – oil, gas and coal – had such high net energy return that no one need bother or worry about ERoEI. Vast amounts of net energy were simply available for all who had the level of technological development to build a power station and a transmission grid. It is part of human nature to “high grade” mineral deposits targeting the richest seams first. In economic terms these return the biggest profit and in energy terms when it comes to oil, gas and coal, they return the highest levels of net energy. An inevitable consequence of this aspect of human nature commonly known as greed is that we have already used up the highest ERoEI fossil fuel resources and as time passes the ERoEI of new resources is steadily falling. This translates to a higher price required to bring on that marginal barrel of oil.

At the present time, our energy web comprises a myriad of different resources. The legacy supergiants – Ghawar, Black Thunder and Urengoy et al – are still there in the mix supplemented by a vast range of lower ERoEI (more expensive) resources. The greatest risk to human society today is the notion that we can somehow replace high ERoEI fossil fuels with new renewable energies like solar PV and biofuels. These exist within the energy web because they are subsidised by the co-existing high ERoEI fossil fuels. The subsidy occurs at multiple levels from fossil fuels used to create the renewable devices and biofuels to fossil fuels providing the load balancing services. Fossil fuels provide the monetary wealth to pay the subsidies. Society is at great risk from Greens promoting the new renewable agenda to politicians and school children whilst ignoring the thermodynamic impossibility of current solar PV technology and biofuels ever being able to power human society unaided. The mass closure of coal fired power stations may prove to be fatal for many should blackouts occur.

Wind power, and in particular high altitude wind power, may be different although in the case of ground-based wind turbines care must be taken in moving offshore to ever larger devices that consume ever larger quantities of energy in their creation. And to be viable, ground based turbines must be able to prove they can deliver dispatchable power without subsidies.

It is proposed that money was invented as a means of exchange for the work energy does on our behalf. If we lived in a society with a single global currency (the EJ) and without taxes or subsidies, then money may represent a fair proxy for ERoEI although distortions would remain from the different efficiencies with which that money (EJ) was spent. However, in the real world, different currencies, interest rates, debts, taxes and subsidies exist that allow the thermodynamic rules of the energy world to be bent, albeit temporarily. We are at risk of exchanging gold for dirt.

Acknowledgement

The post was much improved by comments provided by Prof Charles Hall.

References

[1] Richard Heinberg: The Party’s Over – oil, war and the fate of industrial societies. Pub by Clairview 2003

[2] David J. Murphy 1,*, Charles A.S. Hall 2, Michael Dale 3 and Cutler Cleveland 4: Order from Chaos: A Preliminary Protocol for Determining the EROI of Fuels (2011): Sustainability 2011, 3, 1888-1907; doi:10.3390/su3101888

[3] Ferruccio Ferroni and Robert J. Hopkirk 2016: Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERoEI) for photovoltaic solar systems in regions of moderate insolation: Energy Policy 94 (2016) 336–344

[4] Charles A.S. Hall n, Jessica G. Lambert, Stephen B. Balogh: EROI of different fuels and the implications for society: Energy Policy 64 (2014) 141–152

[5] D. Weißbacha,b, G. Ruprechta, A. Hukea,c, K. Czerskia,b, S. Gottlieba, A. Husseina,d (Preprint): Energy intensities, EROIs, and energy payback times of electricity generating power plants





Iceland’s Biggest Political Party Is Now The “Pirate Party” — and It’s Amazing

24 05 2016

By Michaela Whitton at theantimedia.org

Iceland’s anti-establishment Pirate Party continues to lead nationwide polls as the most popular choice for the next elections. The party — whose policies include internet freedom, drug decriminalisation, and open democracy — has consistently led the polls for the last year and, as a result, has secured more funding than any of its rivals.

pirate-partyThe 2008 financial crisis hit Iceland hard. The following year, the krona was devalued by around 50%, unemployment doubled, and capital controls were introduce. Miraculously, the country rose from the ashes to become one of Europe’s top performers in terms of growth. More recently, the political establishment has been in turmoil since three government ministers were implicated in the global Panama Papers scandal.

Despite their struggle, or perhaps because of it, the list of reasons to admire Icelanders keeps on growing. Whether it’s the sentencing of senior bankers — or the mass outrage at the offshore leak, which propelled 10% of the population to the streets and ousted the Prime Minister — the radical refusal of Icelanders to bow down and accept establishment corruption is admirable.

Because of this, the surge in popularity of the once-fringe Pirate Party comes as little surprise — recent polls suggest almost half the nation supports them. In Iceland, financial support for political parties is allocated based on how well they have done in polls.

Although the party doesn’t have formal leadership, chair of the parliamentary group and spokesperson, Birgitta Jonsdottir, said they did not expect the funding. Claiming their campaign was, so far, funded at a flea market, she said that was enough and that all the party needs is to be able to pay the salaries of its employees.

“We did not expect this. We don’t care. Democracy doesn’t revolve around getting loads of money from the government,” she added.





Has the revolution begun…?

18 05 2016

julian cribb

Julian Cribb

Written by Julian Cribb, and originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Election 2016 may herald the beginning of the end of party rule in Australian politics. Indeed, rather like Mikhail Gorbachev, Malcolm Turnbull might just have inadvertently pulled the trigger on the dissolution of the party system. It’s a big thought, after a century or more of the national interest being subordinated to vested interests, but there are signs that Australian electors are thoroughly jack of party politics and more than willing to try new things and new people.

 
It shows in the febrile oscillation of the opinion polls, the frequent switches of government and leader, the determination of voters to deny the major parties control in the Senate. It shows in the disgust of ordinary Australians at each new case of electoral corruption, secret dealing and rip-off by spendthrift MPs, who preach restraint while plundering the public purse.

It shows in our dismay at the ongoing deterioration in our education system – school, university and TAFE – the degradation of our scientific enterprise and healthcare system – which overall add up to an attrition in the nation’s skills, technologies, fitness for work and capacity for sustainable economic growth.

It shows in the complicity of the mainstream parties in the wrecking of the Australian landscape and oceans – from the Liverpool Plains, to the extinction of native species, to the now almost-unavoidable ruin of the Great Barrier Reef. As Euan Ritchie and Don Driscoll noted on The Conversation, the national biodiversity crisis does not rate priority policy from any of the major parties.

It shows in the Canute-like attempts of politicians across the spectrum to turn back the flood-tide of Australian opinion on issues such as domestic violence, marriage equality and assisted dying.

And it shows in the public revulsion at the engagement of the main political parties in endless, pointless, unwinnable wars, in their use of terrorism to justify greater surveillance and repression, and their inhuman treatment of people fleeing those wars.

The word ‘party’ is from the Latin, pars, partis – a part – the stem that gives rise to the term partial. And that is exactly what Australian political parties today have become – bodies partial to their own interests and those of a tiny minority of supporters. By definition, as well as by contemporary behaviour, they are no longer aligned with the national interest or the public good. And we are simply the mugs who let them get away with it, time and again – probably because we haven’t yet completely figured out there is another way.

Once upon a time, political vested interests were diluted by well-meaning people with a commitment to public service. No longer. A never-ending cycle of political pay hikes, rorting of public funds and parliamentary privileges, gold-plated pensions and ‘entitlements’, furnishes the proof that most of them are in it for what they can get. The driving ambition of Australian politics has become personal, rather than national, enrichment.

In 2014-15, according to the Australian Electoral Commission, the combined parties of Australia received over $170 million, mainly donations and mostly from private individuals and companies. As the public understands, it’s a fair bet most of that was donated in the expectation of some sort of special treatment or monetary advantage granted by the ruling party. In other words, an officially-sanctioned bribe. However, as the NSW ICAC continually discloses, these are but the first whiff of a large and festering corpus of hidden or less-visible rewards, abuses of office and, post-politics, the appointment of scores of former Ministers and MPs to juicy sinecures on corporate boards, where they peddle special influence for personal gain.

The hypocrisy of this system has recently been illumined in the LNP’s attempts to expose Labor’s connection to shonky union affairs in the Royal Commission, and the ALP’s counterbattery retort in the form of a proposed banking Royal Commission. The answer obvious to most Australians – a Federal Independent Commission Against Corruption – is one that none of the leading parties wishes, for obvious reasons, to countenance: it would expose glaring evidence that the entire party system is corrupt and rotten, root and branch.

The role of the fossil fuels and mining lobby in derailing climate policy in Australia is a further case of the preparedness of parties and their paymasters to sacrifice the national future, our grandchildren and the planet, to their own short-term interests. This alone demands a Royal Commission – or a Federal ICAC – if not substantial jail sentences, as any crime against humanity deserves.

Disenchantment with political parties has halved their membership in recent decades. Despite the secrecy, journalistic investigations suggest that the combined membership of all parties totals under 100,000. No party comes even close to the membership of, say, the Collingwood Football Club (76,000 – maybe it should run for office instead of trying to play football…). It is therefore likely that our leaders are being chosen for us by less than 0.4 per cent of the Australian population, a travesty of democracy (and in reality, by a microscopic handful of powerbrokers within this tiny minority). Not surprisingly an Australian National University study (2014) found that only 43 per cent of Australians believe it makes any difference who is in power.

Given all this, one enchanting possibility in the coming election is that Turnbull’s gamble to rid himself of the cross-benches might just backfire horribly – as disgusted voters decide to punish both he and the equally disappointing and compromised Shorten. It’s not the sort of thing that shows up in opinion polls, which are interpreted chiefly by the media’s need for short, simplistic two-horse-race stories. Neither the parties nor the media display much grasp of the emerging multi-spectral character of Australian politics, in which hung parliaments, complex alliances of minor parties and negotiation with a multiplying throng of independents form the central dynamic. A Scandinavian political scene, rather than the one we’re accustomed to.

It only takes one thing for this to happen. For a majority of voters to rip up their party how-to-vote cards, ignore the deluge of deceptive advertising and soon-to-be-broken promises, and put their mark next to the name of the most decent, well-intentioned Australian standing in their electorate. The one with a track record for honesty, trustworthiness, integrity, hard work and commitment to the future. The exact antithesis of the usual party hack.

Of such small things are political revolutions made.
Julian Cribb is a Canberra-based author and science writer.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/is-this-the-end-of-party-rule-20160502-gokc1m.html#ixzz48y8o1THi
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