Also just heard on the news that Royal Dutch Shell is going to sell ALL of its service station network in Australia…
Also just heard on the news that Royal Dutch Shell is going to sell ALL of its service station network in Australia…
Gail Tverberg at her best……. I hope nuclear wet dreamers take heed of this. ‘Doomers’ are realists.
In order to understand what solutions to our energy predicament will or won’t work, it is necessary to understand the true nature of our energy predicament. Most solutions fail because analysts assume that the nature of our energy problem is quite different from what it really is. Analysts assume that our problem is a slowly developing long-term problem, when in fact, it is a problem that is at our door step right now.
The point that most analysts miss is that our energy problem behaves very much like a near-term financial problem. We will discuss why this happens. This near-term financial problem is bound to work itself out in a way that leads to huge job losses and governmental changes in the near term. Our mitigation strategies need to be considered in this context. Strategies aimed simply at relieving energy shortages with high priced fuels and high-tech equipment are…
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Two weeks in Tassie felt like one….. 2,300 km in a (very ordinary) hire car (at an average ~6L/100km) took us from the southernmost pub in Australia to the North East where I had never been, even after 7 visits to the Apple Isle. It may be small, but there’s a lot to see…
We arrived in Hobart with the temperature well in the thirties, and headed straight to Cygnet where my old made Bob the first mate and his wife Allison have lived almost twenty years since leaving West Australia. Bob is an old peaknik from way back who bought 8 solar panels from me some ten years ago when I was running out of money with the house build…. so it seems a bit weird to be reunited with them after all those years. Bob was one of the first solar users in Tasmania….
Tasmanians’ hospitality and friendliness were the standouts of this trip. I even received a message from a reader of this blog who had never left a message here before inviting us to stay for a few days! Which we duly accepted, as they lived near Geeveston and gave us a good base to investigate the area from. Then, to top it off, they even arranged a community dinner for us with another couple I know from facebook….. and you wonder why I want to move? In fact, Chris and his wife in whose house we were put up, are powerhouses at the local community centre.
There’s so much going on in Geeveston right now, I can’t wait to get down there… especially as I think I’ve found our dream block (which Glenda incessantly tells me I am not allowed to fall in love with!) There aren’t very many suitable blocks available currently, at least not that tick all my boxes. Yes I know, I’m fussy, but I’m not moving 2,500km for another compromise, my last resting place will have to be near perfect………It was great to catch up with all the like minded people I know in Tasmania; I think Glenda was a bit blown away at how many I know. I even caught up with my brother whom I hadn’t seen for almost three years, and an old friend whom I started working with way back in 1969 and hadn’t seen in maybe twenty years…… Bruce and I have this uncanny knack of crossing paths, he going to Queensland when I come to Tasmania; but not this time thankfully. I also finally got to meet two other peakniks face to face (as opposed to facebook to facebook!) from
the now virtually defunct roeoz list (thank you Yahoo for wrecking the system…) Kate is a native Taswegian, whilst Geoff just moved there only two weeks prior to our visit. Getting moving tips from him was most worthwhile….
Some of the stories we heard about the political scene in Tasmania, the state of the medical and education systems, the seemingly endemic corruption at all levels of government led by entrenched families, would put most people off moving there…. but as the Matrix is bracing itself for collapse, I don’t believe it will end up making much difference where we live, it’s the climate that worries me most now. Good health is largely a matter of looking after oneself, and education can always be done at home if you start from a half decent base.
Before leaving on our little holiday, we had to do a major cleanup to empty the house for the family who looked after our place and ensured the animals survived (Hi Ben and Rachel!), and I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel with regards to selling Mon Abri. There’s not much left to do, mostly refinishing the recycled windows and doors and tidying up the yard once it starts raining properly again. I checked out the latest weather info for January, and it’s amazing…. we’ve had the second driest month on record with only one third the usual rainfall, and the hottest ever, a whopping 1.2 degrees above average. The garden looks like it’s been nuked right now, even though we are having the odd shower as I write…. mind you, it was hotter in Hobart than in Brisbane the day we left!
We are expecting three American Wwoofers tonight, and I might just whip them up into a frenzy…. Tassie truly beckons now; it’s time……..
Major melt in the midst of winter. Doesn’t sound quite right, does it? We tend to think of winter as the time of freezing, as the time of ice accumulation. Not the time of melt and thaw.
Now try this — major melt in Alaska in the midst of winter. Average temperatures 40 degrees hotter than normal in the midst of winter. Rainfall over snow and ice causing avalanches, major road blockages and ice dams to rivers in the midst of winter.
In this instance we have been transported from the somewhat odd into a reality that is completely outside of our previously ‘normal’ context. In this instance we are transported to a time that may well seem like the beginning of the end of the age of ice on planet Earth.
And yet this is exactly what is happening: one of the coldest regions on the planet is experiencing…
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Nuclear Armageddon is here. We’ve bought a lie about the alleged safety of nuclear energy. The lie was promoted on the basis of another lie, one we should’ve recognized immediately under the auspices of, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” The latter lie is the promise of electricity too-cheap-to-meter.”>We understate risks and plough ahead with dangerously complex and transient nuclear projects because in one century we have become addicted to electricity. Ironically, the first two million years of the human experience indicate that electricity is an unneeded luxury.
What do we need? Like all organisms on Earth, we need habitat for our species. Notably, such habitat includes clean air, clean water, healthy food, the ability to maintain body temperature at a safe level, and — for most of us — a decent, loving human community. These few elements allow us not simply to survive, but to thrive. Even the Hierarchy of Human Needs developed by celebrated 20th century psychologist Abraham Maslow reflects exactly the statement above.
Note the absence of electricity from this list of survival needs. I would go further and suggest that grid-tied electricity results directly from the patriarchy associated with men packing guns, but that would be off-topic for this essay.
The nuclear threat
Since I first learned about global peak oil and its economic consequences, nuclear catastrophe has been my constant nightmare. It’s easy to imagine the world’s nuclear power plants melting down catastrophically when the monetary system fails, and failure of the electrical grid follows. Assuming we can maintain economic growth forever on a finite planet has us headed straight for global-scale disaster.
Japan, as bad as it is suffering right now, is a harbinger of far worse events ahead. And ionizing radiation is only one of many adverse artifacts of industrial civilization.
Until recently, Japan had the second-largest industrial economy in the world. It’s a country so deeply terrified of nuclear disaster that it’s taken the strongest steps to insure against natural disasters of all kinds. Yet in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011 near Fukushima Daiichi, all 13 backup diesel generators failed in plant number one.
Why were there even 13 backup diesel generators? Because, contrary to myth, nuclear power plants require external power to keep them running. And they need to keep running because if they stop running, they begin to melt down. It’s a real-life hamster-wheel, except no one gets off without serious consequences.
Imagine the horrors when the diesel stops flowing to the world’s nuclear power plants, which number more than 400. Many of these plants are found in countries with infrastructure and safety records far worse than we find in Japan. This is truly the stuff of nightmares, and the only way out is to forgo sleep.
How bad is it?
I often hear we have nothing to worry about. Ionizing radiation isn’t that big a deal. After all, people are living in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, and some have proclaimed the area a haven for wildlife. Sure enough, the exclusion zone has abundant wildlife. However, no significant sampling effort has been undertaken to determine animal numbers, and a quarter century after Chernobyl melted down many species exhibit high levels of abnormalities, including potentially lethal mutations.
And just when some people thought it was safe to commission more nuclear power plants, Fukushima splashed across the headlines. The mainstream media, Japanese and American governments, and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) tell us not to worry. It’s all firmly under control. On the other hand, people with more incentive to tell the truth than these entities indicate otherwise.
Four months after nuclear disaster struck Fukushima, MSNBC tried to protect “those in power” by stifling news anchor Cenk Uygur. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gunderson pointed out in October 2013 that governments were withholding the truth about stillbirths, deformities, and health defects, and were suppressing studies on deformed animals.
The scientific evidence continues to grow, with abundant signs pointing in the wrong direction for survival of humans and other species. Dr. Timothy Mousseau, with his horrific overview of nuclear nightmares in March 2013, documents the destruction and demise of animals in the Chernobyl exclusion zone as severe as extirpation (i.e., local extinction). Mousseau had this to say on Fukushima in early September 2013: “Given the vast amounts of material that was released I think there will be measurable amounts of radioactive cesium hitting the West Coast, blanketing the West Coast for some time to come.” In an interview with RT from August 2013, nuclear fallout researcher Christina Consolo indicated that billions of people could die from release of ionizing radiation from Fukushima alone. The following month, Yale professor Charles Perrow concluded that events at Fukushima could lead to fission of fuel rods and, “all of humanity will be threatened, for thousands of years.” And in October 2013, Canadian scientist David Suzuki added his voice to the conversation, calling Fukushima, “the most terrifying situation I can imagine.”
The situation is already terrifying for the 71 sailors assigned to the USS Ronald Reagan who responded to the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan for four days. They’ve reported radiation sickness and will file a lawsuit against TEPCO. At least half the sailors have contracted some form of cancer.
In early January 2014 Gordon Edwards, nuclear expert and president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, concludes that four of the six reactors at Fukushima exploded, and three of the four melted down: “They found a pool of water beside the tank that was leaking, that pool of water — they measured the radiation levels — if a person stood beside that pool of water for 1 hour, they would die of radiation poisoning.” Days later, an overview of the situation at Fukushima Daichi concluded: “There is little reason to expect anything but worsening conditions, slowly or suddenly, for years and years to come. And there is even less reason to expect anyone in authority anywhere to be more than minimally and belatedly truthful about an industry they continue to protect, no matter how many people it damages or kills.”13
Fukushima Daichi represents a single nuclear plant. More than 400 plants exist throughout the world. They require decades to decommission, and more are being commissioned each year.
Absence of leadership
In my dreams, world leaders would act to decommission nuclear power plants instead of commissioning more of them. I’ve lived long enough to expect otherwise.
If I were king of the world for a decade — or even a day — I would immediately order a rapid but methodical shutdown and then closure of all nuclear power plants. The alternative is emergency shutdowns in myriad ways, all of them hasty and unplanned, as the world’s industrial economy continues its ongoing demise while the effects of climate change wreak daily havoc hither and yon. The results of decline and disaster are completely predictable and unimaginably horrific, and they include numerous core meltdowns and huge releases of radiation.
Perhaps we will avoid causing our own extinction via ionizing radiation in the wake of worldwide nuclear catastrophe. But such a positive outcome will only result from careful planning and strong leadership. The nuclear industry is a microcosm of industrial civilization, favoring short-term monetary profit over life on Earth. At some point, the result is carved in stone. I suspect that point draws near.
The consequences of huge unplanned releases of radiation into Earth’s atmosphere include death to many land-dwelling species on the planet. Considering the interdependencies between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, the extinction of many aquatic species would follow on the heels of extinction of terrestrial species.
Radiation is impartial. Radiation doesn’t discriminate. In short, the near-term consequences of nuclear catastrophe likely to result from collapse of the world’s industrial economy are unthinkable.
So let’s put our hearts and minds together to think of something else. Something much better. Unless you’re really into peeling skin, deformed babies, and glowing in the dark.
Paul Beckwith is a PhD student with the laboratory for paleoclimatology and climatology, department of geography, University of Ottawa. He teaches second year climatology/meteorology as a part-time professor. His thesis topic is “Abrupt climate change in the past and present.” He holds an M.Sc. in laser physics and a B.Eng. in engineering physics. Originally published here…….
Paul Beckwith ~ I have been telling people for over 2 years about the Arctic albedo collapse reducing polar to equator temperature gradients, physically causing the slowing, waving out and stalling of jet streams, causing extreme weather events to skyrocket. For example, my CMOS presentation in January 2012 was seen by >70,000 (by Aug/2012) and still counting. I have given multiple talks to the public, politicians, scientists. I’ve incessantly tweeted (1200 followers) and facebooked (4000 friends) about these connections. I started blogging frequently with Sierra Club Canada about a year ago, as well as with Arctic News, the Elephant Journal, BoomerWarrior, Canadian Daily, World Daily. Also I have YouTube videos and radio podcasts (EcoShock radio, Gorilla radio, etc.). I have also educated about 200 students on these connections within my climatology & meteorology classes over the last 2 years. In total, I’ve have reached at least 1 million people with this Arctic – jet stream – extreme weather connection.
The public is really coming to understand that we (collectively) are in great trouble…
Abrupt climate change. It is happening today, big time. The northern hemisphere atmospheric circulation system is doing its own thing, without the guidance of a stable jet stream. The jet stream is fractured into meandering and stuck streaked segments, which are hoovering up water vapor and directing it day after day to unlucky localized regions, depositing months or seasons worth of rain in only a few days, turning these locales into water worlds and trashing all infrastructure like houses, roads, train tracks and pipelines and also creating massive sinkholes and catastrophic landslides. And climate change is only getting warmed up.
In the Arctic, methane is coming out of the thawing permafrost. Both on land and under the ocean on the sea floor. The Yedoma permafrost in Siberia is now belching out methane at greatly accelerated rates due to intense warming. The collapsing sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is exposing the open ocean to greatly increased solar absorption and turbulent mixing from wave action due to persistent cyclonic activity. Massive cyclonic activity will trash large portions of the sea ice if positioned to export broken ice via the Fram Strait.
What does it all mean?
We have lost our stable climate. Likely permanently. Rates of change are greatly exceeding anything in the paleorecords. By at least 10x, and more likely >30x. We are heading to a much warmer world. The transition will be brutal for civilization.global-warming
Can we avoid this? Stop it? Probably not. Not with climate reality being suppressed by corporations and their government employees in their relentless push for more and more fossil fuel infrastructure and mining and drilling.
Craziness, in a nutshell. Temperatures over land surfaces in the far north have been consistently over 25 C for weeks, due to persistent high pressure atmospheric blocks, leading to clear skies and unblocked solar exposure. Water temperatures in rivers and streams in the far north have resulted in large fish kills as their ecological mortality thresholds have been exceeded. Many other regions are experiencing strange incidences of animal mortality. Mass migrations of animals towards the poles are occurring on land and sea, at startling rates, in an effort for more hospitable surroundings for survival. Shifting food source distributions is causing even hardier, less vulnerable species to be severely stressed. For example, dolphins are being stranded or dying, birds are dropping out of the sky, and new parasites and bacteria are proliferating with warmer temperatures.
In regions of the world undergoing severe droughts the vegetation and soils are drying and fires are exploding in size, frequency, and severity. Especially hard-hit are large regions of the US southwest, southern Europe, and large swaths of Asia. Who knows if forests that are levelled by fire will eventually be reforested; it all depends on what type of climate establishes in the region.
What about coastal regions around the world and sea levels? Not looking too good for the home team. In 2012 Greenland tossed off about 700 Gt (Gt=billion tons) of sea ice, from both melting and calving. As the ice melts, it is darkening from concentrated contaminants being exposed, from much greater areas of low albedo meltwater pools, and from fresh deposits of black carbon ash from northern forest fires. Even more worrying are ominous signs of increasing movement. GPS sensor anchored to the 3 km thick glaciers hundreds of km from the coast are registering increased sliding. Meltwater moulins are chewing through the ice from the surface to the bedrock and are transporting heat downward, softening up the ice bonded to the bedrock and allowing sliding. Eventually, large chunks will slide into the ocean causing tsunamis and abrupt sea level rises. Many regions of the sea floor around Greenland are scarred from enormous calving episodes in the past.
On a positive note, this knowledge of our changing climate threat is filtering out to greater numbers of the slumbering public that has been brainwashed into lethargy by the protectors of the status quo. As more and more people see the trees dying in their back yards and their cities and houses and roads buckling under unrelenting torrential rains, they are awaking to the threat. And there will be a threshold crossed and a tipping point reached in human behaviour with an understanding of the reality of the risks we face. And finally global concerted action. To slash emissions. And change our ways. And retool our economies and reset our priorities. And not take our planet for granted.
Intermittent renewables–wind and solar photovoltaic panels–have been hailed as an answer to all our energy problems. Certainly, politicians need something to provide hope, especially in countries that are obviously losing their supply of oil, such as the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, the more I look into the situation, the less intermittent renewables have to offer.
1. It is doubtful that intermittent renewables actually reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
It is devilishly difficult to figure out whether on not any particular energy source has a favorable impact on carbon dioxide emissions. The obvious first way of looking at emissions is to look at the fuel burned on a day-to-day basis. Intermittent renewables don’t seem to burn fossil fuel on day-to-day basis, while those using fossil fuels do, so wind and solar PV seem to be the winners.
The catch is that there are many direct and indirect ways that fossil fuels come into play in making the devices that create the renewable energy and in their operation on the grid. The researcher must choose “boundaries” for any analysis. In a sense, we need our whole fossil fuel powered system of schools, roads, airports, hospitals, and electricity transmission lines to make any of type of energy product work, whether oil, natural gas, wind, or solar electric–but it is difficult to make boundaries wide enough to cover everything.
The exercise becomes one of trying to guess how much carbon emissions are saved by looking at tops of icebergs, given that the whole rest of the system is needed to support the new additions. The thing that makes the problem more difficult is the fact that intermittent renewables have more energy-related costs that are not easy to measure than fossil fuel powered energy does. For example, there may be land rental costs, salaries of consultants, and (higher) financing costs because of the front-ended nature of the investment. There are also costs for mitigating intermittency and extra long-distance grid connections.
Many intermittent renewables costs seem to be left out of CO2 analyses under the theory that, say, land rental doesn’t really use energy. But the payment for land rental means that the owner can now go and buy more “stuff,” so it acts to raise fossil fuel energy consumption.
Normally the cost of making an energy-related product gives an indication as to how much fossil fuel energy is involved in the process. A high-priced energy product gives an expectation of high fossil fuel use, since true renewable energy use is free. If the true source of renewable energy were only wind or solar, there would be no cost at all! The fact that wind and solar PV tends to be more expensive than other electricity generation gives an initial expectation that the fossil fuel energy requirements for creating this energy source are high, rather than low, if a wide boundary analysis were to be done.
There are some studies based on narrow boundary studies of various types (Energy Return on Energy Invested, Life Cycle Analysis, and Energy Payback Periods) that suggest that there are some savings (from the top of the icebergs) if intermittent renewables are used. But more broadly based studies show that the overall amount of fossil fuel energy used by intermittent renewables is really so high that we don’t come out ahead by its use. One such study is Weissbach et al.’s study in Energy called Energy intensities, EROIs (energy returned on invested), and energy payback times of electricity generating power plants. Another is an analysis of Spanish installed solar power by Pedro Prieto and Charles Hall called Spain’s Photovoltaic Revolution: The Energy Return on Energy Invested.
I tend to use an even wider boundary approach: what happens to world CO2 emissions when we ramp up intermittent renewables? As far as I can tell, it tends to raise CO2 emissions. One way this happens is by ramping up China’s economy, through the additional business it generates in the making of wind turbines, solar panels, and the mining of rare earth minerals used in these devices. The benefit China gets from its renewable sales is leveraged several times, as it allows the country to build new homes, roads, and schools, and businesses to service the new manufacturing. In China, the vast majority of manufacturing is with coal.
Another way intermittent renewables raise world CO2 emissions indirectly is by making the country using intermittent renewables less competitive in the world market-place, because the higher electricity cost raises the price of manufactured goods. This tends to send manufacturing to countries that use lower-priced energy sources for electricity, such as China.
A third way that intermittent renewables can raise world CO2 emissions relates to affordability. Consumers cannot afford high-priced electricity without their standards of living dropping. Governments may be pressured to change their overall electricity mix to include more very low-cost energy sources, such as lignite (a very low grade of coal), in their electricity mix to keep the overall price in an affordable range. This seems to be at least part of the problem behind Germany’s difficulties with renewables.
If there is any savings at all in CO2 emissions, it would seem to be from inexpensive intermittent renewables–ones that don’t really need subsidies. If renewables need a subsidy or feed in tariff, a red danger light should be flashing. Somewhere the process is using a lot of fossil fuels in its production.
9. My analysis indicates that the bottleneck we are reaching is not simply oil. Instead, a major problem is inadequate investment capital and too much debt. Ramping up wind and solar PV tends to make those problems worse, not better.
As I described in my post Why EIA, IEA, and Randers’ 2052 Energy Forecasts are Wrong, we are reaching an investment capital and debt bottleneck, because of the higher extraction costs of oil. Adding intermittent renewables, in which huge costs are paid out in advance, adds to this problem. Because of this, ramping up intermittent renewables tends to make collapse come sooner, rather than later, to the countries trying to ramp up these energy sources.