Book review of Failing states, collapsing systems biophysical triggers of political violence by Nafeez Ahmed

6 06 2017

I have written at length about the collapse of Egypt over the years, and Syria too. I’ve also discussed Nafeez Ahmed’s views on the unraveling now happening in the Middle East, and my most recent item here from the Doomstead Diner has attracted a lot of attention….. including from Alice Friedemann who pointed out to me that she has published an extensive review of Ahmed’s new book “Failing states, collapsing systems biophysical triggers of political violence”. It’s a long read (the references alone are almost as long as the article and would keep you busy for weeks!), but I was totally riveted by it and felt the compulsion to republish it here as it needs to be read as widely as possible. In fact, this review is so good, you may not need to buy the book……. as I’ve been saying for a very long time now, 2020 is when things start to get really ugly, all the way to 2030, by which time it’s likely the state of the world will be unrecognisable.

The overview of biophysical factors table below is alone really telling……

If after reading this latest piece you are not convinced collapse is indeed underway, then there’s no hope for you….!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

alice_friedemann[ In this post I summarize the sections of Nafeez’s book about the biophysical factors that bring nations down (i.e. climate change drought & water scarcity, declining revenues after peak oil, etc.) The Media tend to focus exclusively on economic and political factors.

My book review is divided into 3 parts: 

  • Why states collapse for reasons other than economic and political
  • How BioPhysical factors contribute to systemic collapse in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Saudi Arabia Egypt, Nigeria
  • Predictions of when collapse will begin in Middle East, India, China, Europe, Russia, North America

In my opinion, war is inevitable in the Middle East where over half of oil reserves exist.  Oil is life itself.  If war happens,  collapse of the Middle East, India, and China could happen well before 2030.  If nuclear weapons are used, most nations collapse from the nuclear winter and ozone depletion that would follow.   Indonesia blew up their oil refineries to keep Japan from getting oil in WWII. If Middle Eastern governments or terrorists do the same after they’re attacked, that brings on the energy crisis sooner.  Although this would leave some high EROI oil in the ground, the energy to rebuild refineries, pipelines, oil rigs, roads, and other infrastructure would lower the EROI considerably.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

Ahmed, Nafeez. 2017. Failing States, Collapsing Systems BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence. Springer.

1) Why states collapse for reasons other than economic and political

Since the 2008 financial crash, there’s been an unprecedented outbreak of social protest: Occupy in the US and Western Europe, the Arab Spring, and civil unrest from Greece to Ukraine, China to Thailand, Brazil to Turkey, and elsewhere. Sometimes civil unrest has resulted in government collapse or even wars, as in Iraq-Syria and Ukraine- Crimea. The media and experts blame it on poor government, usually ignoring the real reasons because all they know is politics and economics.

In the Middle East, experts should also talk about geology.  Oil-producing nations like Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Nigeria, and Iraq have all reached peak oil and declining government revenues after that force rulers to raise the prices of food and oil.  This region was already short on water, and now climate change (from fossil fuels) is making matters much worse with drought and heat waves causing even greater water scarcity, which in turn lowers agricultural production.  Many of these nations have some of the highest rates of population growth on earth at a time when resources essential to life itself are declining.

The few nations still producing much of the oil – Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. are about to join the club and stop exporting oil so they can provide for their domestic population.

Ahmed points out that “because these and other factors are so nested and interconnected, even small perturbations and random occurrences in one can amplify effects on other parts of the system, sometimes in a feedback process that continues.  If thresholds are reached, these tipping points can re-order the whole system”.  These ecological and geological factors result in social disorder, which makes it even harder for government to do anything, such as putting more money into water and food production infrastructure, which accelerates climate change and energy decline impacts, which leads to even more violence at an accelerating rate until state failure.

2) How BioPhysical factors contribute to systemic collapse in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Saudi Arabia Egypt, Nigeria

 

Table 1. Overview of biophysical factors (water scarcity, peak oil, population) for nations Ahmed discusses in this book

The UN defines a region as not having water scarcity above 1700 cubic meters per capita (green).  Water stressed nations have 1000 to 1700 cubic meters per capita (yellow).  Water scarcity is 500-1000 per capita (orange) and absolute water scarcity 0-500 (red).  Countries already experiencing water stress or far worse include Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Israel, Syria, Yemen, India, China, and parts of the United States. Many, though not all, of these countries are experiencing protracted conflicts or civil unrest (Patrick 2015).

SYRIA

The media portray warfare in Syria as due to the extreme repression of President Bashar al-Assad and the support he receives from Russia.  Although there has been awareness that climate change drought played a role in causing conflict, there is no recognition that peak oil was one of the main factors.

Here’s a quick summary of how peak oil and consequent declining revenues from oil production, rising energy and food prices, drought, water scarcity, and population growth led to social unrest, violence, terrorism and war.

It shouldn’t be surprising that peak oil in 1996 triggered the tragic events we see today.  After all, the main source of Syrian revenue came from their production of 610,000 barrels per day (bpd).  By 2010 oil production had declined by half. Falling revenues caused Syria to seek help from the IMF by 2001, and the onerous market reform policies required resulted in higher unemployment and poverty, especially in rural Sunni regions, while at the same time enriching and corrupting ruling minority Alawite private and military elites.

In 2008 the government had to triple oil prices resulting in higher food prices. Food prices rose even more due to the global price of wheat doubling in 2010-2011. On top of that, the 2007-2010 drought was the worst on record, causing widespread crop failures. This forced mass migrations of farming families to cities (Agrimoney 2012; Kelley et al. 2015). The drought wouldn’t have been so bad if half the water hadn’t been wasted and overused previously from 2002 to 2008 (Worth 2010). All of these violence-creating events were worsened by one of the highest birth rates growth on earth, 2.4%.  Most of the additional 80,000 people added in 2011 were born in the hardest-hit drought areas (Sands 2011).

Rinse and repeat.  Social unrest and violence led to war, oil production dropped further, so there is even less money to end unrest with subsidized food and energy or more employment, aid farmers, and build desalination plants.

Syria, once able to feed its people, now depends on 4 million tonnes of grain imports at a time when revenues continue to drop.  Syrian oil production didn’t really take off until 1968 when there were 6.4 million people.  Since oil revenues allowed their population to explode, another 13.6 million have been born.

IRAQ

Like Syria, Iraq’s agricultural production has been reduced by heat, drought, heavy rain, water scarcity, rapid population growth, and the inability of government to import food and provide goods and services as oil revenues decline.  ISIS has worsened matters and filled in the gaps of state-level failure.  Peak oil is likely by 2025.  Or sooner given the ongoing war, lack of investment to keep existing production flowing, and low oil prices (Dipaola 2016).

YEMEN 

Like Syria, Iraq, and Iran, Yemen has long faced serious water scarcity issues. The country is consuming water far faster than it is being replenished, an issue that has been identified by numerous experts as playing a key background role in driving local inter-tribal and sectarian conflicts (Patrick 2015).

Yemen is one of the most water-scarce countries in the world. In 2012, the average Yemeni had access to just 140 cubic meters of water a year for all uses and just three years later a catastrophic 86 m3, far below the 1000 m3 level minimum requirement standards.    Cities often only have sporadic access to running water— every other week or so.  Sanaa could become the first capital in the world to run out of water (IRIN 2012).

Yemen reached peak oil production in 2001, declining from 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 100,000 bpd in 2014, and will be zero by 2017 (Boucek 2009).   This has led to a drastic decline in Yemen’s oil exports, which has eaten into government revenues, 75% of which had depended on oil exports. Oil revenues also account for 90% of the government’s foreign exchange reserves. The decline in post-peak Yemen state revenues has reduced the government’s capacity to sustain even basic social investments. When the oil runs out … the capacity to sustain a viable state-structure will completely collapse.

Yemen has 25 million people and an exorbitantly high growth rate and predicted to double by 2050. In 2014 experts warned that within the next decade, these demographic trends would demolish the government’s ability to meet the population’s basic needs in education, health and other essential public services. This is already happening to over 15 million people (Qaed 2014).  Over half the Yemeni population lives below the poverty line, and unemployment is at 40% (60% of young people).

To cope, too many people have turned to growing qat (a mild narcotic) on 40% of Yemen’s irrigated land, increasing water use to 3.9 billion cubic meters (bcm), but the renewable water supply is just 2.5 bcm. The 1.4 bcm shortfall is made up by pumping water from underground water reserves that are starting to run dry.

Energy, overpopulation, drought, water scarcity, poverty, and a government unable to do much of anything without oil revenue is in a downward loop of social tensions, local conflicts and even mass displacements.  This in turn adds to the dynamics of the wider sectarian and political conflicts between the government, the Houthis, southern separatists and al-Qaeda affiliated militants.

Violence undermines food security, feeding back into the downward spiraling loop.  Making matters worse is that rain-fed agriculture has dropped by about 30% since 1970, making Yemen ever more food import dependent at a time when revenues are shrinking. The country now imports over 85% of its food, including 90% of its wheat and all of its rice (World Bank 2014). Most Yemenis are hungry because they can’t afford to buy food, which also rises in price when global prices rise.  The rate of chronic malnutrition as high as 58%, second only to Afghanistan (Arashi 2013).

Epidemic levels of government corruption, mismanagement and incompetence, have meant that what little revenue the government receives ends up in Swiss bank accounts.  With revenues plummeting in the wake of the collapse of its oil industry, the government has been forced to slash subsidies while cranking up fuel and diesel prices. This has, in turn, cranked up prices of water, meat, fruits, vegetables and spices, leading to fuel and food riots (Mawry 2015).

Is Saudi Arabia Next?

Summary: Within the next decade, Saudi Arabia will become especially vulnerable to the downward feedback loop of peak oil.  The most likely date for peak oil is 2028 (Ebrahimi 2015). But because the Saudi exports have been going down since 2005 at 1.4% a year as their own population rises and consumes more and more, world exports could end as soon as 2031 (Brown and Foucher 2008).

Saudi revenues will decline to zero, so the Saudis will be less able to buy their way out of food shortages.  Their own food production will drop as well from drought and water scarcity — the kingdom is one of the most water scarce in the world, at 98 m³ per inhabitant per year.

Most water comes from groundwater, 57% of which is non-renewable, and 88% of it goes to agriculture. Desalination plants produce 70% of the kingdom’s domestic water supplies. But desalination is very energy intensive, accounting for more than half of domestic oil consumption. As oil exports run down, along with state revenues, while domestic consumption increases, the kingdom’s ability to use desalination to meet its water needs will decrease (Patrick 2015; Odhiambo 2016).

According to the Export Land Model (ELM) created by Texas petroleum geologist Jeffrey J Brown and Dr. Sam Foucher, the key issue is the timing of when there will be no more exports because the domestic population of oil producing nations is using it all for domestic consumption.   Brown and Foucher showed that the tipping point to watch out for is when an oil producer can no longer increase the quantity of oil sales abroad because of the need to meet rising domestic energy demand.

Saudi Arabia is the region’s largest energy consumer. Domestic demand has increased 7.5% over the last 5 years, mainly due to population growth. Saudi population may grow from 29 million people now to 37 million by 2030, using ever more oil and therefore less available for export.

Declining Saudi peak oil exports will affect every nation on earth that imports Saudi oil, especially top customers China, Japan, the United States, South Korea, and India.  As Saudi oil declines, there will be few other places oil for importing nations to turn to, since other exporting nations will also be using their oil domestically.

A report by Citigroup predicted net exports would plummet to zero in the next 15 years. This means that 80% of money from oil sales the Saudi state depends on are trending downward, eventually terminally (Daya 2016). In this case, the peak oil production date could happen well before 2028, as well as violent social unrest, since so far, Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth, and its unique ability to maintain generous subsidies for oil, housing, food and other consumer items, has kept civil unrest at bay. Energy subsidies alone make up about a fifth of Saudi’s gross domestic product. But as revenues are increasingly strained by decreasing exports after peak oil, the kingdom will need to slash subsidies (Peel 2013).  Even now a quarter of the Saudi’s live in poverty, and unemployment is 12%, especially young people who have a 30% unemployment level. [Saudi Arabia recently started taxing fuel at the bowsers]

Saudi Arabia is experiencing climate change as temperatures rise in the interior and far less rainfall occurs in the north.  By 2040, local average temperatures are expected to increase by as much as 4 °C at the same time rain levels are falling, resulting in more extreme weather events like the 2010 Jeddah flooding when a year of rain fell in 4 hours.  The combination could dramatically impact agricultural productivity, which is already facing challenges from overgrazing and unsustainable industrial agricultural practices leading to accelerated desertification (Chowdhury 2013).

80% of Saudi Arabia’s food requirements are purchased through heavily subsidized imports.  Without the protection of oil revenue subsidies, and potential rises in the global prices of food (Taha 2014), the Saudi population would be heavily impacted. But with net oil revenues declining to zero—potentially within just 15 years—Saudi Arabia’s capacity to finance continued food imports will be in question.

EGYPT

Like Syria, Egypt has had increasing problems paying for food, goods, and services after peak oil in 1993 while at the same time population keeps growing.   Worse yet, there are no oil revenues at all, because since 2010 the population has been using more oil than what is produced and has had to import oil, with no oil revenues to pay for food, goods, and services.  Two-thirds of Egypt’s oil reserves have likely been depleted and oil produced now is declining at 3.4% a year.

Nor are there revenues coming from natural gas sales made up for the loss of oil revenues.  Over the past decade domestic use nearly doubled to consumption of nearly all the production (Kirkpatrick 2013a).

The Egyptian population since 2000 has grown 21% to 88 million people and isn’t slowing down, with 20 million more expected over the next 10 years.  A quarter are children half of them living in poverty and unemployed  (EI 2012) at the same time the elites have grown wealthier from IMF and World Bank policies.

In the 1960s there were 2800 cubic meters of water per capita, now just 660 – well below the international standard of water poverty of 1000 per person (Sarant 2013).   Water scarcity and population growth lave led to tens of thousands of hectares of farmland to be abandoned.  There is some water that can be obtained, but most farmers can’t afford the price of diesel fuel to power pumps  (Kirkpatrick 2013b)

Egypt was self-sufficient in food production in the 1960s but now imports 70% of its food (Saleh 2013). One of the many reasons Mubarak fell was the doubling of wheat prices in 2011 since half of Egypt’s people depend on food rations.  But the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood party and their leader Morsi couldn’t alleviate declining government revenues due to the biophysical realities of food, water, and energy shortages either.  Morsi desperately tried to get a $4.8 billion IMF loan by slashing energy subsidies and raising sales taxes, but the economic crisis made it hard to make the payments and wheat imports dropped to a third of what was imported a year ago.

This led to Morsi being ousted by army chief Abdul Fateh el-Sisi in a coup.  Like his predecessors, El-Sisi has also been unable to meet IMF demands for increased hydrocarbon production and has resorted to unprecedented levels of brutal force to crush protests. He has also rationed electricity, which led to key industries cutting production, leading to further economic losses, declining exports and foreign reserves.  Without more money, energy companies can’t be paid, so energy production continues to drop, and debt goes up, reducing the value of Egyptian currency and higher costs for imports and shortages of energy for industrial production. Egypt’s energy and economy find themselves caught in an amplifying feedback loop (Barron 2016).

How Boko Haram arose in Nigeria

Nigeria’s climate change has led to water and land shortages from desertification, which in turn has led to illness, hunger, and unemployment followed by conflict (Sayne 2011).

Perhaps the Boko Haram wouldn’t have arisen, if the Maitatsine sect in northern Nigeria hadn’t been hit so hard by ecological disasters.  To survive they fanned out to search for food, water, shelter, and work (Sanders 2013).  Niger and Chad refugees from drought and floods also became Boko Haram foot soldiers, some 200,000 displaced farmers and herdsmen.

In northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram is from, about 70% of the population subsists on less than a dollar a day. As noted by David Francis, one of the first western reporters to cover Boko Haram: “Most of the foot soldiers of Boko Haram aren’t Muslim fanatics; they’re poor kids who were turned against their corrupt country by a charismatic leader” (Francis 2014)

The Nigerian military sees a correlation between regional climatic events, and an upsurge in extremist violence: “It has become a pattern; we saw it happen in 2006; it happened again in 2008 and in 2010. President Obasanjo had to deploy the military in 2006 to Yobe State, Borno State and Katsina State. These are some of the states bordering Niger Republic and today they are the hotbeds of the Boko Haram” (Mayah 201).

Drought caused desertification is decreasing food production, in turn leading to “economic decline; population displacement and disruption of legitimized authoritative institutions and social relations.” The net effect was an acceleration of the attractiveness of groups like “Boko Haram and other forms of Jihadi ideology,” resulting in escalating “herder-farmer clashes emanating from the north since 1980s” (Onyia 2015).

The rapid spread of Boko Haram also coincided with Lake Chad’s shrinking from 25,000 square km in 1963 to less than 2500 square km today, mainly due to climate change. At this rate, Lake Chad is will dry up in 20 years, and has already caused millions of people to lose their livelihoods.

The government has exacerbated problems by cutting fuel subsidies, which led to fuel shortages, angering the public who engaged in civil unrest  (Omisore 2014).

A senior Shell official said that crude oil production decline rates are as high as 15–20%.  But Nigeria doesn’t have the money to explore to find more oil to offset this high decline rate. Nigeria’s petroleum resources department said that Nigeria had reached a plateau of production in the Niger Delta and were already going down (Ahmed 2014).

About $15 billion of investment is required just to maintain current production levels and compensate for a natural decline in production of about 250,000 b/d each year. A 2011 study by two Nigerian scholars concluded that “there is an imminent decline in Nigeria’s oil reserve since peaking could have occurred or just about to occur (Akuru and Okoro 2011). A 2013 report backs this up, finding that Nigeria’s crude oil production has decreased since its peak in 2005, largely due to the impact of internal conflicts, leading to the withdrawal of oil companies and lack of investments. Since then production has fluctuated along a plateau. The UK Department for International Development report noted that new offshore fields might bring additional oil on-stream, surpassing the 2005 peak—but also noted that rising domestic demand “at some point in the future may cut into the amount of oil available for export” (Hall et al. 2014).

POPULATION. With Nigeria’s population expected to rise from 160 to 250 million by 2025 and oil accounting for some 96% of export revenue as well as 75% of government revenue, the state has resorted to harsh austerity measures. Sharp reductions in public spending, power cuts, fuel shortages and conditional new loans will probably widen economic inequalities and further stoke the grievances that feed groups like Boko Haram in the North. With domestic oil production decline undermining Nigeria’s oil export revenues and consequent fuel subsidy cuts, the public grows poorer and increases the number of young men more likely to join Islamist terrorist groups.

3) Predictions of when collapse will begin in Middle East, India, China, Europe, Russia, North America

When will  Middle-East oil producing nations fail?

Ahmed says that so far after peak oil production, Middle-Eastern economies have declined as revenues declined, leading to systemic state-failure in roughly 15 years, more or less, depending on how hard hit a nation was by additional (climate-change) factors such as drought, water scarcity, food prices, and overpopulation.

Saudi Arabia, and much of the rest of Arabian Gulf peninsula, may experience state-failure well within 10 to 20 years. If forecasts of Saudi oil depletion are remotely accurate, then by 2030 the country will simply not exist as we know it. Coupled with the accelerating impacts of climate-induced water scarcity, the Kingdom is bound to begin experiencing systemic state-failure at most within 20 years, and probably much earlier.

Marin Katusa, chief energy strategist at Casey Research, reports that “many Middle Eastern countries may stop exporting oil and gas altogether within the next few years, while some already have” (Katusa 2016). Oil analysts at Lux Research estimate that OPEC oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 70%. True OPEC reserves could be as low as 429 billion barrels, which could mean a global net export crunch as early as 2020 (Lazenby 2016).

The period from 2020 to 2030 will see Middle East oil exporters experiencing a systemic convergence of energy and food crises.

When will India & China collapse?

India and China are widely assumed to be the next superpowers, but at this stage of energy and resource depletion, can’t possibly mimic the exponential growth of the Western world.

India, South Asia, and China face enormous ecological challenges Irregularities in the pattern of monsoon rains and drought are likely to lower food production and increase water scarcity, while higher temperatures will increase the range of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and become prevalent year-round (DCDC 2013). As sea levels rise, millions of people will be displaced permanently.

These impacts will unravel regional political and economic order well within 20 years and manifest at first as civil unrest.  Depending on how the Indian and Chinese states respond, it is likely that these outbreaks of domestic disorder will become more organized, and will eventually undermine state territorial integrity before 2030.  Near-term growth will further undermine environmental health and deplete resources, making these nations even more vulnerable to climate and food crises.

European and Russian collapse timeframe

Within Europe, resource depletion has meant that the European Union as a whole has become increasingly dependent on energy imports from Russia, the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. Yet exports from these regions will become tighter as major oil producers approach production limits.

The geopolitical turmoil that has unfolded in Ukraine provides a compelling indication that such processes are rapidly moving from the periphery of the global system into the core. For the most part, the Euro-Atlantic core—traditionally representing the most powerful sections of the world system—has insulated itself from global crisis convergence impacts by diversifying energy supply sources. However, there is only so much that diversification can achieve when the total energetic and economic quality of global hydrocarbon resource production is declining.

Post-2030–2045

Faced with these converging crises, the Euro-Atlantic core will continue to see the creation of cheap debt-money through quantitative easing as an immediate solution to generate emergency funds to stabilize the financial system and shore-up ailing industries. This will likely play out in one of these business-as-usual scenarios:

  1. The lower resource quality (EROI) of the global energy system may act as a fundamental geophysical ceiling on the capacity of the economy to grow. It may act as an invisible brake on growth in demand, so fossil fuel prices would remain at chronically low levels, endangering the profitability of the fossil fuel industries. This would lead to an acceleration of the demise of the fossil fuel industries, which could lead to debt-defaults across industries in the financial system. Declining hydrocarbon energy production would cause a self-reinforcing recessionary economic process. This would escalate vulnerability to water, food and energy crises and hugely strain the capacity of European and American states to deliver goods and services to even their own populations, and other nations dependent as much on importing food as they are oil.
  2. Scarcity of net exports on the world market may raise oil prices and provide some sectors of ailing fossil fuel industries to be profitable again. But previous slashing of investments and cutbacks in exploration will mean that only the most powerful sections of the industry would be able to capitalize on this, which means production is unlikely to return to former high levels. Price spikes would trigger economic recession, causing a drop in demand, while lower production levels would exacerbate the economy’s inability to grow substantially, if at all. In effect, the global economy would likely still experience a self-reinforcing recessionary economic process.

In both scenarios, escalating economic crises are likely to invite the Euro-Atlantic core to respond by using debt-money to shore-up as much of the existing core financial and energy industries as possible. Prices spikes and shortages in water, food and energy would be experienced by general populations as a dramatic lowering of purchasing power, leading to an overall decrease in quality of life, an increase in poverty, and a heightening of inequality. This would undermine their internal cohesion, giving rise to new divisive, nationalist and xenophobic movements, and lead states into a tightening spiral of militarization to police domestic order. As instability in the Middle East and elsewhere intensifies, manifesting in further unrest, political violence and terrorist activity, states will also be drawn increasingly into short- sighted military solutions. In particular, scarcity of net oil exports on the world market will heighten geopolitical and military competition to control and/or access the world’s remaining hydrocarbon energy resources. With the Middle East still holding the vast bulk of the world’s reserves, the region will remain a central flashpoint for such competition, even as major producers such as Saudi Arabia approach systemic state-failure due to reaching inevitable production declines.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that as we near 2045, the European and American projects will face escalating internal challenges to their internal territorial integrity, increasing the risk of systemic state-failure. Likewise, after 2030, Europe, India, China (and other Asian nations) will begin to experience symptoms of systemic state-failure.

References

Adel, Mohamed. 2016. Eni to Increase Zohr Field Gas Production to 2bn Cubic Feet Per Day by End of 2019. Daily News Egypt, May 9. http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2016/05/09/ eni-increase-zohr-field-gas-production-2bn-cubic-feet-per-day-end-2019/ .

Agrimoney. 2012. Unrest, Bad Weather Lift Syrian Grain Import Needs. Agrimoney.com, March 14. http://www.agrimoney.com/news/unrest-bad-weather-lift-syrian-grain-import-needs–4278.html

Ahmed, Nafeez Mosaddeq. 2009. The Globalization of Insecurity: How the International Economic Order Undermines Human and National Security on a World Scale. Historia Actual Online 0(5): 113–126.

Ahmed, Nafeez. 2010. A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It. London: Pluto Press.

———. 2011. The International Relations of Crisis and the Crisis of International Relations: From the Securitisation of Scarcity to the Militarisation of Society. Global Change, Peace & Security 23(3): 335–355. doi: 10.1080/14781158.2011.601854 .

———. 2013a. Peak Oil, Climate Change and Pipeline Geopolitics Driving Syria Conflict. The Guardian, May 13, sec. Environment. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth- insight/2013/may/13/1

———. 2013b. How Resource Shortages Sparked Egypt’s Months-Long Crisis. The Atlantic, August 19. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/08/how-resource-shortagessparked-egypts-months-long-crisis/278802/

———. 2014. Behind the Rise of Boko Haram—Ecological Disaster, Oil Crisis, Spy Games. The Guardian, May 9, sec. Environment. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/may/09/behind-rise-nigeria-boko-haram-climate-disaster-peak-oil-depletion

———. 2015. The US-Saudi War with OPEC to Prolong Oil’s Dying Empire. Middle East Eye. May 8. http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/us-saudi-war-opec-prolong-oil-s-dyingempire-222413845

———. 2016a. Climate Change Fuels Boko Haram. Women Across Frontiers Magazine. February 29. http://wafmag.org/2016/02/boko-haram-filling-vacuum-nigerias-state-collapses/

———. 2016b. At the Root of Egyptian Rage Is a Deepening Resource Crisis. Quartz. Accessed August 16. http://qz.com/116276/at-the-root-of-egyptian-rage-is-a-deepening-resource-crisis/

———. 2016c. Return of the Reich: Mapping the Global Resurgence of Far Right Power. Investigative Report. London: Tell MAMA and INSURGE Intelligence. https://medium.com/ return-of-the-reich

———. 2016d. FEMA Contractor Predicts ‘Social Unrest’ Caused by 395% Food Price Spikes. Motherboard. Accessed August 21. http://motherboard.vice.com/read/fema-contractor- predicts-social-unrest-caused-by-395-food-price-spikes

Akuru, Udochukwu B., and Ogbonnaya I. Okoro. 2011. A Prediction on Nigeria’s Oil Depletion Based on Hubbert’s Model and the Need for Renewable Energy. International Scholarly Research Notices, International Scholarly Research Notices 2011: e285649. doi: 10.5402/2011/285649 .

Al-Sinousi, Mahasin, and Amira Saleh. 2008. International Expert Warns Of Egypt’s Oil And Gas Reserves Depletion In 2020. Al-Masry Al-Youm, May 17, 1434 edition. http://today.almasryalyoum.com/article2.aspx?ArticleID=105585

Arashi, Fakhri. 2013. Wheat Imports Cause Yemen Heavy Losses—National Yemen. http://nationalyemen.com/2013/03/03/wheat-imports-cause-yemen-heavy-losses/

Aston, T.H., Trevor Henry Aston, and C.H.E. Philpin. 1987. The Brenner Debate: Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-Industrial Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Aucott, Michael L., and Jacqueline M. Melillo. 2013. A Preliminary Energy Return on Investment Analysis of Natural Gas from the Marcellus Shale. Journal of Industrial Ecology 17(5): 668– 679. doi: 10.1111/jiec.12040 .

Azevedo, Ligia B., An M. De Schryver, A. Jan Hendriks, and Mark A.J. Huijbregts. 2015. Calcifying Species Sensitivity Distributions for Ocean Acidification. Environmental Science & Technology 49(3): 1495–1500. doi: 10.1021/es505485m .

Badgley, Catherine, and Ivette Perfecto. 2007. Can Organic Agriculture Feed the World? Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 22(2): 80–85.

Bardi, Ugo. 2014. Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth Is Plundering the Planet. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Barnett, Tim P., and David W. Pierce. 2008. When Will Lake Mead Go Dry? Water Resources Research 44(3): W03201. doi: 10.1029/2007WR006704

Barron, Robert. 2016. Facing Rumors of Money Troubles, Egypt Denies Tension with Foreign Oil, Gas Firms. Mada Masr. January 27. http://www.madamasr.com/sections/economy/ facing-rumors-money-troubles-egypt-denies-tension-foreign-oil-gas-firms

Berger, Daniel, William Easterly, Nathan Nunn, and Shanker Satyanath. 2013. Commercial Imperialism? Political Influence and Trade during the Cold War. American Economic Review 103(2): 863–896. doi: 10.1257/aer.103.2.863

Berman, Arthur, and Ray Leonard. 2015. Years Not Decades: Proven Reserves and the Shale Revolution. Houston Geological Society Bulletin 57(6): 35–39.

Bhardwaj, Mayank. 2016. Food Imports Rise as Modi Struggles to Revive Rural India. Reuters India. February 2. http://in.reuters.com/article/india-farming-idINKCN0VA3NL

Bindi, Marco, and Jørgen E. Olesen. 2010. The Responses of Agriculture in Europe to Climate Change. Regional Environmental Change 11(1): 151–158. doi: 10.1007/s10113-010-0173-x

Bose, Prasenjit. 2016. A Budget That Reveals the Truth about India’s Growth Story. The Wire. March 2. http://thewire.in/23392/what-the-budget-tells-us-about-indias-growth-story/ .

Boucek, Christopher. 2009. Yemen: Avoiding a Downward Spiral. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. September. http://carnegieendowment.org/2009/09/10/yemen-avoidingdownward-spiral-pub-23827

Bove, Vincenzo, Leandro Elia, and Petros G. Sekeris. 2014. US Security Strategy and the Gains from Bilateral Trade. Review of International Economics 22(5): 863–885. doi: 10.1111/ roie.12141

Bove, Vincenzo, Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, and Petros G. Sekeris. 2015. ‘Oil above Water’ Economic Interdependence and Third-Party Intervention. Journal of Conflict Resolution, January 27: 0022002714567952. doi: 10.1177/0022002714567952 .

Bove, Vincenzo, and Petros G. Sekeris. 2016. Fueling Conflict: The Role of Oil in Foreign Interventions. IPI Global Observatory. Accessed July 19. https://theglobalobservatory.org/2015/03/civil-wars-oil-above-water-military-intervention/

Brandt, Adam R., Yuchi Sun, Sharad Bharadwaj, David Livingston, Eugene Tan, and Deborah Gordon. 2015. Energy Return on Investment (EROI) for Forty Global Oilfields Using a Detailed Engineering-Based Model of Oil Production. PLOS ONE 10(12): e0144141.

Brown, Jeffrey J., and Samuel Foucher. 2008. A Quantitative Assessment of Future Net Oil Exports by the Top Five Net Oil Exporters. Energy Bulletin. January 8. http://www.resilience.org/stories/2008-01-08/quantitative-assessment-future-net-oil-exports-top-five-net-oil-exporters

Brown, James H., William R. Burnside, Ana D. Davidson, John P. DeLong, William C. Dunn, Marcus J. Hamilton, Norman Mercado-Silva, et al. 2011. Energetic Limits to Economic Growth. BioScience 61(1): 19–26.

Buckley. 2016. Coal Decline Steepens in 2016 in India, China, U.S. Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis. May 16. http://ieefa.org/coal-decline-steepens-2016-2/

Capellán-Pérez, Iñigo, Margarita Mediavilla, Carlos de Castro, Óscar Carpintero, and Luis Javier Miguel. 2014. Fossil Fuel Depletion and Socio-Economic Scenarios: An Integrated Approach. Energy 77: 641–666.

Castillo-Mussot, Marcelo del, Pablo Ugalde-Véle, Jorge Antonio Montemayor-Aldrete, Alfredo de la Lama-García, and Fidel Cruz. 2016. Impact of Global Energy Resources Based on Energy Return on Their Investment (EROI) Parameters. Perspectives on Global Development and Technology 15(1–2): 290–299.

Chen, Shuai, Xiaoguang Chen, and Xu. Jintao. 2016. Impacts of Climate Change on Agriculture: Evidence from China. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 76: 105–124. doi: 10.1016/j.jeem.2015.01.005

Chowdhury, Shakhawat, and Muhammad Al-Zahrani. 2013. Implications of Climate Change on Water Resources in Saudi Arabia. Arabian Journal for Science and Engineering 38(8): 1959– 1971.

Clarkson, M.O., S.A. Kasemann, R.A. Wood, T.M. Lenton, S.J. Daines, S. Richoz, F. Ohnemueller, A. Meixner, S.W. Poulton, and E.T. Tipper. 2015. Ocean Acidification and the Permo-Triassic Mass Extinction. Science 348(6231): 229–232. doi: 10.1126/science.aaa0193

Cleveland, Cutler J., and Peter A. O’Connor. 2011. Energy Return on Investment (EROI) of Oil Shale. Sustainability 3(11): 2307–2322.

Coleman, Isabel. 2012. Reforming Egypt’s Untenable Subsidies. Council on Foreign Relations. April 6. http://www.cfr.org/egypt/reforming-egypts-untenable-subsidies/p27885

Cook, Benjamin I., Toby R. Ault, and Jason E. Smerdon. 2015. Unprecedented 21st Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains. Science Advances 1(1): e1400082. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1400082

Coumou, Dim, Alexander Robinson, Stefan Rahmstorf. 2013. Global increases in record-breaking 0668-1.

Csereklyei, Zsuzsanna, and David I. Stern. 2015. Global Energy Use: Decoupling or Convergence? Energy Economics 51: 633–641.

Cunningham, Nick. 2016. Decline of Coal Demand Is ‘irreversible. MINING.com. February 19. http://www.mining.com/web/decline-of-coal-demand-is-irreversible/

Dawson, Terence P., Anita H. Perryman, and Tom M. Osborne. 2014. Modelling Impacts of Climate Change on Global Food Security. Climatic Change 134(3): 429–440. doi: 10.1007/ s10584-014-1277-y.

Daya, Ayesha, and Dana El Baltaji. 2016. Saudi Arabia May Become Oil Importer by 2030, Citigroup Says. Bloomberg.com. Accessed August 11. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-09-04/saudi-arabia-may-become-oil-importer-by-2030-citigroup-says-1-

DCDC. 2013. Regional Survey—South Asia Out to 2040. Strategic Trends Programme. UK Ministry of Defence, Defence Concepts and Doctrines Centre.

Department Of State, Bureau of Public Affairs. 2014. Syria. Press Release|Fact Sheet. U.S. Department of State. March 20. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3580.htm

Diffenbaugh, Noah S., Daniel L. Swain, and Danielle Touma. 2015. Anthropogenic Warming Has Increased Drought Risk in California. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112(13): 3931–3936. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1422385112

Dipaola, Anthony. 2016. Iraq’s Oil Output Seen by Lukoil at Peak as Government Cuts Back. Bloomberg.com. May 19. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-19/iraq-s-oiloutput-seen-by-lukoil-at-peak-as-government-cuts-back

Dittmar, Michael. 2016. Regional Oil Extraction and Consumption: A Simple Production Model for the Next 35 Years Part I. BioPhysical Economics and Resource Quality 1(1): 7. doi: 10.1007/ s41247-016-0007-7

Dodge, Robert. 2016. Unconventional Drilling for Natural Gas in Europe. In The Global Impact of Unconventional Shale Gas Development, ed. Yongsheng Wang and William E. Hefley, 97–130. Natural Resource Management and Policy 39. Springer International Publishing.

EASAC. 2014. Shale Gas Extraction: Issues of Particular Relevance to the European Union. European Academies Science Advisory Council.

Ebrahimi, Mohsen, and Nahid Ghasabani. 2015. Forecasting OPEC Crude Oil Production Using a Variant Multicyclic Hubbert Model. Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 133: 818– 823.

El. 2012. Youth Are Quarter of Egypt’s Population, and Half of Them Are Poor | Egypt Independent. Egypt Independent. August 12. http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/youth-are-quarter-egypt-s-population-and-half-them-are-poor

EIA. 2016. Petroleum & Other Liquids Weekly Supply Estimates. US Energy Information Administration. http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_sum_sndw_dcus_nus_w.htm  .

Evans-Pritchard, Ambrose. 2015. Saudi Arabia May Go Broke before the US Oil Industry Buckles. The Telegraph, August 5, sec. 2016. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/02/11/saudi-arabia-may-go-broke-before-the-us-oil-industry-buckles/

Famiglietti, J.S. 2014. The Global Groundwater Crisis. Nature Climate Change 4(11): 945–948.

Farmer, J., M. Doyne, C. Gallegati, A. Hommes, P. Kirman, S. Ormerod, A. Sanchez Cincotti, and D. Helbing. 2012. A Complex Systems Approach to Constructing Better Models for Managing Financial Markets and the Economy. The European Physical Journal Special Topics 214(1): 295–324.

Feely, Richard, Christopher L. Sabine, and Victoria J. Fabry. 2006. Carbon Dioxide and our Ocean Legacy. Pew Trust. http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/pubs/PDF/feel2899/feel2899.pdf

Foster, John Bellamy, Brett Clark, and Richard York. 2010. The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth. New York: NYU Press.

Fournier, Valérie. 2008. Escaping from the Economy: The Politics of Degrowth. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 28(11/12): 528–545.

Francis. 2014. Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda 2.0—Islamic Extremism in Africa. Humanosphere. May 7. http://www.humanosphere.org/world-politics/2014/05/boko-haram-alshabaab-and-al-qaeda-2-0-islamic-extremism-in-africa/

Friedman, Thomas L. 2013. The Scary Hidden Stressor. The New York Times, March 2. http:// www.nytimes.com/2013/03/03/opinion/sunday/friedman-the-scary-hidden-stressor.html

Fritz, Martin, and Max Koch. 2014. Potentials for Prosperity without Growth: Ecological Sustainability, Social Inclusion and the Quality of Life in 38 Countries. Ecological Economics 108: 191–199.

Gagnon, Nathan, Charles A.S. Hall, and Lysle Brinker. 2009. A Preliminary Investigation of Energy Return on Energy Investment for Global Oil and Gas Production. Energies 2(3): 490– 503.

García-Olivares, Antonio, and Joaquim Ballabrera-Poy. 2015. Energy and Mineral Peaks, and a Future Steady State Economy. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 90, Part B (January): 587–598.

Ghafar, Adel Abdel. 2015. Egypt’s New Gas Discovery: Opportunities and Challenges | Brookings Institution. Brookings. September 10. https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/egypts-new-gasdiscovery-opportunities-and-challenges/

Guilford, Megan C., Charles A.S. Hall, Peter O’Connor, and Cutler J. Cleveland. 2011. A New Long Term Assessment of Energy Return on Investment (EROI) for U.S. Oil and Gas Discovery and Production. Sustainability 3(10): 1866–1887.

Gülen, Gürcan, John Browning, Svetlana Ikonnikova, and Scott W. Tinker. 2013. Well Economics Across Ten Tiers in Low and High Btu (British Thermal Unit) Areas, Barnett Shale, Texas. Energy 60: 302–315.

Hall, Charles A. S., and Kent A. Klitgaard. 2012. Energy and the Wealth of Nations. New York, NY: Springer New York. http://link.springer.com/10.1007/978-1-4419-9398-4

Hall, Charles A.S., Cutler J. Cleveland, and Robert K. Kaufmann. 1992. Energy and Resource Quality: The Ecology of the Economic Process. Niwot, CO: University Press of Colorado

Hall, Charles A.S., Jessica G. Lambert, and Stephen B. Balogh. 2014. EROI of Different Fuels and the Implications for Society. Energy Policy 64: 141–152.

Hallock Jr., John L., Wei Wu, Charles A.S. Hall, and Michael Jefferson. 2014. Forecasting the Limits to the Availability and Diversity of Global Conventional Oil Supply: Validation. Energy 64: 130–153.

Ho, Mae-Wan. 1999. Are Economic Systems Like Organisms? In Sociobiology and Bioeconomics, ed. Peter Koslowski, 237–258. Studies in Economic Ethics and Philosophy. Berlin: Springer.

Holling, C.S. 2001. Understanding the Complexity of Economic, Ecological, and Social Systems. Ecosystems 4(5): 390–405.

Holthaus, Eric. 2014. Hot Zone. Slate, June 27. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_ tense/2014/06/isis_water_scarcity_is_climate_change_destabilizing_iraq.single.html

Homer-Dixon, Thomas. 2011. Carbon Shift: How Peak Oil and the Climate Crisis Will Change Canada (and Our Lives). Toronto: Random House of Canada.

Hook, Leslie. 2013. China’s Appetite for Food Imports to Fuel Agribusiness M&A. Financial Times, June 6.

Hughes, J. David. 2013. Energy: A Reality Check on the Shale Revolution. Nature 494(7437): 307–308.

ICEF. 2016. Growing Chinese Middle Class Projected to Spend Heavily on Education through 2030. ICEF Monitor. http://monitor.icef.com/2016/04/growing-chinese-middle-classprojected-spend-heavily-education-2030/

IEA. 2009. World Energy Outlook. Washington, DC: International Energy Agency.

———. 2015. India Energy Outlook. World Energy Outlook Special Report. International Energy Agency. https://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/india-energy-outlook2015.html

Inman, Mason. 2014. Natural Gas: The Fracking Fallacy. Nature 516(7529): 28–30.

IRIN. 2008. Bread Subsidies Under Threat as Drought Hits Wheat Production. IRIN. June 30.

———. 2010. Growing Protests over Water Shortages. IRIN. July 27. http://www.irinnews.org/news/2010/07/27/growing-protests-over-water-shortages .

———. 2012. Time Running Out for Solution to Water Crisis. IRIN. August 13. http://www.irinnews.org/analysis/2012/08/13/time-running-out-solution-water-crisis

Jackson, Tim. 2009. Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet. London: Earthscan.

Jackson, Peter M., and Leta K. Smith. 2014. Exploring the Undulating Plateau: The Future of Global Oil Supply. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 372(2006): 20120491.

Jancovici, Jean-Marc. 2013. A Couple of Thoughts in the Energy Transition. Manicore. http:// www.manicore.com/anglais/documentation_a/transition_energy.html

Jefferson, Michael. 2016. A Global Energy Assessment. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment 5(1): 7–15

Johanisova, Nadia, and Stephan Wolf. 2012. Economic Democracy: A Path for the Future? Futures, Special Issue: Politics, Democracy and Degrowth, 44(6): 562–570.

Johnstone, Sarah, and Jeffrey Mazo. 2011. Global Warming and the Arab Spring. Survival 53(2): 11–17.

Kaminska, Izabella. 2014. Energy Is Gradually Decoupling from Economic Growth. FT Alphaville, January 17. http://ftalphaville.ft.com/2014/01/17/1745542/energy-is-gradually-decouplingfrom-economic-growth/

Katusa, Marin. 2016. How to Pocket Extraordinary Profits from Unconventional Oil. Casey Energy Report.

Kavanagh, Jennifer. 2013. Do U.S. Military Interventions Occur in Clusters? Product Page. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9718.html

Kelley, Colin P., Shahrzad Mohtadi, Mark A. Cane, Richard Seager, and Yochanan Kushnir. 2015. Climate Change in the Fertile Crescent and Implications of the Recent Syrian Drought. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112(11): 3241–3246.

King, Carey W. 2015. Comparing World Economic and Net Energy Metrics, Part 3: Macroeconomic Historical and Future Perspectives. Energies 8(11): 12997–12920.

King, Carey W., John P. Maxwell, and Alyssa Donovan. 2015a. Comparing World Economic and Net Energy Metrics, Part 1: Single Technology and Commodity Perspective. Energies 8(11): 12949–12974.

———. 2015b. Comparing World Economic and Net Energy Metrics, Part 2: Total Economy Expenditure Perspective. Energies 8(11): 12975–12996.

Kirkpatrick, David D. 2013a. Egypt, Short of Money, Sees Crisis on Food and Gas. The New York Times, March 30. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/world/middleeast/egypt-short-of- money-sees-crisis-on-food-and-gas.html

———. 2013b. Egypt, Short of Money, Sees Crisis on Food and Gas. The New York Times, March 30. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/world/middleeast/egypt-short-of-money-sees-crisison-food-and-gas.html

Klump, Edward, and Jim Polson. 2016. Shale-Gas Skeptic’s Supply Doubts Draw Wrath of Devon. Bloomberg.com. Accessed July 11. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2009-11-17/shalegas-skeptics-supply-doubts-draw-wrath-of-devon-energy

Kothari, Ashish. 2014. Degrowth and Radical Ecological Democracy: A View from the South— Blog Postwachstum. Postwatchstum, Wuppertal Institute. June 27.

Kundu, Tadit. 2016. Nearly Half of Indians Survived on Less than Rs38 a Day in 2011–2012. http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/l1gVncveq4EYEn2zuzX4FL/Nearly-half-of-Indians-survived-on-less-than-Rs38-a-day-in-2.html

Lagi, Marco, Karla Z. Bertrand, and Yaneer Bar-Yam. 2011. The Food Crises and Political Instability in North Africa and the Middle East.

Lazenby, Henry. 2016. Opec Believed to Overstate Oil Reserves by 70%, Reserves Depleted Sooner. Mining Weekly. Accessed August 22. http://www.miningweekly.com/article/opec-believed-to-overstate-oil-reserves-by-70-reserves-depleted-sooner-2012-10-04

Lelieveld, J., Y. Proestos, P. Hadjinicolaou, M. Tanarhte, E. Tyrlis, and G. Zittis. 2016. Strongly Increasing Heat Extremes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the 21st Century. Climatic Change 137(1–2): 245–260.

LePoire, David, and Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL, USA. 2015. Interpreting ‘big History’ as Complex Adaptive System Dynamics with Nested Logistic Transitions in Energy Flow and Organization—Emergence: Complexity and Organization. Emergence, March. https://journal.emergentpublications.com/article/interpreting-big-history-as-complexadaptive-system-dynamics-with-nested-logistic- transitions-in-energy-flow-and-organization/

Lesk, Corey, Pedram Rowhani, and Navin Ramankutty. 2016. Influence of Extreme Weather Disasters on Global Crop Production. Nature 529(7584): 84–87. doi: 10.1038/nature16467

Li, Minqi. 2014. Peak Oil, Climate Change, and the Limits to China’s Economic Growth. New York: Routledge.

MacDonald, Gregor. 2010. Think OPEC Exports Won’t Decline? You’re Living In A Dreamworld. Business Insider. August 14. http://www.businessinsider.com/think-opec-exports-wontdecline-youre-living-in-a-dreamworld-2010-8

Matsumoto, Ken’ichi, and Vlasios Voudouris. 2014. Potential Impact of Unconventional Oil Resources on Major Oil-Producing Countries: Scenario Analysis with the ACEGES Model. Natural Resources Research 24(1): 107–119.

Mawry, Yousef. 2015. Yemen Fuel Crisis Ignites Street Riots. Middle East Eye. February 12. http:// www.middleeasteye.net/news/yemen-fuel-crises-ignites-ongoing-street-riots-393941730

May, Robert M., Simon A. Li, Minqi. 2014. Peak Oil, Climate Change, and the Limits to China’s Economic Growth. New York: Routledge.

MacDonald, Gregor. 2010. Think OPEC Exports Won’t Decline? You’re Living In A Dreamworld. Business Insider. August 14. http://www.businessinsider.com/think-opec-exports-wontdecline-youre-living-in-a-dreamworld-2010-8

Matsumoto, Ken’ichi, and Vlasios Voudouris. 2014. Potential Impact of Unconventional Oil Resources on Major Oil-Producing Countries: Scenario Analysis with the ACEGES Model. Natural Resources Research 24(1): 107–119.

Mawry, Yousef. 2015. Yemen Fuel Crisis Ignites Street Riots. Middle East Eye. February 12. http:// www.middleeasteye.net/news/yemen-fuel-crises-ignites-ongoing-street-riots-393941730

May, Robert M., Simon A. Levin, and George Sugihara. 2008. Complex Systems: Ecology for Bankers. Nature 451(7181): 893–895.

Mayah, Emmanuel. 2012. Climate Change Fuels Nigeria Terrorism. Africa Review. February 24. http://www.africareview.com/news/Climate-change-fuels-Nigeria-terrorism/979180-1334472- 4m5dlu/index.html

McGlade, Christophe, Jamie Speirs, and Steve Sorrell. 2013. Unconventional Gas—A Review of Regional and Global Resource Estimates. Energy 55: 571–584.

Meighan, Brendan. 2016. Egypt’s Natural Gas Crisis. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. January. http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/62534

Moeller, Devin, and David Murphy. 2016. Net Energy Analysis of Gas Production from the Marcellus Shale. BioPhysical Economics and Resource Quality 1(1): 1–13.

Mohr, Steve. 2010. Projection of World Fossil Fuel Production with Supply and Demand Interactions. Callaghan: University of Newcastle.

Mohr, S.H., and G.M. Evans. 2009. Forecasting Coal Production until 2100. Fuel 88(11): 2059– 2067.

———. 2010. Long Term Prediction of Unconventional Oil Production. Energy Policy 38(1): 265–276.

Mohr, S.H., J. Wang, G. Ellem, J. Ward, and D. Giurco. 2015. Projection of World Fossil Fuels by Country. Fuel 141: 120–135

Mora, Camilo, Abby G. Frazier, Ryan J. Longman, Rachel S. Dacks, Maya M. Walton, Eric J. Tong, Joseph J. Sanchez, et al. 2013a. The Projected Timing of Climate Departure from Recent Variability. Nature 502(7470): 183–187.

Mora, Camilo, Chih-Lin Wei, Audrey Rollo, Teresa Amaro, Amy R. Baco, David Billett, Laurent Bopp, et al. 2013b. Biotic and Human Vulnerability to Projected Changes in Ocean Biogeochemistry over the 21st Century. PLOS Biol 11(10): e1001682.

Morgan, Geoffrey. 2016. Average Oil Production to Decline This Year, Grow More Slowly in the Future: CAPP. Financial Post, June 23.

Morrissey, John. 2016. US Central Command and Liberal Imperial Reach: Shaping the Central Region for the 21st Century. The Geographical Journal 182(1): 15–26.

Murphy, David J. 2014. The Implications of the Declining Energy Return on Investment of Oil Production. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 372(2006): 20130126. doi:10.1098/rsta.2013.0126.

Murphy, David J., and Charles A.S. Hall. 2011. Energy Return on Investment, Peak Oil, and the End of Economic Growth. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1219(1): 52–72.

Nandi, Sanjib Kumar. 2014. A Study on Hubbert Peak of India’s Coal: A System Dynamics Approach. International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research 9(2).  http://www.academia.edu/9744358/A_Study_on_Hubbert_Peak_of_Indias_Coal_A_System_Dynamics_Approach

Nekola, Jeffrey C., Craig D. Allen, James H. Brown, Joseph R. Burger, Ana D. Davidson, Trevor S. Fristoe, Marcus J. Hamilton, et al. 2013. The Malthusian–Darwinian Dynamic and the Trajectory of Civilization. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 28(3): 127–130. doi: 10.1016/j. tree.2012.12.001

OBG. 2016. New Discoveries for Egyptian Oil Producers. Oxford Business Group. January 27. http://www.oxfordbusinessgroup.com/overview/fresh-ideas-new-discoveries-have-oilproducers-optimistic-about-future

Odhiambo, George O. 2016. Water Scarcity in the Arabian Peninsula and Socio-Economic Implications. Applied Water Science, June, 1–14.

Odum, Howard Thomas. 1994. Ecological and General Systems: An Introduction to Systems Ecology. Niwot, CO: University Press of Colorado.

Omisore, Bolanle. 2014. Nigerians Face Fuel Shortages In the Shadow of Plenty. National Geographic News. April 11. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/enerws/ener nigeria-fuel-shortage-oil/

Onyia, Chukwuma. 2015. Climate Change and Conflict in Nigeria: The Boko Haram Challenge. American International Journal of Social Science 4(2)

Owen, Nick A., Oliver R. Inderwildi, and David A. King. 2010. The Status of Conventional World Oil reserves—Hype or Cause for Concern? Energy Policy 38(8): 4743–4749.

Patrick, Roger. 2015. When the Well Runs Dry: The Slow Train Wreck of Global Water Scarcity. Journal—American Water Works Association 107: 65–76.

Patzek, Tad W., Frank Male, and Odum, Howard Thomas. 1994. Ecological and General Systems: An Introduction to Systems Ecology. Niwot, CO: University Press of Colorado.

Omisore, Bolanle. 2014. Nigerians Face Fuel Shortages In the Shadow of Plenty. National Geographic News. April 11. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/enerws/ener nigeria-fuel-shortage-oil/

Onyia, Chukwuma. 2015. Climate Change and Conflict in Nigeria: The Boko Haram Challenge. American International Journal of Social Science 4(2). http://www.aijssnet.com/journal/index/329 .

Owen, Nick A., Oliver R. Inderwildi, and David A. King. 2010. The Status of Conventional World Oil reserves—Hype or Cause for Concern? Energy Policy 38(8): 4743–4749.

Patrick, Roger. 2015. When the Well Runs Dry: The Slow Train Wreck of Global Water Scarcity. Journal—American Water Works Association 107: 65–76.

Patzek, Tad W., Frank Male, and Michael Marder. 2013. Gas Production in the Barnett Shale Obeys a Simple Scaling Theory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110(49): 19731–19736.

Pearce, Joshua M. 2008. Thermodynamic Limitations to Nuclear Energy Deployment as a Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Technology. International Journal of Nuclear Governance, Economy and Ecology 2(1): 113.

Peel, Michael. 2013. Subsidies ‘Distort’ Saudi Arabia Economy Says Economy Minister. Financial Times. May 7. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f474cf28-b717-11e2-841e-00144feabdc0.html

Phys.org. 2016. Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas. Accessed August 21. http://phys.org/news/2011-07-minority-scientists-ideas.html

Pichler, Franz. 1999. Modeling Complex Systems by Multi-Agent Holarchies. In Computer Aided Systems Theory—EUROCAST’99, ed. Peter Kopacek, Roberto Moreno-Díaz, and Franz Pichler, 154–168. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 1798. Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Pierce, Charles P. 2016. What Happens When the American Southwest Runs Out of Water? Esquire. June 1. http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a45398/southwest-desertwater-drought/

Pracha, Ali S., and Timothy A. Volk. 2011. An Edible Energy Return on Investment (EEROI) Analysis of Wheat and Rice in Pakistan. Sustainability 3(12): 2358–2391.

Pritchard, Bill. 2016. The Impacts of Climate Change for Food and Nutrition Security: Issues for India. In Climate Change Challenge (3C) and Social-Economic-Ecological Interface-Building. Environmental Science and Engineering. Springer.

Pueyo, Salvador. 2014. Ecological Econophysics for Degrowth. Sustainability 6(6): 3431–3483.

Qaed, Samar. 2014. Expanding Too Quickly? Yemen Times. February 25.

Qi, Ye, Nicholas Stern, Tong Wu, Jiaqi Lu, and Fergus Green. 2016. China’s Post-Coal Growth. Nature Geoscience 9.

Reganold, John P., and Jonathan M. Wachter. 2016. Organic Agriculture in the Twenty-First Century. Nature Plants 2(2): 15221.

Rioux, Sébastien, and Frédérick Guillaume Dufour. 2008. La sociologie historique de la théorie des relations sociales de propriété. Actuel Marx 43(1): 126.

RiskMetrics Group. 2010. Canada’s Oil Sands: Shrinking Window of Opportunity. Ceres, Inc. http://www.ceres.org/resources/reports/oil-sands-2010

Rockström, Johan, Will Steffen, Kevin Noone, Persson Åsa, F. Stuart Chapin, Eric F. Lambin, Timothy M. Lenton, et al. 2009. A Safe Operating Space for Humanity. Nature 461(7263): 472–475.

Ross, John, and Adam P. Arkin. 2009. Complex Systems: From Chemistry to Systems Biology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106(16): 6433–6434.

Salameh, M. G. 2012. Impact of US Shale Oil Revolution on the Global Oil Market, the Price of Oil & Peak Oil.

Saleh, Hebah. 2013. Egypt Weighs Burden of IMF Austerity. Financial Times. March 11. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/464a9350-8a6d-11e2-bf79-00144feabdc0.html

Sanders, Jim. 2013. The Hidden Force behind Islamic Militancy in Nigeria? Climate Change. The Christian Science Monitor. July 8.

Sands, Phil. 2011. Population Surge in Syria Hampers Country’s Progress | The National. The National, March 6. http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/population-surgein-syria-hampers-countrys-progress

Sarant, Louise. 2013. Climate Change and Water Mismanagement Parch Egypt | Egypt Independent. Egypt Independent. February 26. http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/climate-changeand-water-mismanagement-parch-egypt

Sayne, Aaron. 2011. Climate Change Adaptation and Conflict in Nigeria. Special Report. United States Institute of Peace. http://www.usip.org/publications/climate-change-adaptationand-conflict-in-nigeria

Schneider, E.D., and J.J. Kay. 1994. Life as a Manifestation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Mathematical and Computer Modelling 19(6): 25–48.

Schneider, François, Giorgos Kallis, and Joan Martinez-Alier. 2010. Crisis or Opportunity? Economic Degrowth for Social Equity and Ecological Sustainability. Introduction to This Special Issue. Journal of Cleaner Production, Growth, Recession or Degrowth for Sustainability and Equity? 18(6): 511–518.

Schrodinger, Erwin. 1944. What Is Life? http://whatislife.stanford.edu/LoCo_files/What-isLife.pdf

Schwartzman, David, and Peter Schwartzman. 2013. A Rapid Solar Transition Is Not Only Possible, It Is Imperative! African Journal of Science, Technology. Innovation and Development 5(4): 297–302.

Shahine, Alaa. 2016. Egypt Had FDI Outflows of $482.7 Million in 2011. Bloomberg.com. Accessed August 16. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-03-25/egypt-had-fdioutflows-of-482-7-million-in-2011-correct-

Shaw, Martin. 2005. Risk-Transfer Militarism and the Legitimacy of War after Iraq. In September 11, 2001: A Turning-Point in International and Domestic Law? ed. Paul Eden and T. O’Donnell. Transnational Publishers. http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/12462/

Simms, Andrew. 2008. The Poverty Myth. New Scientist 200(2678): 49.

Smith-Nonini, Sandy. 2016. The Role of Corporate Oil and Energy Debt in Creating the Neoliberal Era. Economic Anthropology 3(1): 57–67.

Söderbergh, Bengt, Fredrik Robelius, and Kjell Aleklett. 2007. A Crash Programme Scenario for the Canadian Oil Sands Industry. Energy Policy 35(3): 1931–1947.

Steffen, Will, et al. 2015. January 15, 2015. Planetary Boundaries: Guiding Human Development on a Changing Planet. Science.

Stewart, Ian. 2015. Debt-Driven Growth, Where Is the Limit? Deloitte: Monday Briefing. February 2. http://blogs.deloitte.co.uk/mondaybriefing/2015/02/debt-driven-growth-whereis-the-limit.html

Stokes, Doug, and Sam Raphael. 2010. Global Energy Security and American Hegemony. Baltimore: JHU Press. Stott, Peter. 2016. How Climate Change Affects Extreme Weather Events. Science 352(6293): 1517–1518.

Street, 1615 L., NW, Suite 800 Washington, and DC 20036 Media Inquiries. 2014. Attitudes about Aging: A Global Perspective. Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. January 30. http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/01/30/attitudes-about-aging-a-global-perspective/

Taha, Sharif. 2014. Kingdom Imports 80% of Food Products. Arab News. April 20. http://www.arabnews.com/news/558271

Tainter, Joseph. 1990. The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tao, Fulu, Masayuki Yokozawa, Yousay Hayashi, and Erda Lin. 2003. Future Climate Change, the Agricultural Water Cycle, and Agricultural Production in China. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 95(1): 203–215.

TE. 2016. Egypt Government Debt to GDP 2002-2016. Trading Economics. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/egypt/government-debt-to-gdp

Terzis, George, and Robert Arp, eds. 2011. Information and Living Systems: Philosophical and Scientific Perspectives. MIT Press. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hhhvb.

Thevard, Benoit. 2012. Europe Facing Peak Oil. Momentum Institute/Greens-EFA Group in European Parliament.  http://www.greens-efa.eu/fileadmin/dam/Documents/Publications/PIC%20petrolier_EN_lowres.pdf

Timms, Matt. 2016. Resource Mismanagement Has Led to a Critical Water Shortage in Asia. World Finance, July 21.

Tong, Shilu et al. 2016. Climate Change, Food, Water and Population Health in China. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, July.

Tranum, Sam. 2013. Powerless: India’s Energy Shortage and Its Impact. India: Sage.

Trendberth, Kevin, Jerry Meehl, Jeff Masters, and Richard Somerville. 2012. Heat Waves and Climate Change. https://www.climatecommunication.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Heat_ Waves_and_Climate_Change.pdf

Tverberg, Gail. 2016. China: Is Peak Coal Part of Its Problem? Our Finite World. June 20.  https://ourfiniteworld.com/2016/06/20/china-is-peak-coal-part-of-its-problem/

UN 2015. World Population Prospects. United Nations Department of Economic & Social Affairs, Population Division.

UN News Center, United Nations News Service. 2012. UN News—Despite End-of-Year Decline, 2011 Food Prices Highest on Record—UN. UN News Service Section. January 12.

Victor, Peter. 2010. Questioning Economic Growth. Nature 468(7322): 370–371.

Vyas, Kejal, and Timothy Puko. 2016. Venezuela Oil Production Drops Sharply in May. Wall Street Journal, June 14, sec. World. http://www.wsj.com/articles/venezuela-oil-productiondrops-sharply-in-may-1465868354

Wang, Jinxia, Robert Mendelsohn, Ariel Dinar, Jikun Huang, Scott Rozelle, and Lijuan Zhang. 2009. The Impact of Climate Change on China’s Agriculture. Agricultural Economics 40(3): 323–337.

Wang, Ke, Lianyong Feng, Jianliang Wang, Yi Xiong, and Gail E. Tverberg. 2016. An Oil Production Forecast for China Considering Economic Limits. Energy 113: 586–596.

Weijermars, Ruud. 2013. Economic Appraisal of Shale Gas Plays in Continental Europe. Applied Energy 106: 100–115. doi: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2013.01.025

Wiedmann, Thomas O., Heinz Schandl, Manfred Lenzen, Daniel Moran, Sangwon Suh, James West, and Keiichiro Kanemoto. 2015. The Material Footprint of Nations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112(20): 6271–6676.

Wilkinson, Henry. 2016. Political Violence Contagion: A Framework for Understanding the Emergence and Spread of Civil Unrest. Lloyd’s.   http://www.lloyds.com/~/media/files/news%20and%20insight/risk%20insight/2016/political%20violence%20contagion.pdf

Williams, Selina, and Bradley Olson. 2016. Big Oil Companies Binge on Debt. Wall Street Journal, August 24. http://www.wsj.com/articles/largest-oil-companies-debts-hit-record-high1472031002

Wood, Ellen Meiksins. 1981. The Separation of the Economic and the Political in Capitalism. New Left Review, I 127: 66–95. World Bank. 2014. Future Impact of Climate Change Visible Now in Yemen.

World Bank. November 24. http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2014/11/24/future-impactof-climate-change-visible-now-in-yemen

Worth, Robert F. 2010. Drought Withers Lush Farmlands in Syria. The New York Times, October 13. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/14/world/middleeast/14syria.html

Yaritani, Hiroaki, and Jun Matsushima. 2014. Analysis of the Energy Balance of Shale Gas Development. Energies 7(4): 2207–2227.





EROI explained and defended by Charles Hall, Pedro Prieto, and others

29 05 2017

Yes, another post on ERoEI……  why do I bang on about this all the time…?  Because it is the defining issue of our time, the issue that will precipitate Limits to Growth to the forefront, and eventually collapse civilisation as we know it.

There are two ways to collapse civilisation:
1) don’t end the burning of oil
2) end burning oil

And if that wasn’t enough, read this from srsroccoreport.com 

While the U.S. oil and gas industry struggles to stay alive as it produces energy at low prices, there’s another huge problem just waiting around the corner.  Yes, it’s true… the worst is yet to come for an industry that was supposed to make the United States, energy independent.  So, grab your popcorn and watch as the U.S. oil and gas industry gets ready to hit the GREAT ENERGY DEBT WALL.

So, what is this “Debt Wall?”  It’s the ever-increasing amount of debt that the U.S. oil and gas industry will need to pay each year.  Unfortunately, many misguided Americans thought these energy companies were making money hand over fist when the price of oil was above $100 from 2011 to the middle of 2014.  They weren’t.  Instead, they racked up a great deal of debt as they spent more money drilling for oil than the cash they received from operations.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

alice_friedemannAlice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

Questions about EROI at researchgate.net 2015-2017

Khalid Abdulla, University of Melbourne asks:  Why is quality of life limited by EROI with renewable Energy? There are many articles explaining that the Energy Return on (Energy) Invested (EROI, or EROEI) of the sources of energy which a society uses sets an upper limit on the quality of life (or complexity of a society) which can be enjoyed (for example this one).  I understand the arguments made, however I fail to understand why any energy extraction process which has an external EROI greater than 1.0 cannot be “stacked” to enable greater effective EROI.  For example if EROI for solar PV is 3.0, surely one can get an effective EROI of 9.0 by feeding all output energy produced from one solar project as the input energy of a second? There is obviously an initial energy investment required, but provided the EROI figure includes all installation and decommissioning energy requirements I don’t understand why this wouldn’t work. Also I realise there are various material constraints which would come into play; but why does this not work from an energy point of view?

Charles A. S. Hall replies:  As the person who came up with the term  EROI in the 1970scharles-hall (but not the concept: that belongs to Leslie White, Fred Cotrell, Nicolas Georgescu Roegan and Howard Odum) let me add my two cents to the existing mostly good posts.  The problem with the “stacked” idea is that if you do that you do not deliver energy to society with the first (or second or third) investment — it all has to go to the “food chain” with only the final delivering energy to society.  So stack two EROI 2:1 technologies and you get 4:2, or the same ratio when you are done.

The second problem is that you do not need just 1.1:1 EROI to operate society.  We (Hall, Balogh and Murphy 2009) studied how much oil would need to be extracted to drive a truck including the energy to USE the energy.  So we added in the energy to get, refine and deliver the oil (about 10% at each step) and then the energy to build and maintain the roads, bridges, vehicles and so on.  We found you needed to extract 3 liters at the well head to use 1 liter in the gas tank to drive the truck, i.e. an EROI of 3:1 was needed.

But even this did not include the energy to put something in the truck (say grow some grain)  and also, although we had accounted for the energy for the depreciation of the truck and roads,  but not the depreciation of the truck driver, mechanic, street mender, farmer etc.: i.e. to pay for domestic needs, schooling, health care etc. of their replacement.    Pretty soon it looked like we needed an EROI of at least 10:1 to take care of the minimum requirements of society, and maybe 15:1 (numbers are very approximate) for a modern civilization. You can see that plus implications in Lambert 2014.

I think this and incipient “peak oil” (Hallock et al.)  is behind what is causing most Western economies to slow or stop  their energy and economic growth.   Low EROI means more expensive oil (etc) and lower net energy means growth is harder as there is less left over after necessary “maintenance metabolism”. This is explored in more depth in Hall and Klitgaard book  “Energy and the wealth of Nations” (Springer).

Khalid Abdulla asks: I’m still struggling a little bit with gaining an intuition of why it is not possible to stack/compound EROI. If I understand your response correctly part of the problem is that while society is waiting around for energy from one project to be fed into a second project (etc.) society needs to continue to operate (otherwise it’d all be a bit pointless!) and this has a high energy overhead.  I understand that with oil it is possible to achieve higher external EROI by using some of the oil as the main source of energy for extraction/processing. Obviously this means less oil is delivered to the outside world, but it is delivered at a higher EROI which is more useful. I don’t understand why a similar gearing is not possible with renewables.  Is it something to do with the timing of the input energy required VS the timing of the energy which the project will deliver over its life?

Charles A. S. Hall replies: Indeed if you update the QUALITY of the energy you can come out “ahead”.  My PhD adviser Howard Odum wrote a lot about that, and I am deeply engaged in a discussion about the general meaning of Maximum Power (a related concept) with several others.  So you can willingly turn more coal into less electricity because the product is more valuable.   Probably pretty soon (if we are not already) we will be using coal to make electricity to pump out ever more difficult oil wells….

I have also been thinking about EROI a lot lately and about what should the boundaries of analysis be.  One of my analyses is available in the book “Spain’s PV revolution: EROI and.. available from Springer or Amazon.

To me the issue of boundaries remains critical. I think it is proper to have very wide boundaries. Let’s say we run an economy just on a big PV plant. If the EROI is 8:1 (which you might get, or higher, from examining just the modules) then it seems like you could make your society work. But let’s look closer. If you add in security systems, roads, and financial services and the EROI drops to 3:1 then it seems more problematic. But if you add in labor (i.e. the energy it takes to make the food, housing etc that labor buys with its salaries, calculated from national mean energy intensities times salaries for all necessary workers) it might drop to 1:1. Now what this means is that the energy from the PV system will support all the purchases of the workers that are building/maintaining the PV system, let’s say 10% will be taken care of, BUT THERE WILL BE NO PRODUCTION OF GOODS AND SERVICES for the rest of the population. To me this is why we should include salaries of the entire energy delivery system (although I do not because it remains so controversial). I think this concept, and the flat oil production in most of the world, is why we need to think about ALL the resources necessary to deliver energy from a project/ technology/nation.”

Khalid Abdulla: My main interest is whether the relatively low EROI of renewable energy sources fundamentally limits the complexity of a society that can be fueled by them.

Charles A. S. Hall replies: Perhaps the easiest way to think about this is historical: certainly we had lots of sunshine and clever minds in the past.  But we did not have a society with many affluent people until the industrial revolution, based on millions of years of accumulated net energy from sunshine. An affluent king, living a life of affluence less than most people in industrial societies now, was supported by the labor of thousands or millions of serfs harvesting solar energy.  The way to get rich was to exploit the stored solar energy of other societies through war (see Plutarch or Tainter’s the collapse of complex societies).

But most renewable energy (good hydropower is an exception) are low EROI or else seriously constrained by intermittency. Look at all the stuff required to support “free” solar energy. We (and Palmer and Weisbach independently) found EROIs of about 3:1 at best when all costs are accounted for.

The lower the EROI the larger the investment needed for the next generation: that is why fossil fuels with EROIs of 30 or 50 to one have led to such wealth: the other 29 or 49 have been deliverable to society to do economic work or that can be invested in getting more fossil fuels.  If the EROI is 2:1 obviously half has to go into the next generation for the growth and much less is delivered to society.   One can speculate or fantasize about what one can do with some future technology but having been in the energy business for 50 years I have seen many come and go.  Meanwhile we still get about 75-80% of our energy from fossil fuels (with their attendant high EROI).

Obviously we could have some kind of culture with labor intensive, low energy input systems if people were willing to take a large drop in their life style.  I fear the problem might be that people would rather go to war than accept a decline in life style.

Lee’s assessment of the traditional  Kung hunter gatherer life style implies an EROI of 10:1 and lots of leisure (except during droughts–which is the bottleneck).  Past agricultural societies obviously had a positive EROI based on human labor input — otherwise they would have gone extinct.  But it required something like a hectare per person.  According to Jared Diamond cultures became more complex with agriculture vs hunter gatherer.

The best assessment I have about EROI and quality of life possible is in:  Lambert, Jessica, Charles A.S. Hall, Stephen Balogh, Ajay Gupta, Michelle Arnold 2014 Energy, EROI and quality of life. Energy Policy Volume 64:153-167 http://authors.elsevier.com/sd/article/S0301421513006447 — It is open access.  Also our book:  Hall and Klitgaard, Energy and the wealth of nations.   Springer

At the moment the EROI of contemporary agriculture is 2:1 at the farm gate but much less, perhaps one returned for 5 invested  by the time the food is processed, distributed and prepared (Hamilton 2013).

As you can see from these studies to get numbers with any kind of reliability requires a great deal of work.

Sourabh Jain asks: Would it be possible to meet the EROI goal of, say for example 10:1, in order to maintain our current life style by mixing wind, solar and hydro? Can we have an energy system various renewable energy sources of different EROI to give a net EROI of 10:1?

Charles A. S. Hall replies:  Good question.  First of all I am not sure that we can maintain our current life style on an EROI of 10:1, but let’s assume we can (Hall 2014, Lambert 2014).  We would need liquid fuels of course for tractors , airplanes and ships — I cannot quite envision running those machines on electricity.

The problem with wind is that it tends to blow only 30% of the time, so we would need massive storage.  To the degree that we can meet intermittency with hydro that is good, although it is tough on the fish and insects below the dam.  The energy cost of that would be huge, prohibitive with respect to batteries, huge with respect to pumped storage, and what happens when the wind does not blow for two weeks, as is often the case?

Solar PV may or may not have an EROI of 10:1 (I assume you know of the three studies that came up with about 3:1: Prieto and Hall, Graham Palmer, Weisbach — but there are others higher and certainly the price and hence presumed energy cost is coming down –but you should also know that many structures are lasting only 12, not 25 years) — — this needs to be sorted out ).  But again the storage issue will be important.   (Palmer’s rooftop study included storage).

These are all important issues.  So I would say the answer seems to be no, although it might work well for let’s say half of our energy use.   As time goes on that percentage might increase (or decrease).

Jethro Betcke writes: Charles Hall: You make some statements that are somewhat inaccurate and could easily mislead the less well informed: Wind turbines produce electricity during 70 to 90% of the time. You seems to have confused capacity factor with relative time of operation.  Using a single number for the capacity factor is also not so accurate. Depending on the location and design choices the capacity factor can vary from 20% to over 50%.  With the lifetime of PV systems you seem to have confused the inverter with the system as a whole. The practice has shown that PV modules last much longer than the 25 years guaranteed by the manufacturer. In Oldenburg we have a system from 1976 that is still producing electricity and shows little degradation loss [1]. Inverters are the weak point of the system and sometimes need to be replaced. Of course, this would need to be considered in an EROEI calculation. But this is something different than what you state. [1] http://www.presse.uni-oldenburg.de/download/einblicke/54/parisi-heinemann-juergens-knecht.pdf

Charles A. S. Hall replies: I resent your statement that I am misleading anyone.   I write as clearly, accurately and honestly as I can, almost entirely in peer reviewed publications, and always have. I include sensitivity analysis while acknowledging legitimate uncertainty (for example p. 115 in Prieto and Hall).  Some people do not like my conclusions. But no one has shown with explicit analysis that Prieto and Hall is in any important way incorrect.  At least three other peer reviewed papers) (Palmer 2013, 2014; Weisbach et al. 2012 and Ferroni and Hopkirk (2016) have come up with similar conclusions on solar PV.  I am working on the legitimate differences in technique with legitimate and credible solar analysts with whom I have some differences , e.g. Marco Raugei.  All of this will be detailed in a new book from Springer in January on EROI.

First I would like to say that the bountiful energy blog post is embarrassingly poor science and totally unacceptable. As one point the author does not back his (often erroneous) statements with references. The importance of peer review is obvious from this non peer-reviewed post.

Second I do not understand your statement about wind energy producing electricity 70-90 percent of the time.  In England, for example, it is less than 30 percent (Jefferson 2015).

Third your statement on the operational lifetime of actual operational PV systems is incorrect. Of course one can find PV systems still generating electricity after 30 years.  But actual operational systems requiring serious maintenance (and for which we do not yet have enough data) often do not last more than 18-20 years, For example Spain’s “Flagship ” PV plant (which was especially well maintained) is having all modules replaced and treated as “electronic trash” after 20 years : http://renewables.seenews.com/news/spains-ingeteam-replaces-modules-at-europes-oldest-pv-plant-538875    Ferroni and Hopkirk found an 18 year lifespan in Switzerland.

Pedro Prieto replies: The production of electricity of wind turbines the 70-90% of time is a very inaccurate quote. Every wind turbine has a nominal capacity in MW. The important factor is not how many hours they move the blades at any working regime, but how many EQUIVALENT peak hours they work at the end of the year. That is, to know how much real energy they generate within one year. This is what the industry uses as a general and accurate measurement and it is the load factor or capacity factor.

Of course, this factor may change from the location or the design choices, but there is an incontrovertible figure: when we take the total world installed wind power in MW (435 Gw as of 2015) from January 2004 up to December 2015 and the total energy generated in Twh (841 Twh as of 2015) in the same period and calculate the averaged capacity factor, the resulting figure slightly varies around 15% AT WORLD LEVEL. This is REAL LIFE, much more than your unsupported theoretical figures of 20 to over 50% capacity factor in privileged wind fields for privileged wind turbines.

Interesting enough, some countries like the US, United Kingdom or Spain have capacity factors reaching 20% in the last years, but the world total installed capacity has not really improved so much in the last ten years, despite of theoretically much more efficient wind turbines (i.e. multipole with permanent magnets), very likely for the reasons that good wind fields in some countries were already used up. Other countries like China, India or France show, on the contrary very poor capacity factors even in 2015.

 

With respect to the lifetime of the PV systems, nor Charles Hall neither myself have confused the inverter lifetime with the solar PV system as a whole. The practice has not shown that modules have lasted more than 25 years in general over the world installed base. The fact that one single system is still working after more than 30 years of operation, if it was carefully manufactured with high quality materials, and was well cared, cleaned and free from environmental pollutants, like several modules we have also in Spain, does not mean AT ALL that the massive deployments (about 250 GW as of 2015) are going to last over 25 years.

I have to clarify also a common mistake: almost all main world manufacturers guarantee a maximum of 25 years (NOT 30) to the modules, but this is the “power” guarantee. This means that they “guarantee” (assuming they will be still alive as companies in 25 years from the sales period, something which is rather difficult for many of the manufacturers that went out of business in shorter periods of time than the guarantee of their modules. Of course, this guarantee is given with the subsequent module degradation specs over time, which in many cases has been proved be higher than specified.

But not only that. Most of the module manufacturers have a second guarantee: the “material’s guarantee”. And this is offered for between 5 and 10 years. This is the one by which the manufacturer guarantees the module replacement if it fails. Beyond that date, if the module fails, the buyer has to buy a new one (if still being manufactured, with the same specs power and size), because the second guarantee SUPERSEDES the first one.

Last but not least, there is already quite a large experience in Europe (Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, etc.) of the number of faulty modules that have been decommissioned in the last years (i.e. period 2010-2015) as for instance, accounted by PV-Cycle, a company specialized in decommission and recycling modules in Europe. As the installed base is well known in volumes per year, it is relatively easy to calculate, in a very conservative (optimistic) mode the percentage over the total that failed and the number of years that lasted in this period and the average years for that sample that died before the theoretical 25-30 years lifetime and make the proportion on the total installed base.

The study conducted by Ferroni and Hopkirk gives an approximate lifetime for the installed base of lower than 20 years. And this is Europe, where the maintenance is supposed to be much better made than in the rest of the developing world. And the figures of failed modules given by PV-Cycle did not include the many potential plants that did not deliver their failed modules to this company for recycling

What it seems impossible for some academic people is to recognize that perhaps the “standards” they adhered to (namely IEA PVPS Task 12 in this case) and through which they published a big number of papers, should be revisited, because they lacked some essential measurements that could help to understand why renewables are not replacing fossils at the required speed, despite having claimed for years that they reached grid parity or that their Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) is cheaper than coal, nuclear or gas. 

I am afraid that peer reviewed authors are not immune to having preconceived ideas even more difficult to eradicate. Excessive pride, lack of humility, considerable distance between the academy (i.e. imagined solar production levels versus real data from actual solar PV plants and lack of a systemic vision due to an excess of specialization are the main hurdles. Of course in my humble opinion.

References

  • Hall, C.A.S., Balogh, S., Murphy, D.J.R. 2009. What is the Minimum EROI that a Sustainable Society Must Have? Energies, 2: 25-47.
  • Hall, Charles  A.S., Jessica G.Lambert, Stephen B. Balogh. 2014.  EROI of different fuels  and the implications for society Energy Policy Energy Policy. Energy Policy, Vol 64 141-52
  • Hallock Jr., John L., Wei Wu, Charles A.S. Hall, Michael Jefferson. 2014. Forecasting the limits to the availability and diversity of global conventional oil supply: Validation. Energy 64: 130-153. (here)
  • Hamilton A , Balogh SB, Maxwell A, Hall CAS. 2013. Efficiency of edible agriculture in Canada and the U.S. over the past 3 and 4 decades. Energies 6:1764-1793.
  • Lambert, Jessica, Charles A.S. Hall, et al.  Energy, EROI and quality of life.  Energy Policy




The End of the Oilocene

19 02 2017

The Oilocene, if that term ever catches on, will have only lasted 150 years. Which must be the quickest blink in terms of geological eras…… This article was lifted from feasta.org but unfortunately I can’t give writing credits as I could not find the author’s name anywhere. The data showing we’ll be quickly out of viable oil is stacking up at an increasing rate.

Steven Kopits from Douglas-Westwood (whose work I published here three years ago almost to the day) said the productivity of new capital spending has fallen by a factor of five since 2000. “The vast majority of public oil and gas companies require oil prices of over $100 to achieve positive free cash flow under current capex and dividend programs. Nearly half of the industry needs more than $120,” he said”.

And if you don’t finish reading this admittedly long article, do not exit this blog without first taking THIS on board…….:

What people do not realise is that it takes oil to extract, refine, produce and deliver oil to the end user. The Hills Group calculates that in 2012, the average energy required by the oil production chain had risen so much that it was then equal to the energy contained in the oil delivered to the economy. In other words “In 2012 the oil industry production chain in total used 50% of all the energy contained in the oil delivered to the consumer”. This is trending rapidly to reach 100% early in the next decade.

So there you go…… as I posted earlier this year, do we have five years left…….?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

End of the “Oilocene”: The Demise of the Global Oil Industry and of the Global Economic System as we know it.

(A pdf version of this paper is here. Please refer to my presentation for supporting images and comments. )

In 1981 I was sitting on an eroded barren hillside in India, where less than 100 years previously there had been dense forest with tigers. It was now effectively a desert and I was watching villagers scavenging for twigs for fuelwood and pondering their future, thinking about rapidly increasing human population and equally rapid degradation of the global environment. I had recently devoured a copy of The Limits to Growth (LTG) published in 1972, and here it was playing out in front of me. Their Business as Usual (BAU) scenario showed that global economic growth would be over between 2010 -2020; and today 45 years later, that prediction is inexorably becoming true. Since 2008 any semblance of growth has been fuelled by astronomically greater quantities of debt; and all other indicators of overshoot are flashing red.

clarke1

One of the main factors limiting growth was regarded by the authors of LTG as energy; specifically oil. By mid 1970’s surprisingly, enough was known about accessible oil reserves that not a huge amount has since been added to what is known as reserves of conventional oil. Conventional oil is (or was) the high quality, high net energy, low water content, easy to get stuff. Its multi-decade increasing rate in production came to an end around 2005 (as predicted many years earlier by Campbell and Laherre in 1998). The rate of production peaked in 2011 and has since been in decline (IEA 2016).

clarke2

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is the pre-eminent global forecaster of oil production and demand. Recently it admitted that its oil production forecasts were based on economic projections rather than geology or cost; ie on the assumption that supply will always meet projected demand.
In its latest annual forecast however (New Policies Scenario 2016) the IEA has also admitted for the first time a future in which total global “all liquids” oil production could start to fall within the next few years.

clarke3

As Kjell Aklett of Upsala University Global Energy Research Group comments (06-12-16), “In figure 3.16 the IEA shows for the first time what will happen if its unrealistic wishful thinking does not become reality during the next 10 years. Peak Oil will occur even if oil from fracked tight sources, oil sands, and other (unconventional) sources are included”.

In fact – this IEA image clearly shows that the total global rate of production of “all hydrocarbon liquids” could start falling anytime from now on; and this should in itself raise a huge red flag for the Irish Government.

Furthermore, it raises a number of vital questions which are the core subject of this post.
Reserves of conventional “easy” oil have mostly been used up. How likely is it that remaining reserves will be produced at the rate projected? Rapidly diminishing reserves of conventional oil are now increasingly being supplemented by the difficult stuff that Kjell Aklett mentions; including conventional from deep water, polar and other inaccessible regions, very heavy bituminous and high sulphur oil; natural gas liquids and other xtl’s, plus other “unconventional oil” including tar sands and shale oil.

How much will it cost to produce all these various types? How much energy will be required, and crucially how much energy will be left over for use by the economy?

The global industrial economy runs on oil.

Oil is the vital and crucial link in virtually every production chain in the global industrial world economy partly because it supplies over 96% of global transport energy – with no significant non-oil dependent alternative in sight.

clarke4

Our industrial food production system uses over 10 calories of oil energy to plough, plant, fertilise, harvest, transport, refine, package, store/refrigerate, and deliver 1 calorie of food to the consumer; and imagine trying to build infrastructure; roads, schools, hospitals, industrial facilities, cities, railways, airports without oil, let alone maintain them.

Surprisingly perhaps, oil is also crucial to production of all other forms of energy including renewables. We cannot mine and distribute coal or even drill for gas and install pipelines and gas distribution networks without lots of oil; and you certainly cannot make a nuclear power station or build a hydroelectric dam without oil. But even solar panels, wind and biomass energy are also totally dependent on oil to extract and produce the raw materials; oil is directly or indirectly used in their manufacture (steel, glass, copper, fibreglass/GRP, concrete) and finally to distribute the product to the end user, and install and maintain it.

So it’s not surprising that excluding hydro and nuclear (which mostly require phenomenal amounts of oil to implement), renewables still only constitute about 3% of world energy (BP Energy Outlook 2016). This figure speaks entirely for itself. I am a renewable energy consultant and promoter, but I am also a realist; in practice the world runs on oil.

clarke5

The economy, Global GDP and oil are therefore mutually dependent and have enjoyed a tightly linked dance over the decades as shown in the following images. Note the connection between oil, total energy, oil price and GDP (clues for later).

clarke6
Click on image to enlarge

Rising cost of oil production

Since 2005 when the rate of production of conventional oil slowed and peaked, production costs have been rising more rapidly. By 2013, oil industry costs were approaching the level of the global oil price which was more than $100/barrel at that time; and industry insiders were saying that the oil industry was finding it difficult to break even.

clarke7
Click on image to enlarge

A good example of the time was the following article which is worth quoting in full in the light of the price of oil at the time (~$100/bbl), and the average 2016 sustained low oil price of ~$50/bbl.

Oil and gas company debt soars to danger levels to cover shortfall in cash By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. Telegraph. 11 Aug 2014

“The world’s leading oil and gas companies are taking on debt and selling assets on an unprecedented scale to cover a shortfall in cash, calling into question the long-term viability of large parts of the industry. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said a review of 127 companies across the globe found that they had increased net debt by $106bn in the year to March, in order to cover the surging costs of machinery and exploration, while still paying generous dividends at the same time. They also sold off a net $73bn of assets.

The EIA said revenues from oil and gas sales have reached a plateau since 2011, stagnating at $568bn over the last year as oil hovers near $100 a barrel. Yet costs have continued to rise relentlessly. Companies have exhausted the low-hanging fruit and are being forced to explore fields in ever more difficult regions.

The EIA said the shortfall between cash earnings from operations and expenditure — mostly CAPEX and dividends — has widened from $18bn in 2010 to $110bn during the past three years. Companies appear to have been borrowing heavily both to keep dividends steady and to buy back their own shares, spending an average of $39bn on repurchases since 2011”.

In another article (my highlights) he wrote

“The major companies are struggling to find viable reserves, forcing them to take on ever more leverage to explore in marginal basins, often gambling that much higher prices in the future will come to the rescue. Global output of conventional oil peaked in 2005 despite huge investment. The cumulative blitz on exploration and production over the past six years has been $5.4 trillion, yet little has come of it. Not a single large project has come on stream at a break-even cost below $80 a barrel for almost three years.

Steven Kopits from Douglas-Westwood said the productivity of new capital spending has fallen by a factor of five since 2000. “The vast majority of public oil and gas companies require oil prices of over $100 to achieve positive free cash flow under current capex and dividend programmes. Nearly half of the industry needs more than $120,” he said”.

The following images give a good idea of the trend and breakdown in costs of oil production. Getting it out of the ground is just for starters. The images show just how expensive it is becoming to produce – and how far from breakeven the current oil price is.

clarke8
Click on image to enlarge

It is important to note that the “breakeven cost” is much less than the oil price required to sustain the industry into the future (business as usual).

The following images show that the many different types of oil have (obviously) vastly different production costs. Note the relatively small proportion of conventional reserves (much of it already used), and the substantially higher production cost of all other types of oil. Note also the apt title and date of the Deutsche Bank analysis – production costs have risen substantially since then.

clarke9

clarke10

The global oil industry is in deep trouble

You do not need to be an economist to see that the average 2016 price of oil ~ $50/bbl was substantially lower than just the breakeven price of all but a small proportion of global oil reserves. Even before the oil price collapse of 2014-5, the global oil industry was in deep trouble. Debts are rising quickly, and balance sheets are increasingly RED. Earlier this year 2016, Deloitte warned that 35% of oil majors were in danger of bankruptcy, with another 30% to follow in 2017.

clarke11

clarke12
Click on image to enlarge

In addition to the oil majors, shrinking oil revenues in oil-producing countries are playing havoc with national economies. Virtually every oil producing country in the world requires a much higher oil price to balance its budget – some of them vastly so (eg Venezuela). Their economies have been designed around oil, which for many of them is their largest source of income. Even Saudi Arabia, the biggest global oil producer with the biggest conventional oil reserves is quickly using up its sovereign wealth fund.

clarke13

It appears that not a single significant oil-producing country is balancing its budget. Their debts and deficits grow bigger by the day. Everyone is praying for higher oil prices. Who are they kidding? The average BAU oil price going forward for business as usual for the whole global oil industry probably needs to be well over $100/bbl; and the world economy is on its knees even at the present low oil price. Why is this? The indicators all spell huge trouble ahead. Could there be another fundamental oil/energy/financial mechanism operating here?

The Root Cause

The cause is not surprising. All the various new types of oil and a good deal of the conventional stuff that remains require far more energy to produce.

In 2015, The Hills Group (US Oil Engineers) published “Depletion – A Determination of the Worlds Petroleum Reserve”. It is meticulously researched and re-worked with trends double checked against published data. It follows on from the Hills Group 2013 work that accurately predicted the approaching oil price collapse after 2014 (which no-one else did) and calculated that the average oil price of 2016 would be ~$50/bbl. They claim theirs is the most accurate oil price indicator ever produced, with >96% accuracy with published past data. The Hills Group work has somewhat clarified my understanding of the core issues and I will try to summarise two crucial points as follows.

Oil can only be useful as an energy source if the energy contained in the product (ie transport fuel) is greater than the energy required to extract, refine and deliver the fuel to the end user.

If you electrolyse water, the hydrogen gas produced (when mixed with air and ignited), will explode with a bang (be careful doing this at home!). The hydrogen contained in the world’s water is an enormous potential energy source and contains infinitely more energy (as hydrogen) than humans could ever need. The problem is that it takes far more energy to produce a given amount of hydrogen from water than is available by combusting it. Oil is rapidly going the same way. Only a small proportion of what remains of conventional oil resources can provide an energy surplus for use as a fuel. All the other types of oil require more energy to produce and deliver as fuel to the end user (taking into account the whole oil production chain), than is contained in the fuel itself.

What people do not realise is that it takes oil to extract, refine, produce and deliver oil to the end user. The Hills Group calculates that in 2012, the average energy required by the oil production chain had risen so much that it was then equal to the energy contained in the oil delivered to the economy. In other words “In 2012 the oil industry production chain in total used 50% of all the energy contained in the oil delivered to the consumer”. This is trending rapidly to reach 100% early in the next decade.

At this point – no matter how much oil is left (a lot) and in whatever form (many), oil will be of no use as an energy source for transport fuels, since it will on average require more energy to extract, refine and deliver to the end-user, than the oil itself contains.

Because oil reserves are of decreasing quality and oil is getting more difficult and expensive to produce and transform into transport fuels; the amount of energy required by the whole oil production chain (the global oil industry) is rapidly increasing; leaving less and less left over for the rest of the economy.

In this context and relative to the IEA graph shown earlier, there is a big difference between annual gross oil production, and the amount of energy left in the product available for work as fuel. Whilst total global oil (all liquids) production currently appears to be still growing slowly, the energy required by the global oil industry is growing faster, and the net energy available for work by the end user is decreasing rapidly. This is illustrated by the following figure (Louis Arnoux 2016).

clarke14

The price of oil cannot exceed the value of the economic activity generated from the amount of energy available to end-users per barrel.

The rapid decline in oil-energy available to the economy is one of the key reasons for the equally rapid rise in global debt.

The global industrial world economy depends on oil as its prime energy source. Increasing growth of the world economy during the oil age has been exactly matched by oil production and use, but as Louis’ image shows, over the last forty years the amount of net energy delivered by the oil industry to the economy has been decreasing.

As a result, the economic value of a barrel of oil is falling fast. “In 1975 one dollar could have bought, on average, 42,348 BTU; by 2010 a dollar would only have bought 6,946 BTU” (The Hills Group 2015).

clarke15

This has caused a parallel reduction in real economic activity. I say “real” because today the financial world accounts for about 40% of global GDP, and I would like to remind economists and bankers that you cannot eat 0000’s on a computer screen, or use them to put food on the table, heat your house, or make something useful. GDP as an indicator of the global economy is an illusion. If you deduct financial services and account for debt, the real world economy is contracting fast.

To compensate, and continue the fallacy of endless economic growth, we have simply borrowed and borrowed, and borrowed. Huge amounts of additional debt are now required to sustain the “Growth Illusion”.

clarke16

In 2012 the decreasing ability of oil to power the economy intersected with the increasing cost of oil production at a point The Hills Group refers to as the maximum affordable consumer price (just over $100/bbl) and they calculated that the price of oil must fall soon afterwards. In 2014 much to everyone’s surprise (IEA, EIA, World Bank, Wall St Oil futures etc) the price of oil fell to where it is now. This is clearly illustrated by The Hills Group’s petroleum price curve of 2013 which correctly calculated that the 2016 average price of oil would be ~$50/bbl (Depletion – The Fate of the Oil Age 2013).

clarke17

In their detailed 2015 study The Hills Group writes (Depletion – A determination of the world’s petroleum reserve 2015);

“To determine the affordability range it is first observed that the price of a unit of petroleum cannot exceed the value of the economic activity (generated by the net energy) it supplies to the end consumer. (Since 2012) more of the energy from petroleum was being committed to the production of petroleum than was delivered to the consumer. This precipitated the 2014 price decline that reduced prices by 50%. The energy delivered to the end consumer will continue to decline and the end consumer maximum affordability will decline with it.

Dr Louis Arnoux explains this as follows: “In 1900 the Global Industrial World received 61% of the gross energy in a barrel of oil. In 2016 this is down to 7%. The global industrial world is being forced to contract because it is being starved of net energy from oil” (Louis Arnoux 2016).

This is reflected in the slowing down of global economic growth and the huge increase in total global debt.

Without noticing it, in 2012 the world entered “Emergency Red Alert”

In the following image, Dr Arnoux has reworked Hills Group petroleum price curve showing the impending collapse of thermodynamically driven oil prices – and the end of the oil age as we know it. This analysis is more than amply reinforced by the dire financial straits of the global oil industry, and the parlous state of the global economy and financial system.

clarke18

Oil is a finite resource which is subject to the same physical laws as many other commodities. The debate about peak oil has been clouded by the fact that oil consists of many different kinds of hydrocarbons; each of which has its own extraction profile. But conventional oil is the only category of oil that can be extracted with a whole production chain energy surplus. Production of this commodity (conventional oil) has undoubtedly peaked and is now declining. The amount of energy (and cost) required by the global oil industry to produce and deliver much of the remainder of conventional reserves and the many alternative categories of oil to the consumer, is rapidly increasing; and we are equally rapidly heading toward the day when we have used up those reserves of oil which will deliver an energy surplus (taking into account the whole production chain from extraction to delivery of the end product as fuel to the consumer).

The Global Oil Industry is one of the most advanced and efficient in the world and further efficiency gains will be minor compared to the scale of the problem, which is essentially one of oil depletion thermodynamics.

Humans are very good at propping up the unsustainable and this often results in a fast and unexpected collapse (eg Joseph Tainter: The collapse of complex societies). An example of this is the Seneca Curve/Cliff which appears to me to be an often-repeated defining trait of humanity. Our oil/financial system is a perfect illustration.

Debt is being used to extend the unsustainable and it looks as though we are headed for the “Mother of all Seneca Curves” which I have illustrated below:

clarke19

clarke20

Because oil is the primary energy resource upon which all other energy sources depend, it is almost certain that a contraction in oil production would be reflected in a parallel reduction in other energy systems; as illustrated rather dramatically in this image by Gail Tverberg (the timing is slightly premature – but probably not by much).

clarke21

Energy and Money

Fundamental to all energy and economic systems is money. Debt is being used to prop up a contracting oil energy system, and the scale of money created as debt over the last few decades to compensate is truly phenomenal; amounting to hundreds of trillions (excluding “extra-terrestrial” amounts of “financials”), rising exponentially faster. This amount of debt, can never ever be repaid. The on-going contraction of the oil/energy system will exacerbate this trend until the financial system collapses. There is nothing anyone can do about it no matter how much money is printed, NIRP, ZIRP you name it – all the indicators are flashing red. The panacea of indefinite money printing will soon hit the thermodynamic energy wall of reality.

clarke22

The effects we currently observe such as exponential growth in debt (US Debt alone almost doubled from $10 trillion to nearly $20 trillion during Obama’s tenure), and the financial problems of oil majors and oil producing countries, are clear indicators of the imminent contraction in existing global energy and financial systems.

clarke23
.
The coming failure of the global economic system will be a systemic failure. I say “systemic” because for the last 150 years up till now there has always been cheap and abundant oil to power recovery from previous busts. This era is over. Cheap and abundant oil will not be available for recovery from the next crunch, and the world will need to adopt a completely different economic and financial model.

The Economics “profession”

Economists would have us believe it’s just another turn of the credit cycle. This dismal non-science is in the main the lapdog of the establishment, the global financial and corporate interests. They have engineered the “science” to support the myth of perpetual growth to suit the needs of their pay-masters, the financial institutions, corporations and governments (who pay their salaries, fund the universities and research, etc). They have steadfastly ignored all ecological and resource issues and trends and warnings such as LTG, and portrayed themselves as the pre-eminent arbiters of human enterprise. By vehemently supporting the status quo, they of all groups, I hold primarily responsible for the appalling situation the planet faces; the destruction of the natural world, and many other threats to the global environment and its ability to sustain civilisation as we know it.

I have news for the “Economics Profession”. The perpetual growth fantasy financial system based on unlimited cheap energy is now coming to an end. From the planet’s point of view – it simply couldn’t be soon enough. This will mark the end of what I call the “Oilocene”. Human activities are having such an effect on the planet that the present age has been classified by geologists as a new geological era “The Anthropocene”. But although humans had already made a significant impact on natural systems, the Anthropocene has largely been defined by the relatively recent discovery and use of liquid fossil energy reserves amounting to millions of years of stored solar energy. Unlimited cheap oil has fuelled exponential growth in human systems to the point that many of these are now greater than natural planetary ones.
.
This cannot be sustained without huge amounts of cheap net oil energy, so we are inescapably headed for “the great deceleration”. The situation is very like the fate of the Titanic which I have outlined in my presentation. Of the few who had the courage to face the economic wind of perpetual growth, I salute the authors of LTG and the memory of Richard Douthwaite (The Growth Illusion 1992), and all at FEASTA who are working hard to warn a deaf Ireland of what is to come and why – and have very sensibly been preparing for it! We will all need a lot of courage and resilience to face what is coming down the line.

Ireland has a very short time available to prepare for hard times.

There are many things we could do here to soften the impact if the problem was understood for what it is. FEASTA publications such as the Before The Wells Run Dry and Fleeing Vesuvius; and David Korowicz’s works such as The Tipping Point and of course, The Hills Group 2015 publicationDepletion – a determination of the worlds petroleum reserve , and very many other references, provide background material and should be required urgent reading for all policy makers.

The pre-eminent challenge is energy for transport and agriculture. We could switch to use of compressed natural gas (CNG) as the urgent default transport/motive fuel in the short term since petrol and diesel engines can be converted to dual-fuel use with CNG; supplemented rapidly by biogas (since we are lucky enough to have plenty of agricultural land and water compared to many countries).

We could urgently switch to an organic high labour input agriculture concentrating on local self-sufficiency eliminating chemical inputs such as fertilisers pesticides and herbicides (as Cuba did after the fall of the Soviet Union). We could outlaw the use of oil for heating and switch to biomass.

We could penalise high electricity use and aim to massively cut consumption so that electricity can be supplied by completely renewable means – preserving our natural gas for transport fuel and the rapid transition from oil. The Grid could be urgently reconfigured to enable 100% use of renewable electricity within a few years. We could concentrate on local production of food, goods and services to reduce transport needs.

These measures would create a lot of jobs and improve the balance of payments. They have already been proposed in one form or another by FEASTA over the last 15 years.

Ireland has made a start, but it is insignificant compared to the scale and timescale of the challenge ahead as illustrated by the next image (SEAI: Energy in Ireland – Key Statistics 2015). We urgently need to shrink the oil portion to a small fraction of current use.

clarke24

Current fossil energy use is very wasteful. By reducing waste and increasing efficiency we can use less. For instance, a large amount of the energy used as transport fuels and for electricity generation is lost to atmosphere as waste heat. New technological solutions include a global initiative to mount an affordable emergency response called nGeni that is solely based on well-known and proven technology components, integrated in a novel way, with a business and financial model enabling it to tap into over €5 trillion/year of funds currently wasted globally as waste heat. This has potential for Ireland, and will be outlined in a subsequent post.

To finance all the changes we need to implement, quickly (and hopefully before the full impact of the oil/financial catastrophe really kicks in), we could for instance create something like a massive multibillion “National Sustainability and Renewable Energy Bond”. Virtually all renewables provide a better (often substantially better) return on investment compared to bank savings, government bonds, etc; especially in the age of zero and negative interest rate policies ZIRP, NIRP etc.

We may need to think about managing this during a contraction in the economy and financial system which could occur at any time. We certainly could do with a new clever breed of “Ecological Economists” to plan for the end of the old system and its replacement by a sustainable new one. There is no shortage of ideas. The disappearance of trillions of fake money and the shrinking of national and local tax income which currently funds the existing system and its social programmes will be a huge challenge to social stability in Ireland and all over the world.

It’s now “Emergency Red Alert”. If we delay, we won’t have the energy or the money to implement even a portion of what is required. We need to drag our politicians and policy makers kicking and screaming to the table, to make them understand the dire nature of the predicament and challenge them to open their eyes to the increasingly obvious, and to take action. We can thank The Hills Group for elucidating so clearly the root causes of the problem, but the indicators of systemic collapse have for many years been frantically jumping up and down, waving at us and shouting LOOK AT ME! Meanwhile the majority of blinkered clueless economists that advise business and government and who plan our future, look the other way.

In 1972 “The Limits to Growth” warned of the consequences of growing reliance on the finite resource called “oil” and of the suicidal economics mantra of endless growth. The challenge Ireland will soon face is managing a fast economic and energy contraction and implementing sustainability on a massive scale whilst maintaining social cohesion. Whatever the outcome (managed or chaotic contraction), we will soon all have to live with a lot less energy and physical resources. That in itself might not necessarily be such a bad thing provided the burden is shared. “Modern citizens today use more energy and physical resources in a month than our great-grandparents used during their whole lifetime” (John Thackera; “From Oil Age to Soil Age”, Doors to Perception; Dec 2016). Were they less happy than us?

PDF of this article
Powerpoint presentation

Featured image: used motor oil. Source: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/stain-1507366





More on the thermodynamic black hole…

12 10 2016

I recently wrote about the thermodynamic black hole; articles about ERoEI keep popping up in my in tray that truly baffle me…… As Alice Friedemann told Chris Martenson in the podcast I discussed in the aforementioned blog post, “everyone disagrees on what to leave in or out of their ERoEI analyses”….

I was pointed to another blog called Ramez Naam where the following was published…:

There’s a graph making rounds lately showing the comparative EROIs of different electricity production methods. (EROI is Energy Return On Investment – how much energy we get back if we spend 1 unit of energy. For solar this means – how much more energy does a solar panel generate in its lifetime than is used to create it?)

This EROI graph that is making the rounds is being used to claim that solar and wind can’t support an industrialized society like ours.

But its numbers are wildly different from the estimates produced by other peer-reviewed literature, and suffers from some rather extreme assumptions, as I’ll show.

Here’s the graph.

eroi-of-solar-wind-nuclear-coal-natural-gas-hydro-800x630

This graph is taken from Weißbach et al, Energy intensities, EROIs, and energy payback times of electricity generating power plants (pdf link). That paper finds an EROI of 4 for solar and 16 for wind, without storage, or 1.6 and 3.9, respectively, with storage. That is to say, it finds that for every unit of energy used to build solar panels, society ultimately gets back 4 units of energy. Solar panels, according to Weißbach, generate four times as much energy over their lifetimes as it takes to manufacture them.

Personally, I think these figures are a bit on the optimistic side, yet the author has a problem with them for being too low…!  Ramez Naam, who was born in Cairo, Egypt, and emigrated to the US at the age of 3 is a computer scientist, futurist, angel investor, and award-winning author, who also worked for Microsoft.  Enough said?  And what on Earth is an angel investor?

Anyhow, he further writes…:

Unfortunately, Weißbach also claims that an EROI of 7 is required to support a society like Europe. I find a number that high implausible for a number of reasons, but won’t address it here.

I’ll let others comment on the wind numbers. For solar, which I know better, this paper is an outlier. Looking at the bulk of the research, it’s more likely that solar panels, over their lifetime, generate 10-15 times as much energy as it takes to produce them and their associated hardware. That number may be as high as 25. And it’s rising over time.

I have seen others, like Susan Krumdieck claim that to keep our complex matrix going, an ERoEI of at least 10 is needed, so it’s interesting that Weißbach aims lower.

What I’d like to know is, how can anyone claim “ it’s rising over time.”?  Last time I looked, all renewables were entirely made using fossil fuels, and their ERoEI is plummeting…

Remember the “Twilight of the age of oil” series published here some time ago? One of the charts in that series of article resurfaced on another blog (through Zerohedge)……

The Coming Thermodynamic Oil Collapse Is Worse Than I Realized

Last week, I spoke with Bedford Hill of the Hills Group about their “Thermodynamic Oil Collapse” model.  What an interesting conversation it was.  Bedford Hill was the project manager of a group of engineers that put over 10,000 hours in designing their Thermodynamic Oil Collapse model.

Bedford told me that after they ran the model, the results were so shocking, they sat on the damn thing for two years before publishing.  I asked him did any of the engineers that worked on the model disagree with the results?  His answer was, “Not a single one disagreed.”

It has taken me some time to digest this new energy information as well understand the details by talking with Bedford Hill and Louis Arnoux of nGeni.  Again, I will be interviewing these gentlemen on this Thermodynamic Oil Collapse model and the implications shortly.

EROI levels

Anyone interested in reading the Hills Group work, you can go to their website, thehillsgroup.org, or check out their detailed report.

The rapidly falling EROI – Energy Returned On Invested is gutting the entire U.S. oil industry and economy.  Instead of the United States enjoying real fundamental growth based on increased energy consumption, we have turned to inflating electronic digits as an indication of our wealth.

As I explained in the beginning of the article, U.S. energy consumption has been flat for the past six years, while U.S. GDP has increased nearly 25%, as our supposed net worth has jumped 54%.  Again, this goes against any sound fundamental economic theory.  We have totally removed ourselves from reality.

While the Fed and Central Banks will continue to prop up the markets by printing money and buying bonds and stocks, they can’t print barrels of oil or energy BTU’s.

There lies the Rub…

So I ask…….. how can the ERoEI of anything, let alone solar power, go up, when the primary source of energy to do all those thing, mainly oil, is falling off a cliff?

But wait, there’s more…..   Geoff Chia sent me an email regarding an open letter he sent to the Doomstead Diner in which Louis Arnoux gets mentioned again….  Here’s what Geoff wrote…:

This open letter to The Zeitgeist Movement replaces an essay I originally promised to Diners, “Peak Oil Revisited Part 2: Why business as usual guarantees that global industrial collapse will be complete by 2030”. I have not had the time to elucidate all aspects of my argument in detail and Dr Louis Arnoux is probably doing a better job with his articles on this topic anyway. He is a true energy expert, I am merely a lay person trying to interpret the thoughts of the experts for the general public.

The other “Peak Oil Revisited” essay I promised, “Part 1b: Is an International Standardised Energy Dollar feasible?” has proved to be much more complicated than originally envisioned and is the lowest of my priorities at the moment. Even if an ISED is feasible it is unlikely to ever see the light of day for political reasons.

graph1-theelm-300x226As you know I ran sustainability meetings for doctors and scientists from 2006 to 2013. I note your Zeitgeist group is holding a meeting on sustainability on 10 September 2016. As a starting point for your discussion you may wish to display on your projection screen the letter I wrote earlier this year to “Doctors for the Environment Australia” . When I subsequently met with the Queensland DEA representative, Dr David King, he could not offer any factual or logical objections against my letter. His only comments were that although my views were consistent with those of many scientists, he felt he had to give DEA members “hope”. DEA are operating on the false hope they can fix rampant global warming which has now spiralled out of control. They have completely ignored more immediate energy and economic issues.

graph2-elm-over-netenergy-300x179Energy analyst Dr Louis Arnoux has informed me that world average1 EROI (energy return over invested, or to use the proper mathematical description for this ratio, energy return divided by energy invested) for petroleum fell below 10:1 a few years ago. Dr David Murphy’s figure for world average EROI of 17:1 for 2013 was an overestimate because Murphy himself wrote in his paper (published by the Royal Society) that his figure did not account for the energy costs of fuel refinement and transportation2.

graph3-net-energy-cliff-300x240According to other EROI luminaries, Drs Hall and Lambert3, a ratio of 10:1 is the minimum required for a complex industrial economy to function properly.

Some parts of the industrial world can continue to function at present because they have captured4 the few remaining high EROI (>10:1) sources for themselves. Others areas eg Southern Europe are losing or have lost access to such high net energy sources (“Hi-NES”)5, hence they are now deindustrialising and collapsing. The rest of the world will never industrialise. We have no significant liquid hydrocarbon replacements for conventional petroleum. Unconventional petroleum, with its woeful EROI of 3:1 or less, is an environmentally devastating scam and a stock market Ponzi scheme.

Decline in Hi-NES is the primary reason for the current global economic contraction6, a fact that conventional economists are too venal or too stupid to acknowledge. The present low price of oil is deeply misleading and is hiding the fact that oil has become less affordable/available for most people around the world due to demand destruction and deflation, temporarily freeing up more oil for “lucky” countries such as Australia.

Dr Jeffrey Brown’s export land model (ELM) shows that oil availability for oil importing countries will eventually fall off a cliff (see graph 1 from postpeakliving.com in which I have corrected a caption: the red line shows GROSS world oil production, which does NOT take into account the energy invested in that oil production. Hence the yellow circle is an overestimate of when zero oil will be available to oil importing countries). A more accurate curve on which to superimpose the ELM should be downslope of the Net Hubbert curve as shown in graph 2. Prior to me doing this, I do not believe anyone else has combined ELM and EROI concepts and it is high time someone did so.

A most vital concept to understanding why global industral societies will soon suddenly and catastrophically collapse, just as a teetering Jenga tower suddenly collapses, is the mathematical fact that the net energy available (= energy return minus energy invested) falls off a cliff when EROI declines to 5:1 (see graph 3).

Sudden catastrophic collapse is consistent with the view of Dr Ugo Bardi, one of the original “Limits to Growth” scientists, who calls this phenomenon the “Seneca cliff”. Dr Bardi is an incredibly smart scientist whose dire warnings over many years have been blithely ignored by all the stupid sheeple around him, hence he titled his blog “Cassandra’s Legacy”.

In human terms, plummeting EROI in the absence of any plan to transition to a post carbon lifestyle, will mean social breakdown, war, starvation7and mass die off on a monumental scale. No part of the world which depends on petroleum will be spared.

We can understand why TPTB promote false hopes for the future to the clueless sheeple, using extravagant bread and circuses like the Olympics. Such theatrics keep the herd distracted and subdued. Be assured that once the masses revolt, the drones will be deployed.

On the other hand, offering intelligent people false hope for the future is in my view deeply inappropriate, especially if useful measures can be taken right now to mitigate impending hardships. Unfortunately the window of opportunity is closing fast. What is your transition plan?

You may vehemently reject my warnings and choose to ignore this letter because everything seems “fine” to you now, however denial will not make a looming catastrophe magically disappear.

One of your previous speakers promoted manned space travel to Mars. How useful, do you think, is that sort of meeting?

Regards

Geoffrey Chia, August 2016

IF you like further homework, I found some most interesting links on that SRSrocco website, including videos called the Hidden Secrets of Money made by Mike Maloney who was interviewed by Chris Martenson, and another articles on the collapse of the USA through analysing  its disintegrating infrastructure…..

It’s raining here, still, and I may go to the Community House to watch the hidden secrets of money there before I run out of bandwidth……

Enjoy!

Geoff Chia’s footnotes

Footnotes:

  1. Global “average” EROI of below 10:1 at present means that most oil fields now yield EROI below 10:1 (eg perhaps only 8:1 or 6:1). However there are a few oil fields which continue to yield a high EROI (eg perhaps 20:1), oil fields which the vultures are now circling.

  2. Murphy DJ. 2014 The implications of the declining energy return on investment of oil production. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 372: 20130126.

  3. Lambert, Jessica G., Hall Charles A. S. et al. 2014. Energy, EROI and quality of life. Energy Policy 64:153–167 “There is evidence…that once payments for energy rise above a certain threshold at the national level (e.g. approximately 10 percent in the United States) that economic recessions follow. “

  4. Such capture can be accomplished by fair means (eg providing useful products to the oil vendors in exchange for their oil), or foul (eg the criminal protection racket known as the Petrodollar).

  5. Being starved of credit

  6. In China, intolerable pollution has been a major factor for their economic slowdown, as well as the marked reduction in overseas demand for their industrial output

  7. Mass agriculture is crucially dependent on petroleum (also natural gas)





Some reflections on the Twilight of the Oil Age (Part II)

17 07 2016

Guest Post by Louis Arnoux, republished from Ugo Bardi’s Cassandra’s Legacy blog…..

(Part I here)

Part 2 – Enquiring into the appropriateness of the question

Let’s acknowledge it, the situation we are in, as depicted summarily in Part 1, is complex.  As many commentators like to state, there is still plenty of oil, coal, and gas left “in the ground”.  Since 2014, debates have been raging, concerning the assumed “oil glut”, concerning how low oil prices may go down, how high prices may rebound as demand possibly picks up and the “glut” vanishes, and, in the face of all this, what may or may not happen regarding “renewables”.  However, in my view, the situation is not impossible to analyse rigorously, away from what may appear as common sense but that may not withstand scrutiny.  For example, Part 1 data have indicated,that most of what’s left in terms of fossil fuels is likely to stay where it is, underground, without this requiring the implementation of  difficult to agree upon resource management policies, simply because this is what thermodynamics dictates.

We can now venture a little bit further if we keep firmly in mind that the globalised industrial world (GIW), and by extension all of us, do not “live” on fossil resources but on net energy delivered by the global energy system; and if we also keep in mind that, in this matter, oil-derived transport fuels are the key since, without them, none of the other fossil and nuclear resources can be mobilised and the GIW itself can’t function.

In my experience, most often, when faced with such a broad spectrum of conflicting views, especially involving matters pertaining to physics and the social sciences, the lack of agreement is indicative that the core questions are not well formulated.  Physicist David Bohm liked to stress: “In scientific enquiries, a crucial step is to ask the right question. Indeed each question contains presuppositions, largely implicit.  If these presuppositions are wrong or confused, the question itself is wrong, in the sense that to try to answer it has no meaning.  One has thus to enquire into the appropriateness of the question.”

Here it is important, in terms of system analysis, to differentiate between the global energy industry (say, GEI) and the GIW. The GEI bears the brunt of thermodynamics directly, and within the GEI, the oil industry (OI) is key since, as seen in Part 1, it is the first to reach the thermodynamics limit of resource extraction and, since it conditions the viability of the GEI’s other components – in their present state and within the remaining timeframe, they can’t survive the OI’s eventual collapse.  On the other hand, the GIW is impacted by thermodynamic decline with a lag, in the main because it is buffered by debt – so that by the time the impact of the thermodynamic collapse of the OI becomes undeniable it’s too late to do much about it.

At the micro level, debt can be “good” – e.g. a company borrows to expand and then reimburses its debt, etc…  At the macro level, it can be, and has now become, lethal, as the global debt can no longer be reimbursed (I estimate the energy equivalent of current global debt, from states, businesses, and households to be in the order of some 10,700EJ, while current world energy use is in the order of 554EJ; it is no longer doable to “mind the gap”). [ED: for some forty years, debt has been growing exponentially four times as fast as the GDP. Source: Chris Martenson]

Crude oil prices are dropping to the floor

Looking-Down-the-Barrel

Figure 4 – The radar signal for an Oil Pearl Harbor

In brief, the GIW has been living on ever growing total debt since around the time net energy from oil per head peaked in the early 1970s.  The 2007-08 crisis was a warning shot.  Since 2012, we have entered the last stage of this sad saga – when the OI began to use more energy (one should talk in fact of exergy) within its own productions chains than what it delivers to the GIW.  From this point onwards retrieving the present financial fiat system is no longer doable.

This 2012 point marked a radical shift in price drivers.[1]  Figure 4 combines the analyses of TGH (The Hills Group) and mine. In late 2014 I saw the beginning of the oil price crash as a signal of a radar screen.  Being well aware that EROIs for oil and gas combined had already passed below the minimum threshold of 10:1, I understood that this crash was different from previous ones: prices were on their way right down to the floor.  I then realised what TGH had anticipated this trend months earlier, that their analysis was robust and was being corroborated by the market there and then.

Until 2012, the determining price driver was the total energy cost incurred by the OI.  Until then the GIW could more or less happily sustain the translation of these costs into high oil prices, around or above $100/bbl.  This is no longer the case.  Since 2012, the determining oil price driver is what the GIW can afford to pay in order to still be able to generate residual GDP growth (on borrowed time) under the sway of a Red Queen that is running out of thermodynamic “breath”. I call the process we are in an “Oil Pearl Harbour”, taking place in a kind of eerie slow motion. This is no longer retrievable.  Within roughly ten years the oil industry as we know it will have disintegrated.  The GIW is presently defenceless in the face of this threat.

The Oil Fizzle Dragon-King

5energystreams

Figure 5 – The “Energy Hand”

To illustrate how the GEI works I often compare its energy flows to the five fingers of the one hand: all are necessary and all are linked (Figure 5). Under the Red Queen, the GEI is progressively loosing its “knuckles” one by one like a kind of unseen leprosy – unseen yet because of the debt “veil” that hides the progressive losses and more fundamentally because of what I refer to at the bottom of Figure 5, namely were are in what I call Oil Fizzle Dragon-King.

A Dragon-King (DK) is a statistical concept developed by Didier Sornette of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, and a few others to differentiate high probability and high impact processes and events from Black Swans, i.e. events that are of low probability and high impact.  I call it the Oil Fizzle because what is triggering it is the very rapidfizzling out of net energy per barrel.  It is a DK, i.e. a high probability, high impact unexpected process, purely because almost none of the decision-making elites is familiar with the thermodynamics of complex systems operating far from equilibrium; nor are they familiar with the actual social workings of the societies they live in.  Researchers have been warning about the high likelihood of something like this at least since the works of the Meadows in the early 1970s.[2]

The Oil Fizzle DK is the result of the interaction between this net energy fizzling out, climate change, debt and the full spectrum of ecological and social issues that have been mounting since the early 1970s – as I noted on Figure 1, the Oil Fizzle DK is in the process of whipping up a “Perfect Storm” strong enough to bring the GIW to its knees.  The Oil Pearl Harbour marks the Oil Fizzle DK getting into full swing.

To explain this further, with reference to Figure 5, oil represents some 33% of global primary energy use (BP data). Fossil fuels represented some 86% of total primary energy in 2014.  However, coal, oil, and gas are not like three boxes neatly set side by side from which energy is supplied magically, as most economists would have it.

In the real world (i.e. outside the world economists live in), energy supply chains form networks, rather complex ones.  For example, it takes electricity to produce many products derived from oil, coal, and gas, while electricity is generated substantially from coal and gas, and so on.  More to the point, as noted earlier, because 94% of all transport is oil-based, oil stands at the root of the entire, complex, globalised set of energy networks.  Coal mining, transport, processing, and use depend substantially on oil-derived transport fuels; ditto for gas.[3]   The same applies to nuclear plants.  So the thermodynamic collapse of the oil industry, that is now underway, not only is likely to be completed within some 10 years but is also in the process of triggering a falling domino effect (aka an avalanche, or in systemic terms, a self-organising criticality, a SOC).

Presently, and for the foreseeable future, we do not have substitutes for oil derived transport fuels that can be deployed within the required time frame and that would be affordable to the GIW.  In other words, the GIW is falling into a thermodynamic trap, right now. As B. W. Hill recently noted, “The world is now spending $2.3 trillion per year more to produce oil than what is received when it is sold. The world is now losing a great deal of money to maintain its dependence on oil.”

The Tooth Fairy Syndrome

To come back to David Bohm’s “question about the question”, in my view, we are in this situation fundamentally because of what I call the “Tooth Fairy Syndrome”, after a pointed remark by B.W. Hill in an Internet debate early last year: “It is interesting that not one analyst has yet come to the very obvious conclusion that it requires oil to produce oil. Perhaps they think it is delivered by the Tooth Fairy?”  This remark vividly characterised for me the prevalence of a fair amount of magical thinking at the heart of decision-making within both the GEI and the GIW, aka economics as a perpetual motion machine fantasy.  Unquestioned delusional beliefs lead to wrong conclusions.

This is not new.  Here are a few words of explanation.  In 1981, I met US anthropologist Laura Nader at the Australia New Zealand Association of the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS) Congress held that year at University of Queensland in Brisbane.  We were both guest speakers at seminars focusing on Energy and Equity, and in particular on how societies actually deal with energy matters, energy crises and decide about courses of action.  The title of her paper was “Energy and Equity, Magic, Science, and Religion Revisited”.

In recent years, Nader had become part of US bodies overseeing responses to the first and second oil shocks and the US nuclear energy industry (she was a member of the National Academy of Science’s Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems, CONAES). As an anthropologist, she was initially taken aback by what she observed and proceeded to apply her anthropological skills to try and understand the weird “tribes” she had landed into.  The title of her paper was a wink at Malinowski’s famous work on the Trobriands in 1925.

Malinowski had pointed out that: “There are no people, however primitive without religion or magic.  Nor are there… any savage races [sic] lacking either in the scientific attitude or in science though this lack has been frequently attributed to them.”

Nader had observed that prevailing decision-making in the industrialised world she was living in was also the outcome of a weird mix of “Magic, Science, and Religion” with magical and mythical, quasi religious, thinking predominating among people who were viewed and who viewed themselves as rational and making scientifically grounded decisions.  At the time I was engaged in very similar research, had observed exactly the same kind of phenomena in my own Australasian fieldwork and had reached similar conclusions.

In my observations, since the 1970s the prevalence of this syndrome has considerably worsened. This is what I seek to encapsulate as the Tooth Fairy Syndrome.  With the Oil Peal harbour, the unquestioned sway of the Tooth Fairy is coming to an end.  However, the imprint of Tooth Fairy thinking remains so strong that most discussions and analyses remain highly confused, even within scientific circles still taking economic notions for granted.

In the longer run, the end effect of the Oil Fizzle DK is likely to be an abrupt decline of GHG emissions.  However, the danger I see is that meanwhile the GEI, and most notably the OI, is not going to just “curl up and die”.  I think we are in a“die hard” situation.  Since 2012, we are already seeing what I call a Big Mad Scramble (BMS) by a wide range of GEI actors that try to keep going while they still can, flying blind into the ground.  The eventual outcome is hard to avoid with a GEI operating with only about 12% energy efficiency, i.e. some 88% wasteful current primary energy use.  The GIW’s agony is likely to result in a big burst of GHG emissions while net energy fizzles out.  The high danger is that the old quip will eventuate on a planetary scale: “the operation was successful but the patient died”…  Hence my call for “enquiring into the appropriateness of the question” and for systemic thinking.  We are in deep trouble.  We can’t afford to get this wrong.

Next: Part 3 – Standing slightly past the edge of the cliff

 

Bio: Dr Louis Arnoux is a scientist, engineer, and entrepreneur committed to the development of sustainable ways of living and doing business.  His profile is available on Google+  at: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115895160299982053493/about/p/pub





Explaining the energy cliff

19 03 2016

While doing mindless tasks on the Fanny Farm, like dragging Macrocarpa branches around to clear the deck for the house building and stacking it on the back of the ute for removal, I tend to do a lot of thinking to keep the brain engaged…… and it occurred to me that very few people ‘get it’ when it comes to the predicament we here at DTM know as the Energy Cliff.

Now I expect nearly all my readers would know what I’m talking about, but likely have the same problem whenever trying to get people to understand what we are on about. So I came up with a metaphor that hopefully simplifies the concept for the masses.

I’m going to break some rules here, but the idea of this metaphor is not to come up with an accurate mathematical and/or physical model, rather a simple way to explain why we are fast running out of energy, even as we extract ever more oil and coal out of the ground.

It’s generally accepted that way back in the 1930’s the ERoEI of oil was 100:1; which means that for every unit of energy invested in finding, extracting, and refining this oil, 100 units were available to do work.  You know……. stuff like build the 20th Century!

This is where I start breaking rules.  I know that ERoEI is not an efficiency number, but I’m going to use it that way because in many ways it is like efficiency.  And for ease of using numbers, I’m going to say that that 1930’s oil had an energy efficiency of 100% – and yes, I know nothing has an efficiency of 100%.  Just bear with me….. this isn’t an exercise in maths and science, it’s a thought provoking process.

If you are unfamiliar with the energy efficiency calculations for a whole system, rather than a single part of that system, then the way it’s done is that you multiply the efficiency factors together (where 90% is 0.9, 75% is 0.75, and so on)

So if you have an energy source that is 90% efficient, running a motor that is 90% efficient, running a generator that is 90% efficient, and distributing electricity through a grid that is 75% efficient, then by the time the energy arrives at its destination, the efficiency of the system is 0.9 x 0.9 x 0.9 x 0.75 = 0.54675 or 54.675% efficient.  Three decimal places here is largely irrelevant.

This, by the way, demonstrates that complex systems made up of even very efficient components are not efficient!  And this is one of the dilemmas we face as we make our systems ever more complex….. even now.

This is not a problem when, like in the 1930’s, the system was not complex, and it was small, and the primary energy, oil, had an unbelievably high ERoEI to boot. So, to mine coal with an ERoEI of 90 in the US in the 1930’s had an ERoEI efficiency of 1.0 x 0.9 = 0.9.

Today, mining coal with an ERoEI of 50 with 12:1 oil gives us 0.12 x 0.5 = 0.06.

The nett energy efficiency available from coal has therefore dropped by a factor of 15!

Then consider this……  to use the above primary energies to make PVs with an ERoEI of 2.45:1 gives us nett energy efficiency of 0.0147.

And people out there actually want to power the world like this?

I know the maths are flawed, but is my thinking…?

 

 





Tilting at windmills

24 02 2014

pedroI have ‘known’ Pedro Prieto online for many many years, and have featured his work here, and here on DTM.  Pedro is an expert on renewable energy, and is one of the few engineers I’ve ever read who understands ERoEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested), and has practical experience in deploying both wind and solar energy system in his native Spain.  Pedro has recently dropped a bombshell in a book he co authored with Charles Hall  (EROEI is the ratio of energy output over energy input, a measure that was developed by Professor Charles Hall).  This book, titled “Tilting at Windmills, Spain’s disastrous attempt to replace fossil fuels with Solar Photovoltaics”, is the first in-depth look at the ERoEI of large-scale PV in any developed nation. And the results do not bode well……

This is the first time an estimate of Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROI) of solar Photovoltaics (PV) has been based on real data from the sunniest European country, with accurate measures of generated energy from over 50,000 installations using several years of real-life data from optimized, efficient, multi-megawatt and well oriented facilities.

Other life cycle and energy payback time analyses used models that left out dozens of energy inputs, leading to overestimates of energy such as payback time of 1-2 years (Fthenakis), EROI 8.3 (Bankier), and EROI of 5.9 to 11.8 (Raugei et al).

Prieto and Hall added dozens of energy inputs missing from past solar PV analyses. Perhaps previous studies missed these inputs because their authors weren’t overseeing several large photovoltaic projects and signing every purchase order like author Pedro Prieto. Charles A. S. Hall is one of the foremost experts in the world on the calculation of EROI. Together they’re a formidable team with data, methodology, and expertise that will be hard to refute.

Prieto and Hall conclude that the EROI of solar photovoltaic is only 2.45, very low despite Spain’s ideal sunny climate. Germany’s EROI is probably 20 to 33% less (1.6 to 2), due to less sunlight and efficient rooftop installations.

Here is what Gail Tverberg has to say on ERoEI…

Commenters frequently remark that such-and-such an energy source has an Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI) ratio of greater than 5:1, so must be a helpful addition to our current energy supply. My finding that the overall energy return is already too low seems to run counter to this belief.

Adequate Return for All Elements Required for Energy Investment

In order to extract oil or create biofuels, or to make any other type of energy investment, at least four distinct elements described in Figure 1: (1) adequate payback on energy invested,  (2) sufficient wages for humans, (3) sufficient credit availability and (4) sufficient funds for government services. If any of these is lacking, the whole system has a tendency to seize up.

EROI analyses tend to look primarily at the first item on the list, comparing “energy available to society” as the result of a given process to “energy required for extraction” (all in units of energy). While this comparison can be helpful for some purposes, it seems to me that we should also be looking at whether the dollars collected at the end-product level are sufficient to provide an adequate financial return to meet the financial needs of all four areas simultaneously.

My list of the four distinct elements necessary to enable energy extraction and to keep the economy functioning is really an abbreviated list. Clearly one needs other items, such as profits for businesses. In a sense, the whole world economy is an energy delivery system. This is why it is important to understand what the system needs to function properly.

Source of the EROI 5:1 Threshold

To my knowledge, no one has directly proven that a 5:1 threshold is sufficient for an energy source to be helpful to an economy. The study that is often referred to is the 2009 paper, What is the Minimum EROI that a Sustainable Society Must Have? (Free for download), by Charles A. S. Hall, Steven Balogh, and David Murphy. This paper analyzes how much energy needs to be provided by oil and coal, if the energy provided by those fuels is to be sufficient to pay not just for the energy used in its own extraction, but also for the energy required for pipeline and truck or train transportation to its destination of use. The conclusion of that paper was that in order to include these energy transportation costs for oil or coal, an EROI of at least 3:1 was needed.

Clearly this figure is not high enough to cover all costs of using the fuels, including the energy costs to build devices that actually use the fuels, such as private passenger cars, electrical power plants and transmission lines, and devices to use electricity, such as refrigerators. The ratio required would probably need to be higher for harder-to-transport fuels, such as natural gas and ethanol. The ratio would also need to include the energy cost of schools, if there are to be engineers to design all of these devices, and factory workers who can read basic instructions. If the cost of government in general were added, the cost would be higher yet. One could theoretically add other systems as well, such as the cost of maintaining the financial system.

The way I understood the 5:1 ratio was that it was more or less a lower bound, below which even looking at an energy product did not make sense. Given the diversity of what is needed to support the current economy, the small increment between 3 and 5 is probably not enough–the minimum ratio probably needs to be much higher. The ratio also seems to need to change for different fuels, with many quite a bit higher.

So there you have it folks…….  solar will never keep civilisation as we know it going.  But you already knew that. And before Eclipse jumps in, I found this on Nuclear Power…:

The seemingly most reliable information on ERoEI is quite old and is summarized in chapter 12 of Hall et al. (1986). Newer information tends to fall into the wildly optimistic camp (high EROI, e.g. 10:1 or more, sometimes wildly more) or the extremely pessimistic (low or even negative EROI) camp (Tyner et al. 1998, Tyner 2002, Fleay 2006 and Caldicamp 2006). One recent PhD analysis from Sweden undertook an emergy analysis (a kind of comprehensive energy analysis including all environmental inputs and quality corrections as per Howard Odum) and found an emergy return on emergy invested of 11:1 (with a high quality factor for electricity) but it was not possible to undertake an energy analysis from the data presented (Kindburg, 2007). Nevertheless that final number is similar to many of the older analyses when a quality correction is included.

Notice this was written in 1986.  As the quality of Uranium ores worsen, (they’ve worsen rapidly since 1986…), nuclear will be no more able to keep Business as Usual running than solar.

As extraction and depletion have operated over time, the average ore grade has decreased and the uranium has become more and more dispersed within the background substrate, plus the total amount of uranium we can extract can decrease as well. Leuwen (2005) argues that the empirical extraction yield declines much more sharply than the hypothetical one, which could come into play if there is a large increase in nuclear capacity in the coming decades.


Figure 6 – % of Uranium Extracted from Ore as a Function of Ore Grade (Leeuwen 2005).
Click to Enlarge.An increasing portion of the world’s uranium comes from in-situ leaching (ISL) (Hore-Lacy 2007).

Just enjoy life in the quiet lane…….  it’s not that bead, really…..