The Electrical Trades Union is calling for an independent review of the entire National Electricity Market (NEM) following the Australian Energy Market Operator’s (AEMO) unprecedented decision to take over national energy supplies. AEMO has announced it will set administered prices for wholesale power in all regions of the market and take control of all generation plants to ensure the lights don’t go out fo
Global economic turbulence and the prospect of deep recession as we move towards an energy crisis, presents huge challenge. There has been little forewarning and planning. Every local and national authority needs to start now to address these challenges seriously, yet still we carry on with our head in the sands, wasting resources on an epic scale.
Abstract (Part of the original paper; useful, so I'll leave it here.)
This paper attempts to map out a definitive route to human “happiness” based on the notion of a human reconnection with nature through an appropriate heart-brain balance. The consequences of this for human society, especially agriculture, are explored. The content focuses specifically on Japan, but is thought to be adaptable to any society in the world.
Citizens in Australia’s major cities are becoming increasingly unhappy about what they perceive as the escalating deterioration in their quality of life - traffic congestion, overloaded public transport, unaffordable housing for young people, increases in the costs of basic services and overcrowding.
Hugo Chavez, President of the South American oil-producing state of Venezuela, has proposed an international peace mission to Libyan leader, Kadhafi, according to the Venezuelan Minister for Communications.
Neither The BC Liberals Nor the NDP Will Question The Population Growth Which Drives Energy Consumption
Jacob Saulwick, in "Libs back Greens call for inquiry into 'big Australia'",
March 16, 2010 Sydney Morning Herald, writes,
Article by Boris A. Osadin
Moscow State Institute
for Radio-engineering, Electronics and Automatics
Source of small picture with coat-hanger in teaser was http://new.savethecourt.org/content/womens-rights
Source of illustration
The only way the global sustainability and justice predicament can be solved is via something like the inspiring Transition Towns movement. However thought needs to be given to a number of themes or it might fail to achieve significant goals.
Ross Gittens, an economist, discusses the state of the recession in Australia in today's Business Age, 13-7-09. He made a comment about China needing lots of 'steel and energy' - the very 'commodities' that Australia supplies.
This common use of misleading terminology fosters misunderstanding of what is really happening.
This was originally published on 15 January 2009
Summary: The report's two crucial conclusions are that the greenhouse problem can be solved by adoption of alternative technologies, and that this can be done at negligible cost to GDP.
This article was originally published on Culture Change on 16 Sep 08 as Collapse of Wall Street precedes complete disintegration of system. About those "green jobs".... As one who is convinced that our modern industrialised society cannot last, I, nevertheless find Jan Lundberg's article troubling. It is predicting what even most of the our system's ostensible critics are not prepared to. It is predicting the imminent collapse of industrialised society.
Personally as a 'deep green' environmentalist, I am torn between, on the one hand, wanting our society to endure long enough for there to be a "soft landing" or on the other hand, wishing the terrible toll that industrial society takes on our habitat every hour that it endures, to end.
In the former case, the hope is that all of us, through large scale grass roots political action, will establish more sustainable lifestyles, with stable populations consuming far less of our natural resouces in relocalised economies.
Lundberg's article is focussed on the U.S. for which the prognosis may be grim. However, it fails to take account of the fact that other societies, such as those of continental Europe, particularly the EU, have different land-use planning systems and have not as fully embraced the Friedmanite free market system as has the Anglophone world. Consequently, as just one example, citizens are more likely to be located in smaller towns surrounded by diverse farmland with local markets, on scales which can be negotiated on foot. The U.S., however, is a country of vast incorporated agricultural monocultures and distribution systems that have no direct interface with the people of North America's big cities and sprawling suburbs. Europe, probably in part due to less immigration and emigration, also has better social cohesion, especially at a local level. Note however that countries on the edges of the Continent, like Italy, Greece and Spain, are more porous and/or less cohesive for a variety of reasons. (See for instance, "Italian baby-boom summer" and "Tiny Lampedusa struggles with tide of illegal immigration") As economies, many of the continental European ones stand a better a better chance of coping with with the looming shortage of petroleum as they did in the first oil shock of 1973. So, the collapse that Lundberg is predicting may not spread immediately to all corners of the globe.
In 101 Views of Hubbert's Peak, Sheila Newman in The Final Energy Crisis, 2nd Edition, Pluto UK, 2008, points out that peaceful survival has a greater chance if we slow down depletion. How might we do this? By working less, producing less and using less, writes Ms Newman, citing, among others, Clive Hamilton's Growth Fetish book. She suggests that if workers could take back unions from their corporate alienation, they might then use them to negotiate with government and business for a slower economy.
Jan Lundberg fails to consider this simple restructuring method, although he does actually hope that people will manage to find a way to restructure and survive with less.
If we fail to adapt our society, the human toll across the planet could be in the order of at least a significant fraction of all those alive today, vastly exceeding the combined toll of all the the terrible wars of the 20th century, as I wrote when I first set up this site. It may well prove that the hope for social and economic adaptation was futile and that the longer our industrial society lasts the worse will be the scale and toll of the eventual collapse.
- JS 17 Sep 08.
Collapse of Wall Street precedes complete disintegration of system. About
those "green jobs"...
Do not be distracted by the hysteria of the news-media circus regarding the "credit crunch" and the other names given the process of collapse. The monster under the bed is real, but most of us are hiding under the covers. By embracing our fears we can roll with the changes. At the same time look at who and what are propping up a hopeless, destructive system, and take action. It's not difficult.
The "progressive" or alternative press mostly subscribes to the constant corporate media/government lie that things will get back to "normal." Hope for a good transfusion of fresh blood from a new president is periodically based on misplaced faith in the handmaidens of the status quo, Democrats or Republicans. Regardless of this quandary, we had best understand better the fact of collapse.
A big-picture analysis includes the loss of cheap, abundant energy that cannot be replaced. The news media studiously ignores this while pretending to present real news on energy and the environment. This policy is followed also by the mainstream or Establishment Environmentalists who are paid publicists for the technofix. Some of their work on pointing out problems and brushfires is invaluable, but you don't hear a car-free-lifestyle message from them, and you probably won't -- until that's everyone's only option.
Orion magazine' new interview of James Gustave Speth lets us see how radical Establishment-environmentalism can ever get:
"We're going to grow phenomenally. At the current rates, the world economy will be twice as big as it is today in seventeen years. That carries the potential for enormous additional destruction. The environmental movement has a lot of wonderful things about it, and it's accomplished a lot. But it's not up to this challenge of dealing with this amount of environmental loss and destruction. The fundamental thing that's happened is that our efforts to clean up the environment are being overwhelmed by the sheer increase in the size of the economy. And there's no reason to think that won't continue." [Really? Hello Gus, peak oil? – ed.]
Truthout is a major outlet for news that, like its bigger competitors, does not recognize collapse and refuses to air it. Sans sports and celebrity gossip, Truthout epitomizes the best of the liberal and progressive online press, and is dependable for its convenience and occasional excellent finds. But almost every day Truthout's offerings reflect mainstream assumptions about the continuation of politics, economics and social relationships as we know them. Take this example from their Sept. 15th dispatch regarding the "top news story" (i.e., the Great Collapse, or the historic unraveling): in its article "Big Banks Go Bust: Time to Reform Wall Street" Dean Baker writes,
"With the demise of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, IndyMac, Bear Stearns and now Lehman Brothers, we've been treated to the failure of more major financial firms than during any year since the Great Depression. The sight of rich bankers getting the boot might be lots of fun if it were just a spectator sport. Unfortunately, we are in the game with these clowns."
Mr. Baker, count me out. The clowns are indeed prominent, but the future right up ahead will be different. How different and how soon depends in part on our rejecting untenable and unsustainable institutions and practices destroying us. Mr. Baker wants to "restore sanity to the salaries paid on Wall Street." Oh, that'll save the planet?
We may be wondering if this is really it: general collapse, or a major hiccup for the system resulting in mere recession. Some of us activists privately admit we want collapse now, because it will only be worse the longer it's delayed, and the planet's climate further compromised. We look forward to Humpty Dumpty going all the way down -- not because we like to see anyone suffer, but we see clearly that the continuation of predation on the ecosystem and on exploited humanity have no future except everyone's extinction. Ah, but radical thoughts like this are to be marginalized and hidden from the people, by reformers playing politics.
Here is how the economic landscape will look, with attendant unraveling of the already frayed and twisted social fabric. Let's summarize in terms of (A) coming days and weeks, (B) then perhaps months for the intense phase of collapse, and (C) post collapse:
The coming days and weeks
More bank failures. Government default as well. Revaluing the currency. Shortage of fuel, food and jobs. Otherwise, things are still working as to turning the tap and getting water, throwing the switch and getting electricity, and we see the various officials and cogs in the machine at their posts.
During the buildup to the collapse as seen by price increases, bankruptcies and bailouts, the elite's careful top-down selection of commentators and officials' pronouncements keep assuring us that a recession and a shake-out are possibly underway, but that the economy -- globally corporate and guzzling energy that costs more due to (hush!) depletion -- is of course going to always be with us and eventually rebound. The resumption of growth is a given, like believing in gods in heaven forever.
Height of collapse
"The revolution will be televised" only up to a point. Then the workers at the controls will head for their homes or head for the hills. As Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett told me, studies show that police and firemen bail after fives days of riots and other chaos, to protect their own homes. The height of collapse will be seen, felt and experienced, rather than documented (whether with commercials or thanks extended to the so-and-so foundation).
Overpopulation may be finally considered to be obvious, but what's the difference by then? Die-off will be underway, for the simple reason that petroleum for food production and delivery (and storage, packaging and cooking) has been curtailed for various reasons, chiefly depletion. The violent desperation in the streets and fields may appear to some to just be a breakdown in order. Some loud voices may promise to restore it, but on a national level in the huge U.S. it's not likely.
Post collapse and a new world paradigm
When the dust settles, out of rubble come the survivors. "Hi, remember me, we were neighbors but for some reason never met." The petroleum infrastructure has collapsed, negating the promise of alterative energy across the board. But small, decentralized mini-systems will be jury-rigged, and the bicycles will be traveling and hauling whatever. Food gardens and other essentials will be done through our evolutionary cooperation making a comeback. The family will again be the basis of (previously lost) community. Tribes will form for common defense and solidarity.
What's your tribe? Are you living in an actual community yet? You will be, if you survive collapse. Is it the vague future when you will learn those basic skills your grandparents knew?
When society reconstitutes itself after the Great Collapse, I predict that greed-schemes and domination will be unattractive and seen as anti-social. With lower population the status of the common man and woman is much higher, as history has shown.
What's pointing the way now for a livable future:
Ecovillages, intentional communities, anarchist collectives, Community Supported Agriculture, bicycle culture, animal husbandry, natural building techniques, biochar, sail transport network, and the path of the peaceful spiritual warrior. And more, add away. If you are not a part of these things, or aren't supporting them, then you are definitely part of the problem and will be left behind in today's Consumer Age. Whether the latter is a good or bad memory, we'll see. I'm an optimist.
The way out from capitalism's collapse is two-fold: (1) local-based economics without the growth syndrome. (2) Nature is the way. Nature is local; we cannot be everywhere. Nature is "the real thing," although Coca Cola drummed it into millions of people's heads that just anything can be the "real thing," even a bottle of sugar and other drugs and chemicals in water. Such products, mainly for their plastic packaging, are the enemy of Mother Nature -- this means you. You are Mother Nature. If we can't stop our addictions to soy-milk drink-boxes, who are we fooling that we are hip and green? You may ask, What's a better local drink? Answer: Water, and bring your own cup or make one out of your hand in the stream.
"To build the new economy"?
This is dreamland, perpetrated by those who hold steadfastly to their blinders. The proponents are paid to keep up their sing-song of a promised land. They won't tell you that a single interdependent national or therefore global economy is not only unfeasible, but highly undesirable. Yet, it is believed in by those who do not understand peak oil and those lacking in actual community. They're cut off from their evolutionary life boat.
The Green Jobs Now campaign touts a "green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty." Poverty as defined by what -- not being able to buy corporate products? If people take over some land and make it productive, respecting the existing wild species, they may achieve subsistence and yet be called impoverished. But they are the survivors. The green job that gives you money to buy stuff and services from unaccountable strangers is just more wage slavery, but we are urged to embrace it as if there's nothing else conceivable.
As long as we believe in fairy tales of a new and better America for clean, continued consumption, instead of first dismantling the present system and building true alternatives on a local scale, we are eating BS for breakfast lunch and dinner.
Instead of "greenjobsnow" it would be more accurate to say, "green-job snow job." Is it being framed in a constant growth paradigm? Where will the training be done? What about the fast-disappearing energy to forge the green economy? A critical analysis of the work-force aspects of the green jobs promise is from the San Francisco Bay Guardian newspaper (see link below; note that the head of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights left to head a green jobs center). Green Jobs Now "is a project of Green For All, 1Sky, the We Campaign..." Clearly, green is meant to mean dollar bills' color, as the old expression was.
We need green (natural) living, not green jobs. Why continue to keep capitalism alive, or give away your time? Keep it personal, keep it in the community, and remember that energy is not the thing we most need, but rather the essential things that today are almost always too energy intensive.
Accept the deal right off the shelf
But I have the right to defend myself
(from "I Walk The Earth" -- listen on our website version of this
report to a demo track for the next Depaver Jan eco-song album)
"Greening away poverty: If green is the new black, eco-populism is the new environmentalism" by Vanessa Carr, April 30, 2008:
Gus Speth interview "Change Everything Now - One of the nation's most mainstream environmentalists says it's time to get a lot more radical", by Jeff Goodell, September/October 2008, Orion magazine
"Big Banks Go Bust: Time to Reform Wall Street", Truthout, Sept. 15, 2008, by Dean Baker, The Campaign for America's Future:
Green Jobs Now:
The founder and publisher of Culture Change (http://culturechange.org) is Jan Lundberg, who was a well-known oil-industry analyst when he changed over to nonprofit environmental activism in 1988. His work has since been profiled in The Washington Post, Sun Magazine, Associated Press, and he has broadcast his ideas on CBS Radio Network, the Pacifica Radio Network, NPR, and elsewhere. He is available for presentations and will take public transportation: "Car free for 19 years!"
Snowy CEO should stop using public money to push sell-off
NSW Greens Media Release: 31 July 2008
The CEO of Snowy Hydro has again used his Corporation's resources to push for the sell-off of Australia's largest renewable energy generator, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.
Dr Kaye said: "Snowy Hydro CEO Terry Charlton has should either get on with the business of running a publicly-owned entity or he should resign.
"He lost the privatisation debate in 2006 and there has been no shift in community attitudes since then.
"He refuses to accept the judgment of the people of NSW, local residents and even the NSW government who have ruled out privatisation of Snowy Hydro.
"The latest glossy newsletter, circulated to thousands of Snowy Mountains residents, contains a two page 'Company Vision' from Mr Charlton, #PrivatisationPropaganda">arguing that Snowy must be sold off to generate 'extra capital [it needs] to keep up'.
"He tried a similar trick in the March Newsletter when he threatened the people of the Snowy with the spectre of a degrading publicly-owned asset, isolated in a sea of privatised generators.
"His rhetoric did not work then and it will fail again.
"Mr Charlton's behaviour is outside what people expect from the management of a publicly-owned corporation.
"He has a clear conflict of interest. He would be in the box seat to head a privatised Snowy with a good chance of a much bigger pay packet.
"It is time Mr Charlton decided his future with the Snowy. If he can't make a go of it as a publicly owned entity, he should step aside for someone who can.
"He cannot continue using the Corporation's assets to push his pro-privatisation propaganda after his shareholders have told him that a sell-off is not on the table," Dr Kaye said.
The July edition of Snowy Hydro News is available at: www.snowyhydro.com.au/files/SHLNews_July08.pdf (1.5M)
For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455
#PrivatisationPropaganda" id="PrivatisationPropaganda">Appendix: pro-privatisation propaganda in the Snowy Hydro News of July 2008
In order to demonstrate that the material referred to above by John Kaye were not a careless paragraph or two in the midst of a broader article, we are including it here. The explicit unambiguous pro-privatisation material ocupies one and a half pages of a two page article Company Vision by Terry Charlton CEO & Managing director in a very glossy 12 page magazine.
We may not like privatisation and we may even be ideologically opposed to it in regard to the electricity industry but it has largely already happened across the industry and is not going to be reversed. We may also not like the large energy companies becoming larger and more efficient and we may not like multinational companies owning some Australian businesses but this too has already happened. We may not like the realities of drought, and we might be confronted by the many competing but valid community and economic demands that now limit what can be done quickly for the environment, particularly for our rivers. But there are numerous realities that have to be recognised and accepted. Governments have recognised that they don’t run businesses well and that businesses, such as Snowy Hydro Limited, are best transferred to private sector ownership through either “trade sales” or transformed to publicly listed companies. “Social service” activities such as schools, police, hospitals, basic roads and community infrastructure are, arguably, the province of Governments and rightly so.
understanding and support...
I am very positive that we can achieve our full potential. I am, however, very unhappy about the delayed time frame. The world in which we operate is changing around us and changing fast.
We need extra capital in order to keep up. Our shareholders have indicated they won’t inject extra capital and we can’t expect them to forego dividends forever. The only option is privatisation and I accept this is a shareholder matter.
There is an undeniable truth that given the constraints we confront, we have no better way forward if the vision for the Snowy Scheme, the Snowy Hydro Company and our people is to be fulfilled.
Solutions that promise return to single Government ownership are no solution at all, unless new capital injection is provided, up front along with further capital when the business case justifies it.
Greater borrowings are not prudently possible. Reverting the business to a “water authority” would not sustain existing local employment, nor career growth, nor enable the electricity business to continue to subsidise the water operations and hydrological asset maintenance requirements. Our options are limited indeed… if the vision is to be fulfilled!
I am also often asked about what the local communities can now do to assist Snowy Hydro in securing a long term successful future?
Our response is that we ask for your understanding and support. We want to know that there is a positive community environment and some affirmation that we are doing a good job for all stakeholders. We are in a difficult business at a difficult time. We are doing well against the competitive odds and we are offering a very good working environment. We are supporting our communities. Gone are the days of job insecurity and industrial accidents.
Should options for Snowy Hydro Limited’s future be discussed, and if an option of some form of privatisation of the company, separated from the “icon” dam and tunnel assets, be suggested, if it is not by then too late, we ask that it be positively considered by our communities. Such consideration will include an awareness of the changed and changing realities of our industry and the benefits privatisation of the Company can provide to Snowy Hydro and all its stakeholders.
I have been a researcher for over fifty years. I am used to trying to look into the minds of writers to understand their views of complex operations. I know that even the brightest and most informed people have a limited zone of understanding. And this limitation is more restricted by the difficulty of converting the mental image into the written word. It follows that there is very appreciable uncertainty about what civilization has done to the operation of its life support system, the environment. Many different perspectives are put forward. Often they express opinions without providing the supporting arguments and facts. There is increasing concern amongst informed people about current trends, especially as the gulf between the rich and poor grows rapidly and climate change becomes more noticeable.
I know that any article I may write about the unsustainable nature of the current operations of society would contrast with many others, often seemingly authoritative because of the skill of the writers. I may be able, in my mind, to critically weigh up their selective arguments but that serves little useful purpose. The general view will roll on.
I decided some years ago that in view of my limited zone of understanding, I would concentrate on getting a sound understanding of what civilization has actually done to the environment. I have done that. It is summarized by what I call 'The Dependence on Nature Law'.
I then set out to explain why this sums up what human operations have done. It is quite long because I found it necessary to define many terms I use and to clarify many of the common misunderstandings. It presents some novel perspective that needs thinking through to appreciate. 'What went wrong? The misdirection of civilization' is my attempt to articulate what has happened in a form that the non-technical can understand while showing the scientific basis.
I believe it is unlikely that many will take the trouble to think through the message in 'What went wrong' in the near future. However, I do believe that it does make a major contribution to understanding of what has happened. I do expect that in due course it will be recognized as pioneering a novel view of the impact of civilization on the ecosystem. A view that will help some in society adjust to the decline ahead. I expect that there will be increasing bewilderment as over population, climate change, water supply problems, investment failings, food shortages, petrol price rises, health problems, a long lasting recession, more global conflict and natural disasters combine with other stress factors to dim future prospects. Those who gain the understanding in 'What went wrong' could well contribute to the Earth Revolution that eases the crisis.
17 June 2007
#DependenceOnNatureLaw" id="DependenceOnNatureLaw">The Dependence on Nature Law
The freedom of humans to be creative and innovative is acclaimed - by us. This is the positive side of the uniquely human attribute. There is, however, a negative side that is not generally recognized.
Humans employ a huge range of transient operations they have installed that invariably involve using and abusing natural resources. Each of these operations provides something deemed of value to society during its lifetime. Each of these operations incurs an irrevocable, un-repayable ecological cost. We are irreversibly drawing down on the irreplaceable natural bounty.
I argue in 'What went wrong? The misdirection of civilization' that this Dependence on Nature Law is soundly based but that society generally does not weigh up worth against eco cost realistically. A natural law is the summation of what invariably happens during natural operations. It is therefore appropriate to classify the dependence of the material operations of civilization on what is available from the environment as a natural law. Natural operations are also dependent on what is available but generally they draw down on natural bounty income only. The consequence of society's exuberance is unnecessarily rapid degradation of our life support system, the bounty available from the ecosystem. There are too many people consuming too much of what nature has left to offer and then providing irrevocable waste. This holistic consumption predicament is exacerbated by the demands on the bounty to maintain the aging foundations of civilization. It is made worse by the gluttony of the powerful. The spree is unsustainable. It is a plague coming to its end. Catabolic collapse can only be avoided by a wise power down. Even then, there is the problem of maintaining cultural benefits even as the population declines.
The conventional economic growth paradigm is based on the fallacious argument that the materialistic structure and operations of our civilization can occur without exacerbating this holistic malaise, consumption of the natural bounty. So growth is being fostered even as the available bounty is declining more rapidly. This is an unsustainable double whammy exacerbated by the need to look after the structure of civilization.
The Dependence on Nature Law really does under lay the operation and maintenance of the foundations of our civilization. Appreciation of that fact makes it much easier to understand how it is that current trends are based on false premises, so are unsustainable. It explains what went wrong.
The following is from a larger article, "Peak Oil and the Preservation of Knowledge" by Alice Friedemann (Link to http://www.energybulletin.net/18978.html was broken. Now changed to http://www.energybulletin.net/node/18978 - Ed, 14 Jun 11) from www.energybulletin.net. An abridged version "The fragility of microprocessors" (Link similarly fixed) can be found on the same site. This article refutes the kind of argument frequently put by people who argue against the urgency of taking action to preserve our world's stock of fossil fuels. A typical #comment-38071">example can found in a discussion on Peak Oil on John Quiggin's blog site of November 2005:
Plenty of options exist. Solar and its derivatives (wind, wave, tidal etc) all have good chances and, with some serious work, could answer the problem. If a more immediate need is there, nuclear is already there. For cars, hydrogen is a suitable energy storage mechanism in the medium term and batteries or hybrids will work now. There is no major crisis, nor will there be.
The important thing now is not to panic and start forcing solutions - let the market signals work their way through and sort it out. It has worked in the past and will in the future.
It is often difficult, without the hard facts and sound, such as are to be found in the article below, to refute these kinds of cock-sure assertions that technology, particlarly technology operating in a world in which market forces are unfettered, will solve all of our looming problems of overpopulation and resource scarcity.
Please refer to original document for footnotes.
Published on 7 Jan 2006 by Energy Bulletin.
Replacing fossil fuels with some other energy source
by Alice Friedemann
At one time, the Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROI) for oil was at least 100 to 1.1 We are reaching the point where the EROI of oil will be 1 and no more drilling will take place.17 It was while the EROI of oil was high that most of our current infrastructure was built.
Evidence suggests that the EROI of corn ethanol is less than one, which means it takes more energy to make than you get out of it â€“ an energy sink.
Pimentel and Patzek have shown that it takes twenty seven to fifty seven percent more fossil fuel energy to create ethanol or biodiesel than you get in the energy returned. Worse yet, this is done at a tremendous environmental cost, since biofuel crops harm soil structure and remove the nutrients, deplete groundwater, pollute water with pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides, cause eutrophication of water via nitrogen runoff, increase soil erosion, and contribute to air pollution and global warming at the ethanol plant and when burned in cars.18
Even if the highest claim of a net energy for ethanol of 1.67 were true, a much greater EROI than .67 is needed to run civilization. The 1 in the 1.67 is needed just to make the ethanol. An EROI of .67 has 150 times less energy than oil when we started building American infrastructure.
Charles A. S. Hall, who has been studying net energy for decades, believes that youâ€™d need an EROI of at least 5 to run civilization, because you need to include the energy to make the machines, mitigate environmental damage, feed and house the workers, etc.19
For example, consider a windmill composed of steel and concrete. A windmill farm in the Escalante desert, built to produce 5.55 TWh of power, would require 13.8 million pounds of aluminum, 2.8 trillion pounds of concrete, 639 billion pounds of steel, etc. The wind farm would occupy over 189 square miles.20 Pacca & Horvath donâ€™t give the capacity factor for these windmills, but an often used number is 30% (i.e. wind blows hard enough 30% of the time), so a 5.55 TWh wind farm might serve around 175,000 to 350,000 people, depending on the wind speed and how close people were to the windmills, since power is lost via transmission over long distances.
In 1992 such a wind farm would cost 200 million dollars, which doesnâ€™t include labor and maintenance costs, and would serve less than one percent of the United States population. It would cost over $200,000,000,000 to build enough windmills to generate electrical power for everyone (though of course, you couldnâ€™t, since not all areas have enough wind). With energy prices many times higher now than in 1992, the cost would be far more expensive.
After fossil fuels are gone, the windmills must be able to generate enough energy to maintain themselves and build new windmills, including all of the equipment used to mine the metal and concrete components, forge metal into blades and towers, and build the trucks and roads that enable windmills to be delivered to their sites. Windmill energy must also provide the energy to build and maintain the electric grid and storage battery infrastructure, and all of the people involved in the process. Any extra energy could now be used to run civilization.
Itâ€™s often said that once oil goes to â€œxâ€ dollars a barrel, alternative energy will become economically viable. But this will never happen, because the alternative energy infrastructure is built with fossil-fuel inputs, so alternative energy sources will always cost more than oil. To even talk about energy using dollar figures makes no sense -- you canâ€™t stuff dollar bills down your gas tank.
Energy can be reduced to physics, to the laws of thermodynamics and other rules that the Big Bang bequeathed our universe. Oil has been a free lunch, one that nature spent hundreds of millions of years making, reducing 196,000 pounds of plant matter into one gallon of gasoline â€“ pure, unadulterated solar power that no alternative energy source but fusion could possibly hope to replace.21 Oil is also incredibly easy to use, ship, and store.
The number of scientists who insist that alternative energies can substitute for fossil fuels, and ignore or deny the basic laws of physics and thermodynamics is frightening. Itâ€™s reminiscent of Lysenkoism.