Friday, October 30, 2009

Economic Scenarios for an Age of Declining EROIs

One of the most interesting presentations on the ASPO USA Peak Oil Conference 2009 was delivered by Charlie Hall (ESF) and Hannes Kunz (IIER). This is a short overview of their research.

They suggests that a fundamental change in economic dynamics requires a new approach to macroeconomics. Instead of the traditional "Growth" paradigm their research has lead to a much wider system definition which includes
  • Financial systems (money supply, credit, prices, etc.)
  • Resource systems (energy, human labor, other natural resources)
  • Global flows of goods, energy and funds (exports, imports, balances)
  • Population development
The New Paradigm: Decline is as much part of a human ecosystem as is growth

Energy and GDP

Economic Scenarios for an Age of Declining EROIs describes consistent correlations of Energy use and GDP:

GDP$ per Energy Unit Consumed is defined as Total Global GDP (in US$ PPP) divided by the sum of Human Labor and External Primary Energy Inputs.

Primary Energy inputs and economic output are highly correlated, even before eliminating distortions from globalization. Mining, agricultural inputs, raw materials and manufacturing contain a significant amount of “energy accounted for elsewhere”, which is not included in traditional energy efficiency reviews. Most differences can be explained from energy transfers from industrial processes. The result is a rough average of 133 US$ purchasing power parity of GDP produced per GJ of energy input.

The first conclusion of the presentation is that most of our increased “productivity” comes from replacing human labor with fuel and machinery. The “productivity increase” leads to immediate gains for an economy and rising standards of living.

The Energy Squeeze-Out

Over the past decades, our fossil energy sources have become less efficient. Independent of the arrival of “Peak Oil”, increasing amounts of upfront energy are required to explore the next new units of energy. The concept of EROI (Energy Return on (Energy) Investment) describes this as: Energy Units Gained from one Energy Unit Used.

A change of EROIs from 80:1 to 20:1 (current estimate for global oil production) equals a “salary increase” of physical work from oil by a factor of almost 4, significantly reducing benefits to our economy. Higher energy cost quickly reverses previous gains from increased “productivity”.

Looking at EROIs and expected changes shows significant trouble ahead. Transportation will be highly affected by declining EROIs (and thus higher cost). The highest impact however will be seen in agricultural production.

High contribution of energy to food production (4-5% of global non-renewable energy consumption goes into food); in OECD countries, another 10-15% is used for processing and transporting food. With rising energy prices, farming and food processing will have to reduce input and thus output directly with higher fuel prices (less fertilizer equals less crop). Food prices will still rise both due to shortages and higher production cost and squeeze out poorer countries.

Lower EROIs will start squeezing out low-efficiency applications of energy. A significant number of industrial transportation and production chains will become unmanageable.
  • Cost of commodity transportation becomes significant
  • Global arbitrage of labor cost for low-cost/high-volume goods will become unattractive over long distances
  • A substantial portion of global trade (the lower cost bracket) will be unattractive
  • Food production and processing will no longer work on todays levels, with more local food and less processing
  • Results might be very different compared to most people’s expectations
Download the full presentation in pdf to learn more.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Export Land Model Predicts Rapid Oil Decline

The Export Land Model (ELM) presented in these slides at ASPO Denver by Jeffrey J. Brown, Samuel Foucher, PhD, Jorge Silveus predicts rapidly declining net oil exports:

Three Primary Factors That Control Net Export Declines
  • Consumption as a percentage of production at final production peak
  • Rate of change in production
  • Rate of change in consumption

Three Primary Characteristics of Net Export Declines:
  • The net export decline rate tends to exceed the production decline rate
  • The net export decline rate tends to accelerate with time
  • Net export declines tend to be “Front-end loaded,” with the bulk of post-peak net exports being shipped early in the decline phase
Check out the full presentation on the Export Land Model and the other proceedings of ASPO2009 here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How food shapes our cities

Every day, in a city the size of London, 30 million meals are served. But where does all the food come from? In this new TED video Architect Carolyn Steel discusses the daily miracle of feeding a city, and shows how ancient food routes shaped the modern world.

Food is a shared necessity -- but also a shared way of thinking, argues Carolyn Steel. Looking at food networks offers an unusual and illuminating way to explore how cities evolved.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Top Ten Things to Know about Oil Supply

A new Global Witness Report - Heads in the Sand: Governments Ignore the Oil Supply Crunch and Threaten the Climate

The report argues that governments have failed to acknowledge a looming oil supply crunch. Their collective failure means we have lost a decade in which action could have been taken. Recognition of the oil supply crunch would also have injected a sense of urgency and increased ambition into climate change negotiations.

Rising demand and falling supply means a growing gap: ten things you ought to know about oil supply

Many of these facts have been staring us in the face for some time. In some cases, they have been obvious for decades, and yet depressingly, they seem not to have been acted upon. When taken together, the sheer scale of the imminent oil supply crunch, and the extent of missed opportunity and failed leadership become apparent.
  1. 1965 was the year in which the largest volume of oil was discovered. Since then, the trend in the number and average size of discoveries has been in decline.
  2. In 1984 global conventional crude oil production exceeded the volume discovered, and the gap has continued to increase since then
  3. In 2007, just over half the world’s crude oil production came from 110 oil fields, with approximately one quarter from just 13 fields. There are 70,000 smaller oil fields which account for just under half of the world’s conventional crude oil production
  4. By 2007, out of the world’s 20 largest producing oil fields, 17 were over 40 years old. The volume of oil production from 16 of this group of 20 largest fields was below their historical maximum
  5. The rate of decline in oilfields can be rapid. By 2007 the average post-peak production rate of decline was 6.7% per year
  6. Between 2005 and 2008 conventional oil production ceased to grow, despite massive investment, increasing demand and prices. This failure to increase conventional oil production, despite all the right incentives, is unprecedented in the history of the oil industry.
  7. By 2015, the IEA projected a potential 7m bpd gap between supply and demand.8 A gap of this size represents 7.7% of projected world demand of 91m bpd (barrels per day) in 2015.9 It is also the equivalent to over 60% of China’s projected demand, and 39% of that of the USA
  8. Between 2008 and 2020, the IEA projects conventional crude oil production from existing fields to drop by almost 50%
  9. To provide for its forecast demand for oil in 2030, the IEA stated that the world would require “Some 64 mb/d [million barrels per day] of additional gross capacity – the equivalent of almost six times that of Saudi Arabia today – needs to be brought on stream between 2007 and 2030.”
  10. As if replacement of lost volumes of oil was not a big enough problem, the ratio of units of energy input required to produce each unit of energy output (EROI) from oil is also decreasing. In the USA for example, EROI has shrunk from approximately 100:1 in the 1930s to 14:1 today. Estimates for the EROI of tar sands production vary between 10:1 (a very optimistic figure) and 2:1. This means that, in energy content terms, each new barrel of oil is worth less than its predecessors.
Recommendations of the report

The priority recommendation is the need for international recognition of the underlying fundamental problems that equate to an imminent oil supply crunch. It is hard to see how effective solutions can be developed until there is widespread
recognition of the problem.
  • Governments and appropriate multilateral agencies should publicly recognise the imminence of an oil supply crunch.
  • Governments must act urgently to fast-track the development and the building of a sustainable set of safe energy provision systems and implement energy conservation measures.
  • To that end, and as a matter of national security, global leaders should commit to dialogue about energy both within and between countries at the highest level.
  • Transparency is required for global petroleum reserves and exploration data, on a field-by-field basis. This transparency should be extended to other key primary energy sources, such as gas, uranium and coal.
  • Promising technologies must receive sufficient investment as a matter of priority; reliance only on market solutions is insufficient. These should then be rolled out to achieve economy-of-scale price reductions.
  • The Copenhagen targets need to reflect a precautionary approach based on up-to-date scientific evidence and findings.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

International Day of Climate Action

Today, on 24 October, people in 181 countries are coming together for the most widespread day of environmental action in the planet's history. At over 5200 events around the world, people are gathering to call for strong action and bold leadership on the climate crisis. is coordinating a distributed day of events for 24 October, uniting the world around a common call to climate action.

From seabeds to mountaintops, people around the world were staging a day of demonstrations Saturday to call for urgent action on climate change.

The events were being coordinated by a group called, whose name refers to the parts per million of carbon dioxide it considers the safe upper limit for our atmosphere.

The group said it wants to "inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis" ahead of the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Community Resilience Toolkit

If your neighborhood association, church organization, city planning office, or community-based organization is interested in building a more resilient community, the Community Resilience Toolkit by Bay Localize is for you.

The Bay Localize Community Resilience Toolkit guides groups in leading workshops to plan for resilience in their communities while decreasing reliance on fossil fuels. It is designed for community groups that would like to get involved in making a difference in their neighborhood, city, or county. The Toolkit offers Bay Area-specific resources and action ideas in six key sectors: food, water, energy, transportation and housing, jobs and economy, and civic services.

Why Resilience?

We live in interesting times, with far-reaching tangible impacts on our communities. Many Bay Area communities struggle to meet their basic needs even in the best of times. Now we are facing three additional major threats to our well-being:
  • Economic downturn has led to high levels of job loss and foreclosures. With lower tax revenue cities and counties are cutting back services, just when more people need a social safety net.
  • Climate change will directly impact communities in the Bay Area as well as throughout the world. Our region will face rising sea levels (a danger if you live or work near the Bay), heat waves, decreased air quality, and long-term decreased availability of water and food. Impacts in other parts of the world are likely to be catastrophic due to widespread hurricanes, flooding, drought, and famine. We need to do all we can do decrease greenhouse gas emissions that make climate change worse.
  • Peak oil means that we are nearing or have already passed the point at which we have used the majority of easily accessible oil in the world. As the global economy is so reliant on oil, rising oil prices makes everything else more expensive. Increased oil prices are predicted to spur higher inflation, economic contraction, growing unemployment, increased poverty, and increased violence at home and around the world.
We need creative ways to make sure our communities can meet the basic human needs of all residents, while reducing reliance on fossil fuels and protecting the health of our environment for our children. This is especially true for communities that are already struggling. In order to meet the human needs of all in our communities, we need to examine and change patterns of power and distribution of resources that contribute to inequities in our society.

Fortunately, we already have local resources to face these challenges in our communities. These assets include our knowledge and creativity, relationships, institutions, infrastructure, and natural resources. We can nurture, grow, and connect these resources in creative ways to make our communities strong and resilient enough to weather these challenges.

The Community Resilience Toolkit is available free of charge for registered users.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ofgem: Project Discovery - Energy Market Scenarios Report

Project Discovery is Ofgem’s investigation into whether or not future security of supply can be delivered by the existing market arrangements over the coming decade.

Eearly 2009 Ofgem launched Project Discovery with the objective of examining the prospects for secure and sustainable energy supplies over the next 10-15 years. This investigation is wide ranging and uses scenario analysis to put the debate regarding UK energy in the wider global and environmental context. The purpose of the Project Discovery: Energy Market Scenarios report is to consult across all stakeholders on these scenarios.

Ofgem has drawn up four scenarios for the next decade and beyond. Each scenario shows that energy supplies can be maintained, but the analysis exposes real risks to supplies, potential price rises and varying carbon impacts.

Retirements of older nuclear plant and closures of coal and oil plant by the end of 2015 under European environmental legislation could pose a threat to security of supply. Increasing gas import dependency could be exacerbated by growth in gas-fired power generation. Significant changes in the way in which we generate and consume power may be needed to manage the variability associated with increasing reliance on wind power.

High levels of investment are likely to be needed to secure energy supplies and meet carbon targets – up to £200 billion may be required over the next 10-15 years. This would more than double the recent rate of investment.

Consumer bills rise in all scenarios due to the levels of new investment required and increasing costs of carbon, and especially so if oil and gas spot prices spike sharply or continue their underlying rise since 2003. Existing regulatory and market arrangement may well be seriously tested.

Project Discovery team is currently conducting an assessment of these arrangements given the challenges that they have identified, and are considering what policy responses may be required.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Energy Literacy: Power to Choose is a new website to accompany a new book “Power to Choose” by the two bloggers here, Saul Griffith, and Jim McBride, of
You hear about climate change.
You hear about energy independence.
You might have thought about your carbon footprint.
Even used an on-line tool like to measure it.

You hear about people’s “Energy Plans.”

But how do you fit in? How does the rest of the world fit in? You should have questions like: “how do we solve the climate problem and the energy challenge at the same time?”
“Are the proposed solutions I’m hearing about good enough and ambitious enough to avoid the worst aspects of climate change?”

In order to think about these questions for yourself it’s useful to have a framework for thinking about climate, carbon, energy, and their complex and fascinating relationships.

We have found that the framework we built here to understand the problem for ourselves is useful to people because it allows us to see ourselves, the individuals, in the larger global perspective. Hopefully this will give you a logical approach to make the right personal choices, and to lobby for the right energy and climate plans from your government and the corporations you patronize. has interesting posts on our energy future such as:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Crude Oil Price Above $75 at Record High

Crude rises after data show big drop in gasoline inventories

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Crude oil and gasoline futures rose Thursday after government data showed a surprisingly big drop in gasoline inventories as refineries cut production to the lowest level in more than a year.

Gasoline inventories fell by 5.2 million barrels in the week ended Oct. 9, the Energy Information Administration reported. Analysts polled by Platts had expected a modest build-up. Gasoline production fell to 8.45 million barrels a day last week, the lowest level since last September.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude oil for November delivery rose 66 cents, or 0.9%, to $75.84 a barrel, after rising to a new one-year high of $76.27. November reformulated gasoline rose 3.85 cents, or 2.1%, to $1.8961 a gallon.

In the weekly update, the EIA also reported a build-up of 400,000 barrels in crude inventories.

Refineries used less crude oil in their fuel production, with crude input down 510,000 barrels a day from a week ago. That put refinery utilization rate at 80.9%, the lowest level since April.

Crude imports fell 367,000 barrels from a week ago. Inventories at Cushing, Okla., the delivery point for Nymex crude futures, rose 400,000 barrels to 25.5 million.

Distillate inventories, which include diesel and heating oil fell 1.1 million barrels.

The EIA data also showed petroleum demand still remained week in the biggest consuming country, with gasoline demand falling to 9.26 million barrels a day, down slightly from a week ago.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Global Oil Depletion Report 2009

What evidence is there to support the proposition that the global supply of 'conventional oil' will be constrained by physical depletion before 2030?

The 'peak oil' debate is polarised, contentious and characterised by competing interpretations of the available data.

A growing number of commentators are forecasting a near-term peak in global oil production with potentially serious economic impacts. Others, however, argue that production will be sufficient to meet rising demand well into the 21st century.

The UK Energy Research Centre is the focal point for UK research on sustainable energy. It takes an independent, whole-systems approach, drawing on engineering, economics and the physical, environmental and social sciences. Their new report on Global Oil Depletion, a review of over 500 studies, analysis of industry databases and comparison of global supply forecasts, seeks to bring some clarity to this debate.

The report finds:
  • Despite large uncertainties in the available data, sufficient information is available to allow the status and risk of global oil depletion to be adequately assessed. But the available methodologies can frequently lead to underestimates of resource size and overly pessimistic forecasts of future supply
  • The rate of decline of production is accelerating. More than two thirds of existing capacity may need to be replaced by 2030 solely to prevent production from falling
  • While large resources of conventional oil may be available, these are unlikely to be accessed quickly and may make little difference to the timing of the global peak
  • A peak in conventional oil production before 2030 appears likely and there is a significant risk of a peak before 2020. Given the lead times required to both develop substitute fuels and improve energy efficiency, this risk needs to be given serious consideration
Energy 2050

UKERC's another report, Energy 2050, addresses two of the Government's toughest energy policy goals – delivering reliable energy to consumers while meeting its legal commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050.

Since 2006, researchers at UKERC have been working together on an ambitious project assessing how the UK can move to a resilient (‘secure’) and low-carbon energy system over the period to 2050. The Energy 2050 report synthesises the project findings. A more extended account of the project will be published in book form in early 2010.

The Energy 2050 project brought together a wide range of researchers coming from several disciplines to address a common problem, exploring all dimensions of the possible development of the UK energy system through to 2050. A common set of scenarios was used, making it possible to relate the different elements of the project to each other. While the project relied heavily on scenarios and modelling, it also placed great emphasis on the underlying policy and research questions and the conclusions and implications for action. This report focuses on
these aspects of the work, in order to make it more relevant to policy makers and a wider readership. Technical detail is kept to a minimum but is available in the full Research Reports that were produced by the various work streams of the project. These are being made available on the UKERC website.

Monday, October 12, 2009

ASPO 2009 International Peak Oil Conference

It’s been a tumultuous year for the price of oil and the worldwide economy in general. While the signature issue of oil depletion has faded from the headlines, and demand dropped due to economic malaise, the bottom line remains unchanged: our world may be at, or very close to, peak oil production. What are the next steps for the industry and for peak oil advocates?

Marshalling the expertise of key financial analysts, international oil industry executives, and peak oil observers, the 5th annual ASPO-USA 2009 International Peak Oil Conference in Denver presents three days of information-packed events plus a Saturday pre-event workshop designed to stimulate discussion amongst a wide audience of people in business, public policy, and anyone concerned with resource supply issues.

Confirmed speakers include:
  • Mr. Kjell Aleklett, Uppsala University, Sweden
  • Mr. Terry Backer, State of Connecticut
  • Dr. Albert Bartlett, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Mr. Arthur E Berman, Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.
  • Dr. Jason Bradford, Vital Farmland LP
  • Mr. Jeffrey J Brown, Independent Petroleum Geologist
  • Dr. Susan Capalbo, Oregon State University
  • Mr. Dave Cohen, ASPO-USA
  • Mr. Peter A Dea, Cirque Resources LP
  • Mr. Jeffrey S Dunn, Southern California Association of Governments
  • Mr. Ken Eklund, Writerguy
  • Ms. RoseAnne Franco, PFC Energy
  • Mr. Jeremy J Gilbert, Barrelmore Ltd
  • Mr. Daniel Gomez, President of ASPO Spain
  • Mr. Nate Hagens, University Of Vermont, Editor of The Oil Drum
  • Mr. Jim Hansen, Ravenna Capital Management
  • Mr. Richard Heinberg, Post Carbon Institute
  • Mayor John Hickenlooper, Denver, Colorado
  • Dr. Robert Hirsch, MISI
  • Mr. Eric Janszen, iTulip, Inc.
  • Mr. Byron W King, Agora Financial, LLC
  • Dr. Tom Konrad,
  • Mr. Steven Kopits, Douglas Westwood LLC
  • Mr. Rembrandt Koppelaar , The Oil Drum
  • Mr. Hannes Kunz, IIER, Zurich
  • Dr. Chuck Kutscher, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
  • Hon. Richard D Lamm, University of Denver
  • Mr. Ray Leonard, Hyperdynamics Corporation
  • Dr. Feng Lianyong, School of Business Administration in the China University of Petroleum, Beijing(CUPB)
  • Mr. Peter Maass, The New York Times Magazine
  • Ms. Lisa Margonelli, New America Foundation
  • Dr. Chris Martenson, Creator, "The Crash Course"
  • Dr. Brian Maschhoff, The Oil Drum
  • Dr. Vincent Matthews, Colorado Geological Survey
  • Dr. Marcio R Mello, HRT Petroleum
  • Mr. Rick Munroe, National Farmers Union of Canada
  • Mr. David J Murphy, The Oil Drum, EROI Institute, SUNY-ESF
  • Mr. Pat Murphy, Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions
  • Mr. Thomas A Petrie, Merrill Lynch
  • Mr. Kevin Phillips, Commentator and Author of Bad Money
  • Mr. Scott Pugh, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Mr. Simon Ratcliffe, Department for International Development
  • Governor Bill Ritter, State of Colorado
  • Mr. Adam Robinson, RBS Sempra Commodities
  • Mr. Mike Rodgers, PFC Energy
  • Mr. Carlos Rossi, Venezuelan Hydrocarbon Association (AVHI)
  • Dr. Kyle Saunders, Colorado State University
  • Dr. Paul Sears, Natural Resources Canada
  • Mr. David Shields, Pemex: The Oil Reform
  • Mr. Matt Simmons, Simmons & Co. International
  • Mr. Chris Skrebowski, Energy Institute, London
  • Mr. Bengt Soderbergh, Global Energy Systems
  • Mr. Allen Stevens, Stifel-Nicolaus
  • Mr. John Theobald, University of California, Davis
  • Ms. Gail E Tverberg, The Oil Drum
  • Mr. Randy Udall, ASPO-USA
  • Mr. Jeff Vail, Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP
  • Ms. Heidi VanGenderen, Worldwatch Institute
  • Mr. Richard Vodra, Spire Investment Partners
  • Mr. David Wann, Affluenza; Superbia
  • Mr. Edward Warner, Expedition Oil Company
  • Dr. Michael Webber, University of Texas, Austin
  • Mr. Steve Andrews, ASPO-USA
  • Mr. David L Bowden, ASPO-USA
  • Mrs. Debbie Cook, City of Huntington Beach
  • Mr. Dick Lawrence, ASPO-USA co-founder and Board member
  • Ms. Sally Odland, ASPO-USA Advisory Board

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Agriculture’s Challenge: Feeding and Fueling a Growing World

Farm Foundation's 30-Year Challenge Policy Competition

An essay that argues for a principle-based, rather than a program-based approach to public policy development has been selected as the top entry in Farm Foundation’s 30-Year Challenge Policy Competition.

The competition sought innovative and promising public policy options to address the agriculture and food system challenges outlined in Farm Foundation’s report, The 30-Year Challenge: Agriculture’s Strategic Role in Feeding and Fueling a Growing World.

"We encourage public and private decision makers to review these policy proposals and consider the concepts in light of challenges facing agriculture and the food system," Conklin added.

Released in December 2008, the Foundation’s 30-Year Challenge report identifies six major areas of challenges agriculture will face as it works to provide food, feed, fiber and fuel to a growing world. The six areas are: global financial markets and recession; global food security; global energy security; climate change; competition for natural resources; and global economic development. The report highlights key issues public and private decision makers may need to consider as they confront the challenges of feeding a growing world. The 30-Year Challenge project was not conceived to recommend specific approaches but rather to foster understanding of the challenges ahead and potential options to address those challenges.

The seven winning entries—two entries shared the prize in the challenge category of climate change—are:
  • Global Food Security
    Jean-Phillippe Gervais of North Carolina State University: Moving Agricultural Trade Liberalization Forward to Improve Global Food Security
  • Global Energy Security
    Chad Hellwinckel and Daniel De La Torre Ugarte, both of the University of Tennessee: Peak Oil and the Necessity of Transitioning to Regenerative Agriculture

    The world faces profound long-term resource challenges in providing food and materials derived from agriculture over the next 30 to 50 years. This paper argues that the continuous and highly linear expansion of resources used in agriculture, based on fossil energy and related materials, may not provide an adequate or acceptable growth path in the long term. The proposal is to carefully re-examine alternatives involving lower fossil energy use, nutrient and energy sourcing from plant and animal sources, and pest control from crop rotations and agronomic practices. This paper challenges public institutions to explore and educate the public on innovative alternatives in farming systems, rather than relying exclusively on the growing chemical input approaches of the last few decades.
  • Climate Change – Two Shared Winners
    Loni Kemp, Kemp Consulting: Greener Biofuels Tax Credits: A Policy to Drive Multiple Goals
    Tristin Brown, Dermont Hayes and Robert Brown, all of Iowa State University: The Embedded Carbon Valuation System: A Policy Concept to Address Climate Change
  • Competition for Natural Resources
    Dean Lemke and Shawn Richmond, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship: Iowa Drainage and Wetlands Landscape Systems Initiative
  • Global Economic Development
    Gregory Vaughan: Integrated Policies for an Agricultural Revolution in the Sahel

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

WattzOn: Climate Change, Recalculated

On January 16, 2009, Saul Griffith of gave a talk at the Long Now Foundation . It was a long discussion that placed our personal lifestyles in the context of climate change and global energy production. A lot of people have requested the slides, here are the latest.

Saul examines his personal impact on climate change based on his energy use. He tells us how he changed his to low energy lifestyle from 17 kW in 2007 to less than 2300 Watts in 2010.

What's on?

WattzOn is a free online tool to quantify, track, compare and understand the total amount of energy needed to support all of the facets of your lifestyle with the goal of helping you find ways to reduce your personal power consumption.

It is becoming clear that our lifestyles have become unsustainable and that fossil fuel scarcity and global climate change are threatening to cause great economic and environmental damage to the world. Any solution to this problem will need to include a collective effort by all of us to reduce the amount of energy we are using in our lives.

With WattzOn's profile builder, you can easily get started in answering these questions. By examining a few key areas of energy use, the profile builder lets you know the baseline power (in watts) that your lifestyle currently requires. If you choose to sign up, you can then save this information, see how your impact compares to others', run visualizations showing the magnitude of your energy needs, and to join our community discussions. Through Wikipedia-like data editing, WattzOn is looking to people to enter data from their own experiences to help us all understand how we use energy in our lives.

Why watts?

A watt is a unit of power that indicates the rate at which you are using energy. For WattzOn, we normalize all of your profile answers (say, flights per year or miles driven per week) down to the second, so that you can see the average power that you are using in every moment of your life.

We chose watts because we want to change the conversation on personal accountability in climate change away from the common "carbon footprint" and towards collective energy reduction. Measuring in power rather than carbon emissions recognizes that it will not be possible to support our current lifestyles with any energy technology that we could implement in the near future - our needs are not sustainable. While there certainly needs to be a reduction of fossil fuel reliance by increasing alternative energy infrastructure, energy reduction will need to be part of any solution to this global challenge.

Learn more about the philosophy behind WattzOn (or check out this shorter version from the O'Reilly 2008 Web 2.0 Summit), and in this video presentation.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Peak Oil Preparation Wiki

The purpose of the Peak Oil Preparation wiki is to examine the ramifications of several possible post peak oil scenarios, as well collect and synthesize information relevant to peak oil preparation for both individuals and groups/organizations. Much of this information has been scattered in different places, including peak oil related email groups, websites and books. A wiki allows for massive collaboration and ease of adding new materials to keep the information updated.

The wiki was created very recently, so the outline is mostly an empty skeleton of topics. Please help and "give back to the web" by contributing. It will be a growing resource where you can archive relevant information you have collected. And, as more people contribute, it will become a more valuable resource over time.

  • 1 What is "Peak Oil?" And why do I need to prepare for it?
    • 1.1 Possible post peak oil scenarios
      • 1.1.1 1. Scientific energy breakthrough / "technofix"
      • 1.1.2 2. Long oil production plateau and increasing reliance of renewable energy
      • 1.1.3 3. Gradual economic decline
      • 1.1.4 4. Fast economic crash
      • 1.1.5 5. Collapse of civilization
      • 1.1.6 Why predicting the future is very difficult
    • 1.2 Risk management strategies
  • 2 How to contribute to this wiki
    • 3.1 Transportation
      • 3.1.1 Less use of air transportation
      • 3.1.2 More use of trains
      • 3.1.3 More use of ships
    • 3.2 The economy
    • 3.3 Retreat from globalization -- re-localization
    • 3.4 Higher cost of food
    • 3.5 Resource conflicts and wars
    • 3.6 Changes in family relationships
    • 3.7 Recycling
    • 3.8 Changes in education
    • 3.9 Changes in employment and careers
      • 4.2.1 Overview
      • 4.2.2 Phone, voice and text-messaging
      • 4.2.3 Internet
      • 4.2.4 CB Radio
      • 4.2.5 Short-wave Radio
    • 4.3 EDUCATION
      • 4.3.1 Overview
      • 4.3.2 Recommended self-sufficiency books
      • 4.4.1 Overview
      • 4.4.2 Electrical Generation
        • Solar PV
        • Gasoline generators
        • Windmills
        • Watermills
      • 4.4.3 Lighting
      • 4.4.4 Liquid Fuels
        • Making biodiesel
    • 4.5 FINANCIAL
      • 4.5.1 Overview
      • 4.5.2 Employment
        • Careers Post-Peak
        • Banking
      • 4.5.3 Investing
    • 4.6 FOOD
      • 4.6.1 Overview
      • 4.6.2 Growing food / gardening
      • 4.6.3 Food preparation / cooking
      • 4.6.4 Food storage
        • Food Dehydration
        • Food Canning
    • 4.7 HEALTH and MEDICAL
      • 4.7.1 Overview
      • 4.7.2 Prescription drugs
      • 4.7.3 First Aid Supplies
    • 4.8 HOUSING
      • 4.8.1 Overview
      • 4.8.2 Making decisions about relocating
        • Possible relocation areas
      • 4.8.3 Heating
      • 4.8.4 Cooling
      • 4.8.5 Fire fighting and prevention
      • 4.8.6 Home security
      • 4.8.7 Income from renting out rooms / Rental properties
      • 4.8.8 Family or group multiple-unit "compounds"
      • 4.8.9 Cohousing communities
      • 4.8.10 Eco-villages
      • 4.8.11 Emergency "Bugging Out" Preparations and Locations
    • 4.12 RECREATION
    • 4.13 SANITATION
      • 4.13.1 Overview
      • 4.13.2 Temporary emergency toilets
      • 4.13.3 Composting of human waste
      • 4.13.4 Showering
      • 4.17.1 Overview
      • 4.17.2 Bicycles
      • 4.17.3 Autos
      • 4.17.4 Public transportation
      • 4.17.5 Trains
      • 4.17.6 Boats / ships
      • 4.17.7 Air transportation
    • 4.18 WATER
      • 4.18.1 Overview
      • 4.18.2 Water purification
      • 4.18.3 Water collection and storage
      • 4.18.4 Water wells
      • 4.18.5 Hot Water: Solar Heating / Gas Heaters / etc.
    • 6.1 Overview
    • 6.2 Individual Proprietors
    • 6.3 Small Business
    • 6.4 Medium / Large Businesses
    • 6.5 Schools
    • 6.6 Colleges / Universities
    • 6.7 Hospitals and Health Care Organizations
    • 7.1 Overview
    • 7.2 Tax incentives for renewable energy
    • 7.3 Carbon taxes
    • 7.4 Carbon trading
    • 7.5 Government investments in basic renewable energy research
    • 8.1 Overview
    • 8.2 The Oil Depletion Protocol

Friday, October 2, 2009

Physical Limits to Large Scale Global Biomass Generation for Replacing Fossil Fuels

This is an extract of an interesting analysis from 2006 by Helmut Burkhardt, Professor of Physics Emeritus at the Ryerson University, Toronto.

In a coarse grain global analysis the average total power used by humans is given, and compared with total solar insolation on land. The theoretically possible, and the actual overall efficiency of the conversion of solar energy by technical and biological means is determined. The resulting limitations of biomass energy for replacing fossil fuels are considered. Other problems of energy farming are analyzed. Conclusions are drawn, and future energy policies are recommended.


There is a world wide trend to switch from fossil fuels to biomass energy. While it may be useful to use biomass waste and energy farming in some locations, the large scale use of biomass to replace of fossil fuels is problematic and needs careful analysis. The first question is to see what the energy needs of humankind are.

Average Total Power Consumption

Humankind’s total primary energy consumption is some 470 EJ/a, which translates into an average total power of some 15 TW. With a world population of 6.5 billion people, we get for the average total power use is at present 2.3 kW per person.

The power consumption by sector is approximately 33% of total power for each, industry and commerce, households, and transportation; in per capita terms, the average world citizen consumes 800 W for each sector: transport, production/trade, and transportation.

Electricity is practical in many applications, and hence an essential part of total power in each sector. The average electric power used is according to the US Energy Information Administration: global average 300 W/person, in Canada 2000 W/person, and in Niger 2 W/person.

The composition of the world’s primary energy in approximate (somewhat outdated) numbers:
  • Oil 36% 5.4 TW 830 W/person
  • Coal 23% 3.9 TW 630 W/person
  • Natural gas 20% 3.0 TW 460 W/person
  • Nuclear 7% 1.1TW 160 W/person
  • Hydro 2% 0.3 TW 46 W/person
  • Biomass and wastes 11% 1.7 TW 254 W/person
  • Solar wind geothermal 1% 0.1 TW 15 W/person
Fossil fuels supply at present the bulk of world energy; as their availability is limited, and as their use contributes to global warming, they need to be replaced. Nuclear energy has problems of its own, and should also be replaced by more benign technology based on solar energy.


The replacement of fossil fuels and nuclear energy in the present world energy system by direct technical conversion of solar energy requires some 30 m2/person of solar collectors, and is technically feasible. Due to the lower efficiency of biological collection of solar energy the land area needed for bulk replacement of fossil and nuclear energy is 4000 m2/person; this is not feasible due to several reasons. There is a global shortage of biologically productive land, water, and fertilizer; furthermore, energy farming is in direct competition with food production, and contributes to further reduction of biodiversity in the Earth’s ecosystem.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Energy Revolution - A Sustainable Global Energy Outlook

The energy [r]evolution is an independently produced report that provides a practical blueprint for how to half global CO2 emissions, while allowing for an increase in energy consumption by 2050. By dividing the world into 10 regions, with a global summary, it explains how existing energy technologies can be applied in more efficient ways. It demonstrates how a ‘business as usual’ scenario, based on IEA’s World Energy Outlook projections, is not an option for environmental, economic and security of supply reasons.

The timing of this report is crucial. Within the coming years, decisions will be made to replace the generating capacity of the existing old power infrastructure in the OECD countries. Developing countries such as China, India and Brazil are rapidly constructing their energy infrastructure to service their economic growth.

Because renewable energy has no fuel costs, the total fuel cost savings in the Energy [R]evolution Scenario reach a total of $18.7 trillion, or $ 750 billion per year. A comparison between the extra fuel costs associated with the Reference Scenario and the extra investment costs of the Energy [R]evolution version shows that the average annual additional fuel costs are about five times higher than the additional investment requirements of the alternative scenario. In fact, the additional costs for coal fuel from today until the year 2030 are as high as $ 15.9 trillion: this would cover the entire investment in renewable and cogeneration capacity required to implement the Energy [R]evolution Scenario. These renewable energy sources will produce electricity without any further fuel costs beyond 2030, while the costs for coal and gas will continue to be a burden on national economies.

To make the energy [r]evolution real and to avoid dangerous climate change, Greenpeace and EREC demand for the energy sector that the following policies and actions are implemented:
  1. Phase out all subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
  2. Internalise the external (social and environmental) costs of energy production through “cap and trade” emissions trading.
  3. Mandate strict efficiency standards for all energy consuming appliances, buildings and vehicles.
  4. Establish legally binding targets for renewable energy and combined heat and power generation.
  5. Reform the electricity markets by guaranteeing priority access to the grid for renewable power generators.
  6. Provide defined and stable returns for investors, for example by feed-in tariff programmes.
  7. Implement better labelling and disclosure mechanisms to provide more environmental product information.
  8. Increase research and development budgets for renewable energy and energy efficiency.