Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Best of The Oil Drum 2005-2010

During the past 5 years ToD have had a continuing stream of energy-related content. In the busiest of times, with a staff of over 20 volunteers, ToD were posting two articles or analyses per day. Oft times 50-60 hours of work (or more) on a post resulted in only 12 hours live on the main page.Here is a list containing, in the opinion of each author, the 'Best of The Oil Drum' from the past 5 years. The meta-list is in alphabetical order, by author last name. Much if not most of this material is still highly relevant today. If you are interested in learning about energy and society, please consider bookmarking this archive as a resource.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The End of Growth by Richard Heinberg

Excerpt from MuseLetter #222 / November 2010 by Richard Heinberg

Download printable PDF version here (PDF, 132 KB)

This is the second Museletter containing an excerpt from the upcoming book which has the working title 'The End of Growth'. The book is set for publication in July 2011.

The End of Growth

Introduction: The New Normal

The central assertion of this book is both simple and startling: Economic growth as we have known it is over and done with.

The “growth” we are talking about consists of the expansion of the overall size of the economy (with more people being served and more money changing hands) and of the quantities of energy and material goods flowing through it.

The economic crisis that began in 2007-2008 was both foreseeable and inevitable, and it marks a permanent, fundamental break from past decades—a period during which most economists adopted the unrealistic view that perpetual economic growth is necessary and also possible to achieve. There are now fundamental barriers to ongoing economic expansion, and the world is colliding with those barriers.

This is not to say the U.S. or the world as a whole will never see another quarter or year of growth relative to the previous quarter or year. However, when the bumps are averaged out, the general trend-line of the economy (measured in terms of production and consumption of real goods) will be level or downward rather than upward from now on.

Nor will it be impossible for any region, nation, or business to continue growing for a while. Some will. In the final analysis, however, this growth will have been achieved at the expense of other regions, nations, or businesses. From now on, only relative growth is possible: the global economy is playing a zero-sum game, with an ever-shrinking pot to be divided among the winners.

[via MuseLetter read full article there]

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Coming Oil Crisis & Why You Should Care

On the Financial Sense Newshour this week, Jim Puplava is pleased to have Dr. Colin Campbell on the program. Dr. Campbell, a pioneer in the field of peak oil, believes the effects of peak oil are coming sooner than expected, and the warnings from experts around the globe are largely being ignored by the politicians.

Dr. Campbell is now a Trustee of the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre ("ODAC") in the United Kingdom, a charitable organisation in London that is dedicated to researching the date and impact of the peak and decline of world oil production due to resource constraints, and raising awareness of the serious consequences. He has published extensively, and his recent articles have stimulated lively debate. His views are provocative yet carry the weight of a wide international experience.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Brief History of Fossil Fuels - THE ULTIMATE ROLLER COASTER RIDE

by Richard Heinberg

Fossil fuels have powered human growth and ingenuity for centuries. Now that we're reaching the end of cheap and abundant oil and coal supplies, we're in for an exciting ride. While there's a real risk that we'll fall off a cliff, there's still time to control our transition to a post-carbon future.

And now, for your viewing and sharing pleasure we bring you 300 YEARS OF FOSSIL FUELED GROWTH IN 5 MINUTES:

Written and narrated by PCI Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg.
Animated by the wonderful team at MONSTRO DESIGN.

[via postcarbon.org]

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Next Oil Shock? - Report

The Economics and Industry Team of New Zealand Parliamentary Library has published a new research paper: The Next Oil Shock?

The Conclusion of the report

The global economy is heavily dependent on affordable oil.

It may seem counter-intuitive that, when oil reserves and production capacityare higher than ever, the future of the oil market appears bleak. The problem is that production capacity is not expected to keep up with demand. That fact leads to severe economic consequences.

To replace the declining production from existing oil wells and increase production, oil companies are forced to extract oil in more difficult and expensive conditions (deep-water, oil sands, lignite to liquids) from smaller, less favourable reserves. The marginal (price-setting) barrel of oil costs around US$75-$85 a barrel to produce. This will continue to rise with higher demand and exhaustion of reserves.

Although there remain large reserves of oil which can be extracted, the world’s daily capacity to extract oil cannot keep increasing indefinitely. A point will be reached where it is not economically and physically feasible to replace the declining production from existing wells and add new production fast enough for total production capacity to increase. Projections from the IEA and other groups have this occurring, at least temporarily, as soon as 2012.

The difference between the global capacity to produce oil and global demand is the supply buffer. When the supply buffer is large, oil prices will be low. When the supply buffer shrinks - due to demand rising faster than production capacity or production capacity falling - prices will rise as markets add in the risk that supply will not be available to meet demand at any given point in time.

When a supply crunch forces oil prices beyond a certain point, the cost of oil forces consumers and businesses to cut other spending, inducing a recession. The recession destroys demand for oil, allowing prices to drop. Major international organisations are warning of another supply crunch as soon as 2012.

The world may be entering an era defined by relatively short periods of economic growth terminating in oil price spikes and recession.

New Zealand is not immune to the consequences of this situation. In fact, its dependency on bulk exports and tourism makes New Zealand very vulnerable to oil shocks.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The End of Oil as We Know It - 2010 ASPO-USA Conference

Global Energy Experts Agree: We are Facing the End of Oil as We Know It WASHINGTON (October 12, 2010): Economists, activists, technical experts and policymakers from across the political spectrum gathered here, October 7-9, to discuss the global energy crisis. After 150 years of oil extraction; most major oil exporting nations are well past their supply peaks, defined by scientists as “Peak Oil.” At the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas’ (ASPO-USA) sixth annual conference speakers offered a single, coherent picture of a world unprepared to encounter energy limits, petroleum scarcity and the inevitable—and possibly unprecedented—rise in prices. “We are on the brink of a major energy crisis,” stated Jim Baldauf, President of ASPO-USA. “The era of low-cost, easy to get oil has come to an end. Yet, our society is heavily dependent on oil and we have no contingency plan. It is our goal every year to bring together the world’s best global energy experts to grapple with solutions to this catastrophic situation and discuss the future.”

The presentation files of the 2010 World Oil Conference have been posted on the aspo-usa web site including:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Can Oil Production Meet Rising Global Demand?

On October 7, 2010, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a briefing on challenges facing the oil industry to keep pace with rising global demand, and the potential implications for oil prices, national security, and the world economy. Numerous sources project demand for liquid fuels to rise to historically unprecedented levels once the global economy recovers from the recent recession. Global oil production, meanwhile, has leveled off since 2005, real oil prices have roughly doubled, and spare capacity has tightened, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Potential constraints on global oil production have raised concerns among industry observers, military leaders, and policymakers. This briefing examined the economic, technical, and political factors that influence the rate at which oil is extracted and processed, and how patterns of global oil production are changing.

Can Oil Production Meet Rising Global Demand?

Some Highlights from Speaker Presentations
  • The challenge facing world oil production is not a problem of how much oil is in the ground (i.e. resources), but rather the rate at which oil can be economically recovered from proven reserves. That rate is constrained by a complex combination of economic, technical, geologic, and geopolitical factors.
  • The International Energy Agency projects that production of conventional oil from currently developed fields will decline by 20-30 million barrels per day by 2020. Meanwhile, global demand is projected to rise from approximately 85 million barrels per day at present to nearly 100 million barrels per day by 2020.
  • To date, growth in estimated world oil reserves has kept up with growth in global consumption. Most of this increase, however, has been from adjustments in the estimates of existing reserves. The rate of discovery of new oil fields has been dropping steadily since the 1960s, and is now well below the rate of global consumption.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future Of Our Economy, Energy, And Environment

Chris Martenson is now dedicating his life to educating people, or giving them a "Crash Course" on the three E's: the Economy, Energy, and the Environment, so they can make better choices in the future. He wants people to understand:
  • How completely dependent the 3e’s are on each other
  • The unsustainable current trajectory they are on
  • The changes that could have on our future (not just another housing crisis or recession, but also things like food supply shortage due to contamination, like the one we recently experienced with eggs, but on a larger scale, or the likelihood of more big natural disasters or disease outbreaks because of environmental shifts caused by global warming, etc.)
  • How to recognize those changes ahead of time and prepare yourself, BEFORE it happens
Chris first introduced this Crash Course as a video series which he offers on his website for free.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tim Jackson's economic reality check

A new TED Talk Video by Tim Jackson

As the world faces recession, climate change, inequity and more, Tim Jackson delivers a piercing challenge to established economic principles, explaining how we might stop feeding the crises and start investing in our future.

About Tim Jackson

Tim Jackson studies the links between lifestyle, societal values and the environment to question the primacy of economic growth.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Impending World Energy Mess with Robert L. Hirsch

Apogee Prime has released a series of video interviews with Robert L. Hirsch the author of the new book: The Impending World Energy Mess.

The Impending World Energy Mess with Robert L. Hirsch Pt 01

The Impending World Energy Mess with Robert L. Hirsch Pt 02

The Impending World Energy Mess with Robert L. Hirsch Pt 04

The Impending World Energy Mess with Robert L. Hirsch Pt 09

The Impending World Energy Mess with Robert L. Hirsch Pt 15

The Impending World Energy Mess with Robert L. Hirsch Pt 20

The Impending World Energy Mess with Robert L. Hirsch Pt 21

Monday, September 27, 2010

The economy can’t grow forever

Commentary: The whole planet must live within its means
By Rex Nutting, MarketWatch

This is an excerpt. Read the full article here.

Those of us who believe that the economy should serve us instead of the other way around are conflicted.

We know that the only way to end unemployment at home and poverty around the world is to make the economy grow faster. But we also know that nothing can grow forever, that the faster the global economy grows, the sooner we’ll run out of essential resources, including fossil fuels, water, arable land, healthy ecosystems and moderate climate.

Economists and politicians can’t admit it, but the laws of physics apply, no matter what the latest polls tell us. The Earth has finite resources that will someday limit our economic growth.

World leaders gather at the United Nations, where tackling global poverty is high on the agenda. Video courtesy of Reuters.

The Earth cannot forever support 7 billion people consuming as much as Americans consume. And yet we’ve staked our future — individually, nationally, and maybe even as a species — on that impossible dream.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An Interview with Chris Martenson on the Survival Podcast

Jack Spirko of The Survival Podcast had interviewed Chris Martenson who is the creator of “The Crash Course”. They had a meaty exploration of the core tenets of the Three Es in light of recent developments, then delved pretty deeply into strategies for building personal resilience, which is the main focus of the regular podcasts.

The first “E” is the economy, which is the lens through which the Crash Course looks at everything, specifically exponential money, the first-ever collapse of a global credit binge, an aging population, and a national failure to save.

The second “E” is energy. The Crash Course explores what Peak Oil implies for an economic system that is based on continual expansion.

The third “E”, the environment, will be exerting its own unknowable but certainly significant economic burdens due to shrinking resources and other systemic pressures while the other two “E”s are clamoring for your money and attention.

Listen to the full inverview here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Peak Oil and the Second Great Depression

Peak Oil and the Second Great Depression (2010-2030): A Survival Guide for Investors and Savers After Peak Oil

Peak Oil is the point of maximum global oil production. In Peak Oil and the Second Great Depression (2010-2030), the author argues that the likely peak in global oil production occurred in the period 2005-2008, due to the peaking of Saudi Arabian oil production during that time. The evidence of a peak in Saudi crude oil production in 2008 is presented and discussed in some detail. The most significant piece of evidence of a Saudi peak in production in 2008 was the inability of Saudi oil ministers to increase production in the period 2005 to 2008 despite record crude oil prices and the drilling of thousands of new wells in Saudi Arabia's seven major oil fields. Because it could not increase production in the face of rising global demand, Saudi Arabia was unable to prevent a spike in the price of oil to around $150 a barrel. A dramatic economic contraction in the developed economies ensued.

In the years ahead, it is argued, continued economic growth in the developing world including China will put upward pressure on the price of oil, which will create severe economic difficulties for the indebted developed economies such as the US which rely on imported energy. The book examines the likely policy responses of American statesmen and central bankers to the economic difficulties created by very high prices for petroleum. Oil at very high and indeed painful prices in the face of already historic levels of personal and governmental indebtedness, it is argued, will create large scale unemployment on levels not seen since the (First) Great Depression as expenditures for foreign oil dramatically reduce spending available for the domestic economy.

The author argues that the policy response to the economic difficulties will be to create a general rise in the price level to reduce the burden of the existing debt on households, businesses and governmental entities. As prices, and especially wages, rise, domestic spending will recover and unemployment will be reduced, although this process could take several decades. Very significant inflation will likely be necessary to prevent an even more severe drop in employment and output in the economy than that we are already experiencing given the magnitude of the shock to the economy created by continued declines in global oil production.

The inflation thus created, as well as the other dramatic changes in the economy as a result of Peak Oil, will alter the approach that would optimally be taken by investors and those wishing to preserve savings. The issues of asset allocation and sector weighting are explored together with alternative investments in commodities and real estate. The focus is primarily on domestic equities, but a rather unusual sector weighting strategy is proposed as most likely to produce positive results during two decades that will otherwise be most disappointing for the investing public.

Peak Oil will also create opportunities for speculation which are explored in the final chapters of the book.

Listen to the related interview on FSN In Depth: Kenneth D Worth, Peak Oil and the Second Great Depression (2010-2030) by James J Puplava

The Impending World Energy Mess - Book

The Impending World Energy Mess will help educate readers about the realities of energy in general and oil in particular.

The book ranks already #6 in Business & Investing > Economics > Natural Resources

The reader will be able to cut through the smokescreens that various self interests have, and are, promulgating and understand that there are a number of credible studies that clearly demonstrate that world oil production is close to going into decline, which will create long-term world oil shortages.

The huge economic impacts associated with impending oil shortages are brought into sober, balanced perspective and readers are given tools to minimize the impending negative impacts on their personal lives.

Finally, The Impending World Energy Mess provides a balanced discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of a number of electric power production technologies, and in particular, the inherent weaknesses in solar and renewable technologies. The Impending World Energy Mess provides a practical basis for understanding and personal action.

Included in this book is a special Foreword from Dr James Schlesinger - First US Secretary of Energy, Director of Central Intelligence, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.

In the next five years, world oil production will begin to decline - which means less and less oil will be available each year. The result will be annually deepening worldwide economic damage.

There will be no quick fixes. Even crash program mitigation will take more than a decade to impact.

Societal priorities will change dramatically. Compromises will be required. Years of energy hopes and fantasy will have to yield to pragmatism.

Oil and energy issues are complicated. You need to understand the situation in order to make intelligent choices for yourself and those close to you.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed. With over a hundred years of combined experience in energy and economics, the authors provide you the straight story, including realities that others have been reluctant to discuss.

Check out this exclusive interview with the author Robert Hirsch by Matthieu Auzanneau:

‘Peak Oil’ : Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of Energy sounds the alarm: part 1, part 2

[via Energy Bulletin]

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Johan Rockstrom - Planetary Boundaries Video

Human growth has strained the Earth's resources, but as Johan Rockstrom reminds us in his TED talk, our advances also give us the science to recognize this and change behavior. His research has found nine "planetary boundaries" that can guide us in protecting our planet's many overlapping ecosystems.

If Earth is a self-regulating system, it's clear that human activity is capable of disrupting it. Johan Rockstrom has led a team of scientists to define the nine Earth systems that need to be kept within bounds for Earth to keep itself in balance.

Johan Rockstrom is a leader of a new approach to sustainability: planetary boundaries. Working with a team of 29 leading scientists across disciplines, Rockstrom and the Stockholm Resilience Centre identified nine key Earth processes or systems -- and marked the upper limit beyond which each system could touch off a major system crash. Climate change is certainly in the mix -- but so are other human-made threats such as ocean acidification, loss of biodiversity, chemical pollution.

"Rockstrom has managed in an easy, yet always scientifically based way, to convey our dependence of the planet's resources, the risk of transgressing planetary boundaries and what changes are needed in order to allow humanity to continue to develop."

Anna Ritter, Fokus magazine

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Interview: Heinberg on Peak Oil and Economic Growth

Author Richard Heinberg's nine books include The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies and Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines. He discusses what we know about peak oil, as well as its connection to the end of economic growth. His views are explained in his chapter in the forthcoming Post Carbon Reader, some chapters of which are already available for free download.

Heinberg also mentioned Searching for a Miracle, a recent report from the Post Carbon Institute available for free download at the link. It examines the question, "Can any combination of known energy sources successfully supply society’s energy needs at least up to the year 2100?"

Listen to the audio interview at
Equal Time Radio here.
[via Energy Bulletin]

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

US Minerals Databrowser

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is the administrative branch in charge of managing information regarding mineral resources within the United States. Its minerals information function that collects, analyzes, and disseminates data that describe current production and consumption of about 100 mineral commodities, both domestically and internationally for approximately 180 countries.The goal of the US Minerals Databrowser is to make it easier to extract meaningful information from this valuable dataset. The US Minerals Databrowser provides several different visualization styles, each tailored to answer a specific set of question regarding the USGS Minerals dataset.

US Production / Exports

This visualization uses the production, apparent consumption, imports and exports fields from the dataset. Net exports are calculated as exports - imports. This plot highlights how sustainable US use of a particular mineral is.

World Production / Price

This visualization plots both US and world annual production of each mineral. The nominal price per ton as well as the inflation adjusted price (in 1998 dollars) are overlain. This plot highlights the interplay between price and production as anticipated by basic economics -- high prices should bring about increased production for globally fungible commodities.

Price Evolution

Plotting inflation adjusted prices against global production create interesting plots that give insight into how well the price signal works for a particular mineral.

Usage History

Usage patterns for any mineral will change as new uses are found and older applications are discontinued. The Usage History plots historical timelines of consumption in all the major usage categories.

Usage Pie

Pie charts provide a quick, intuitive view of relative consumption in each category for a single year to answer the question: "What is this mineral used for?"

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wilberforce: Endless Growth is not Sustainable

Armed with a suitcase full of cash and more blonde beauties than Richard Branson, businessman Dick Smith announced his Wilberforce award at the FEX Market Site in Sydney on Wednesday 11 August 2010.

The award is designed to give a one million dollar prize to anyone under 30 who can impress Dick by becoming famous through his or her ability to show leadership in communicating an alternative to our population and consumption growth-obsessed economy.

Dick Smith is one of Australia’s most recognised individuals. After a successful business career in retailing and publishing, Dick has become well known as a restless adventurer, making many pioneering and record breaking flights by helicopter, aeroplane and balloon.

The $1 Million Wilberforce Award

It has become obvious to me that my generation has over exploited our wonderful world – and it’s younger people who will pay the price. Like many people my age, I’ve benefited from a long period of constant economic and population growth – we are addicted to it. But sooner or later this consumption growth will have an end. We appear to be already bumping against the limits of what our planet can sustain and the evidence is everywhere to see.

Right now I believe we could be sleepwalking to catastrophe because we are failing to both acknowledge that there are limits to growth in a finite world and to prepare for a more sustainable way of organising our economy. In the 19th Century, empires were built on the labour of slaves, and it was believed economies would collapse if slavery was abolished. But brave people like William Wilberforce fought to end the slave trade – and economies still flourished. We need brave people like Wilberforce today, and I want to encourage a new generation of clear-thinking and inspiring young leaders.

So today I am announcing Dick Smith’s Wilberforce Award – $1 million to go to a young person under 30 who can impress me by becoming famous through his or her ability to show leadership in communicating an alternative to our population and consumption growth-obsessed economy. I will be looking for candidates whose actions over the next year show that they have what it takes to be among the next generation of leaders our incredible planet so badly needs.

Candidates will need to have a firm belief that we can have a viable and strong world economy that is no longer obsessed with growth for its own sake, but instead encourages both a stable population and sustainable consumption of energy and resources. They must be able to communicate that we cannot continue to squander the resources that will be needed by future generations, and they must also be able to communicate a plan that offers an alternative to our growth addiction.

Like the Nobel Prize, you will not apply for the Wilberforce Award. Over the next twelve months I will be following the media throughout the world to see who is the most outstanding individual in not only making a significant contribution to this important issue, but who also becomes famous through his or her contribution to the debate.

One year from now I will announce the winner of the $1 Million Wilberforce Award. The Award will go towards advancing the momentum the winner will have already achieved.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Beyond the Limits to Growth

An excerpt from the Post Carbon Reader Series: Foundational Concepts
Beyond the Limits to Growth by Richard Heinberg

In 1972, the now-classic book Limits to Growth explored the consequences for Earth’s ecosystems of exponential growth in population, industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource depletion. That book, which still stands as the best-selling environmental title ever published, reported on the first attempts to use computers to model the likely interactions between trends in resources, consumption, and population. It summarized the first major scientific study to question the assumption that economic growth can and will continue more or less uninterrupted into the foreseeable future.

The idea was heretical at the time, and still is: During the past few decades, growth has become virtually the sole index of national economic well-being. When an economy grows, jobs appear, investments yield high returns, and everyone is happy. When the economy stops growing, financial bloodletting and general misery ensue. Predictably, a book saying that growth cannot and will not continue beyond a certain point proved profoundly upsetting in some quarters, and soon Limits to Growth was pilloried in a public relations campaign organized by pro-growth business interests. In reality, this purported “debunking” merely amounted to taking a few numbers in the book completely out of context, citing them as “predictions” (which they explicitly were not), and then claiming that these predictions had failed. The ruse was quickly exposed, but rebuttals often don’t gain nearly as much publicity as accusations, and so today millions of people mistakenly believe that the book was long ago discredited.

In any case, the underlying premise of the book is irrefutable: At some point in time, humanity’s ever-increasing resource consumption will meet the very real limits of a planet with finite natural resources.

The co-authors of The Post Carbon Reader believe that this time has come.

The Pivotal Role of energy

During the past two centuries, an explosion in population, consumption, and technological innovation has brought previously unimaginable advances in health, wealth, transport, and communications. These events were largely made possible by the release of enormous amounts of cheap energy from fossil fuels starting in the mid-nineteenth century.

Increased consumption of fossil fuels has produced both economic growth and population growth. However, a bigger population and a growing economy lead to more energy demand. We are thus enmeshed in a classic self-reinforcing (“positive”) feedback loop. Crucially, the planet on which all of this growth is occurring happens to be limited in size, with fixed stores of fossil fuels and mineral ores, and with constrained capacities to regenerate forests, fish, topsoil, and freshwater. Indeed, it appears that we are now pushing up against these very physical limits:
  • The world is at, nearing, or past the points of peak production of a number of critical nonrenewable resources—including oil, natural gas, and coal, as well as many economically important minerals ranging from antimony to zinc.
  • The global climate is being destabilized by greenhouse gases emitted from the burning of fossil fuels, leading to more severe weather (including droughts) as well as melting glaciers and rising sea levels.
  • Freshwater scarcity is a real or impending problem in nearly all of the world’s nations due to climate change, pollution, and overuse of groundwater for agriculture and industrial processes.
  • World food production per capita is declining and the maintenance of existing total harvests is threatened by climate change, soil erosion, water scarcity, and high fuel costs.
  • Earth’s plant and animal species are being driven to extinction by human activities at a rate unequaled in the last 60 million years.
[via the Post Carbon Institute]

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fossil Fuel Production with Supply and Demand Interactions

Steve Mohr has published his Thesis at the University of Newcastle, Australia:
Projection of world fossil fuel production with supply and demand interactions


Historically, fossil fuels have been vital for our global energy needs. However climate change is prompting renewed interest in the role of fossil fuel production for our energy needs. In order to appropriately plan for our future energy needs, a new detailed model of fossil fuel supply is required. It is critical to know if fossil fuels will still be able to supply most of our energy requirements and meet the ever increasing energy demand in the future. Answering these questions is critical in order to identify potential periods of energy shortages; so that alternative energy resources can be utilised in a timely way. The aim of this study was to develop a model to predict fossil fuel production for the long term based on historical production data, projected demand, and assumed ultimately recoverable reserves for coal, gas and oil. Climate change is an important issue confronting society, and it is hoped that the work contained in this thesis will aid climate change modeling by focusing attention to realistic fossil fuel production projections. Fossil fuels are currently an essential component in the global economy and the growth of the human population. The fossil fuel production projections from this study suggest that many of the IPCC fossil fuel projections appear overly optimistic. Based on the assumed URR values, it is predicted that global fossil fuel production will peak before 2030. For this reason, it is imperative that appropriate action be taken as early as possible to mitigate the effects of fossil fuel decline, to avoid energy shortages in the near future.

Conclusions (excerpt)

The combined supply and demand model includes the capability that demand and production could be influenced by each other, i.e. if production could not meet demand then future demand for that energy source was reduced. In this study, three options were considered. Firstly, the STATIC option resulted in demand and production acting independently of each other at all times. Secondly, the DYNAMIC option allowed both total demand and total production to change from the STATIC situation when there was a difference between the two. Finally, the INDEPENDENTLY DYNAMIC option was an extension to the DYNAMIC situation, but treated each fuel source individually when applying the supply and demand interaction, with both demand and production being able to vary.

The model requires estimates of Ultimately Recoverable Resources (URR) for coal, gas and oil. Following a critical review of the literature, included in this study, three cases were adopted. CASE 1 and CASE 3 being lowest and highest recent estimates, respectively, and CASE 2 being author’s best guess based on the information available. The URR values for CASE 2 were, total (60,800 EJ), coal (19,350 EJ), gas (17,680 EJ) and oil (23,780 EJ).

Oil: For CASE 2, peak production year remained almost constant at 2011-12 for STATIC, DYNAMIC and INDEPENDENTLY DYNAMIC options, with peak production varying only marginally between 179–188 EJ/y. Similarly, for CASE 1, peak production year was the same at 2005 for all three supply and demand interaction options. For CASE 3, peak production year varied only slightly at 2019, 2011 and 2016 for STATIC, DYNAMIC and INDEPENDENTLY DYNAMIC options, respectively. The important outcome was that for all scenarios the maximum peak year was 2019.

Combined fossil fuels: For CASE 2, peak production year remained almost constant at 2016–18 for STATIC, DYNAMIC and INDEPENDENTLY DYNAMIC options, with peak production varying only marginally between 509–525 EJ/y. Similarly, for CASE 1, peak production year was essentially same at 2012–13 for all three supply and demand interaction options. For CASE 3, peak production year varied from 2021 to 2029 across the three supply and demand options. In all scenarios it was found that natural gas offers the biggest future potential, and not coal.

[via Energy Bulletin]

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ocean Energy Institute and Energy Systems

The Ocean Energy Institute, founded in 2007 by Matthew R. Simmons, is a think-tank and venture capital fund addressing the challenges of U.S. offshore renewable energy. OEI approaches energy R&D and investment from a systems point of view; not just generation, but usage, storage and transmission all together as an interdependent set of opportunities and the next driving force of the international economy.

Grand Opening - Ocean Energy Institute Offices

Rockland, Maine (July 20) -- The Ocean Energy Institute will be hosting a VIP celebration today for the grand opening of its new office headquarters.

Energy as a Complete System

OEI's "GUST" model (generation, usage, storage and transmission) proposes how the offshore wind resource can be efficiently tapped into and used, and the electricity intelligently stored and transmitted.

This model addresses two of the biggest challenges to the reliability of wind power: seasonality (the wind blows strongest in the winter, when energy demand is historically lower) - and intermittency (the wind blows less strongly during the daytime, when energy demand is highest).

The System Solution
  1. Use the energy in a way that the seasonal match is great (e.g., winter heating)
  2. Use the energy for the 90% of the family energy budget that is NOT "electricity"
  3. Use the energy in applications where energy storage is easy
  4. Construct a North American Supergrid to balance out intermittency
  5. Develop NH3 (ammonia) fuel as a way to seasonally shift energy generation vs. use
  6. Exploit Smart Grids to dynamically balance generation and demand
  7. Stop handcuffing ourselves to a 20 percent renewable "penetration" limit
The "Pickens Plan Plus" a.k.a the Simmons Plan

The Ocean Energy Institute has published an updated version of the original Pickens Plan. The Simmons Plan is outlined in a pdf presentation here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book: The Post Carbon Reader

The Post Carbon Reader
Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises

Edited by Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch
In the 20th century, cheap and abundant energy brought previously unimaginable advances in health, wealth, and technology, and fed an explosion in population and consumption. But this growth came at an incredible cost. Climate change, peak oil, freshwater depletion, species extinction, and a host of economic and social problems now challenge us as never before. The Post Carbon Reader features articles by some of the world’s most provocative thinkers on the key drivers shaping this new century, from renewable energy and urban agriculture to social justice and systems resilience. This unprecedented collection takes a hard-nosed look at the interconnected threats of our global sustainability quandary—as well as the most promising responses. The Post Carbon Reader is a valuable resource for policymakers, college classrooms, and concerned citizens.

Table of Contents

Preface Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch, Editors
Foreword Asher Miller

Part I - Introduction
1. Foundation Concepts
  • Richard Heinberg: "Beyond the Limits to Growth"
  • Richard Heinberg: "What is Sustainability?"
  • Bill Rees, "Thinking 'Resilience'"
Part II - Planet
2. Climate
  • Bill McKibben, selection from Eaarth
  • Richard Douthwaite, "The international response to climate change "
  • Mark Sandler, SIDEBAR: "Cap and Dividend in the U.S."
  • David Orr, selection from Down to the Wire
3. Water
  • Sandra Postel, "Water: Adapting to a new normal"
4. Biodiversity
  • Stephanie Mills, "Peak Nature?"
Part III - Civilization
5. Food
  • Michael Bomford, "Energy and the food system"
  • Wes Jackson, transcript from 1/25/10 presentation at Univ. of California - Berkeley
  • Erika Allen, transcript from 1/24/10 conversation: "Growing community food systems"
6. Population
  • Bill Ryerson, "Population: The Multiplier of Everything Else"
7. Culture & behavior
  • Peter Whybrow, "Dangerously Addictive"
  • Gloria Flora, "Remapping Relationships: Humans in nature"
  • Bill Rees, "The Human Nature of Unsustainability"
Part IV - Modern Society
8. Energy
  • Daniel Lerch, selection from Post Carbon Cities
  • David Hughes, "Hydrocarbons in North America"
  • David Fridley, "Nine Challenges of Alternative Energy"
  • Tom Whipple, "Peak Oil and the Economy"
9. Economy
  • Josh Farley, "Ecological Economics"
  • Richard Douthwaite, SIDEBAR: "Money and Energy"
  • Michael Shuman, "The Competitiveness of Local Living Economies"
10. Cities, towns, and suburbs
  • Warren Karlenzig, "The Death of Sprawl"
  • Deborah Popper and Frank Popper, "Smart Decline in Post-Carbon Cities"
  • Hillary Brown, "Buildings"
  • John Kaufmann "Local Government in a time of Peak Oil and Climate Change"
11. Transportation
  • Richard Gilbert and Anthony Perl, "Post-carbon mobility"
12. Waste
  • Bill Sheehan and Helen Spiegelman, "Climate Change, Peak Oil and the End of Waste"
13. Health
  • Cindy Parker and Brian Schwartz, "Human Health and Well-Being in an Era of Energy Scarcity and Climate Change"
14. Education
  • Zenobia Barlow and Michael Stone, "Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability"
  • Nancy Lee Wood, "Community Colleges"
Part V - Next Steps
15. Building resilience
  • Chris Martenson, "Personal preparation"
  • Rob Hopkins "Transitioning community"
16. Vision for a post-carbon century
  • Asher Miller, "What Now? The Path Forward Begins with One Step"

Monday, June 28, 2010

World3 in Modelica: System Dynamics Models

World3 in Modelica: Creating System Dynamics Models in the Modelica Framework

This paper and presentation by F. E. Cellier introduces a new release of the System-Dynamics library of Modelica and shows how it is being used by discussing a fairly large application code: Meadows’ World3 model.

Meadows’ only talked in Limits to Growth about the results obtained with the model. The model itself, originally coded in Dynamo, was described in a separate book.

Meadows’ World3 model has seen two major upgrades since its original inception, one in 1992, i.e. after 20 years, and the second in 2002, i.e., after 30 years. The World3 application code contained in SystemDynamics 2.0 implements the 2002 version of the World3 model. In the code, we offer not only the basic model, but also all 10 scenarios that Meadows and co-workers are talking about in Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update.

Future Research

What future additions are in the works? In today’s world of dwindling fossil fuel reserves, it becomes important to track how much energy we are actually using. Whereas classical System Dynamics is designed to track material flows, it does not track energy flows. This is a major drawback of the methodology.

For this reason, a second version of the System Dynamics library has also been released as a sublibrary of BondLib, our bond graph library. In that version, all material flows are represented internally by bond graphs. A bond graph naturally tracks energy flows. Each energy flow, in that version of the library, is represented as the product of a specific enthalpy and a mass flow. Hence we can track material flows and energy flows simultaneously.

When I drive my car from home to work, I am not only spending energy in the form of the gas that my car consumes. Some energy was also spent in producing the car, and more energy will be spent in discarding it at the end of its lifecycle and in recovering those materials from it that can be recycled.

The accumulated energy that accounts for all of those indirect uses of energy is called emergy. The specific enthalpy can be used to encode in the model the specific emergy, i.e., the emergy per unit of mass.

I plan on porting examples of emergy modeling, as described in the publications by Howard Odum, over to the bond graph implementation of the System Dynamics library, but this work has not yet been completed.

Check out the full paper and presentation by Prof. Dr. François E. Cellier here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Making Sense of the Financial Crisis in the Era of Peak Oil

Nicole Foss of the Automatic Earth has delivered a very interesting presentation at the Transition Network Conference 2010 in the UK.

Peak Oil and the collapse of global Ponzi finance are a “perfect storm” of converging phenomena that threaten to sink our age of prosperity through wealth destruction, social discontent, and global conflict. Nicole will describe how our current financial system is an unsustainable credit bubble grounded in “Ponzi dynamics,” or the logic of the pyramid scheme. She warns that most people are woefully unprepared to face the consequences of the devastating deflation that is now unfolding.

Check out the following comments about Making Sense of the Financial Crisis in the Era of Peak Oil

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lloyds Report - Sustainable Energy Security: Strategic Risks and Opportunities for Business

Chatham House-Lloyd's 360 Risk Insight White Paper
by Antony Froggatt and Glada Lahn, June 2010

As the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has amply demonstrated, growing global energy demand and the anticipated restricted availability of some conventional fossil fuels pose an escalating threat to the security of energy supply for global businesses. Sustainable Energy Security: Strategic Risks and Opportunities for Business, produced jointly by Chatham House and Lloyd's, reveals multiple vulnerabilities in our current energy system and urges both business strategists and government policy-makers to take into account a range of encroaching risks and be bold in making plans for a more resilient and low carbon energy future.

This report, jointly produced by Lloyd’s 360 Risk Insight programme and Chatham House, should cause all risk managers to pause. What it outlines, in stark detail, is that we have entered a period of deep uncertainty in how we will source energy for power, heat and mobility, and how much we will have to pay for it.

Is this any different from the normal volatility of the oil or gas markets? Yes, it is. Today, a number of pressures are combining: constraints on ‘easy to access’ oil; the environmental and political urgency of reducing carbon dioxide emissions; and a sharp rise in energy demand from the Asian economies, particularly China.

Executive Summary
  • Businesses which prepare for and take advantage of the new energy reality will prosper - failure to do so could be catastrophic
  • Market dynamics and environmental factors mean business can no longer rely on low cost traditional energy sources
  • China and growing Asian economies will play an increasingly important role in global energy security
  • We are heading towards a global oil supply crunch and price spike
  • Energy infrastructure will become increasingly vulnerable as a result of climate change and operations in harsher environments
  • Lack of global regulation on climate change is creating an environment of uncertainty for business, which is damaging investment plans
  • To manage increasing energy costs and carbon exposure businesses must reduce fossil fuel consumption
  • Business must address energy-related risks to supply chains and the increasing vulnerability of 'just-in-time' models
  • Investment in renewable energy and 'intelligent' infrastructure is booming. This revolution presents huge opportunities for new business partnerships
[via Transition Culture]

Friday, June 11, 2010

"Better than Growth" released by Australian Conservation Foundation

Arguing for something beyond economic growth

Australian Conservation Foundation has published an outstandingly well produced paper on how we can redesign our ways of living based on something other than economic growth and all its attendant troubles.

"Most australians don’t agree that their only goal in life is to increase their financial wealth and consumption – but too often our economic policy treats us as if we do. in reality, our quality of life depends on having time for family and friends, a strong sense of community, and a healthy natural environment. our economy should help us achieve those goals.

We can do better than a narrow vision of economic growth, and this report shows us how. Better than Growth explores the best practical thinking from around the world about how to improve economic measurements and align our economies to long-term environmental and social wellbeing."

[via Transition Network]

Thursday, June 10, 2010

BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2010

For 59 years, the BP Statistical Review of World Energy has provided high-quality, objective and globally consistent data on world energy markets. The Review is one of the most widely respected and authoritative publications in the fi eld of energy economics, used for reference by the media, academia, world governments and energy companies. A new edition is published every June.

BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2010 is available online at bp.com/statisticalreview. The website contains all the tables and charts found in the latest printed edition, plus a number of extras, including:
  • Historical data from 1965 for many sections.
  • Additional data for natural gas, coal, hydroelectricity, nuclear energy, electricity and renewables.
  • An energy charting tool, where you can view predetermined reports or chart specifi c data according to energy type, region and year.
  • An oil, natural gas and LNG conversion calculator.
  • PDF versions and PowerPoint slide packs of the charts, maps and graphs, plus an Excel workbook of the historical data.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bogotá: Building A Sustainable City

Bogota: Building a Sustainable City - documentary by PBS e2 series. Narrated by Brad Pitt. During his tenure as mayor of Bogota, Colombia, Enrique Penalosa was both revered and scorned for his urban planning and transportation policies. His public works projects, which largely favored the pedestrian experience, were unlike anything previously built in Bogota. Penalosa describes the environmental and social importance of minimizing automobile culture.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Conference on Ecomonic Degrowth Presentations

From Friday 26 to Monday 29 March 2010 the Second International Degrowth Conference took place at the historic building of ‘Universidad de Barcelona'. 500 scientists, civil society members and practionners from more than 40 countries attended the conference.

Thirty years ago, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen published a book in French with the title “Demain la Décroissance” (Degrowth Tomorrow) (1979). The organizers of the Economic Degrowth Conference says, “Aujourd’hui la Décroissance” (Degrowth today). The economic crisis of 2008-09 brings a new perspective. Economic degrowth can be good for the environment but it must be socially sustainable.

The 2nd international conference on economic degrowth for ecological sustainability and social equity followed from the first international conference (Paris, April 2008), that took place with the support of the European Society for Ecological Economics, Club of Rome (Brussels/Europe), Telecom Sud-Paris and SERI (Sustainable Europe Research Institute)

Conference Presentations

Managing degrowth: Employment, Security and the Economy under a Degrowth trajectory
  • Blake Alcott: Degrowth and ‘unemployment’; Guaranteed jobs?
  • Gjalt Huppes & Ruben Huele: Degrowth with an aging population; increasing leisure for improving the environment. The key role of pensions and their funding
  • Richard Douthwaite: Why the global debt burden means there will be no recovery
  • Colin C.Williams & Richard White: Transcending the depiction of market and non-market labour practices; implications for degrowth
Beyond Sustainable Development: Sustainable Degrowth towards a Steady-State Economy
  • Brian Czech: The Chicken/Egg Spiral; "Reconciling" the Conflict Between Economic Growth and Environmental Protection with Technological Progress
  • Daniel W. O’Neill: Measuring progress towards a steady state economy
  • Ernest Garcia: Sociology and de-growth: social change, entropy and evolution in a way-down era
  • Nicholas A. Ashford: Pathways to Sustainable Development; Co-optimizing Economic Welfare, Employment and Environment
  • Ernest Garcia: Sociology and de-growth; social change, entropy and evolution in a way-down era
  • Jacques Lauriol: L’Economie de la Fonctionnalité; Une voie nouvelle pour une décroissance soutenable
Degrowth, Capitalist Institutions and Democracy
  • Pascal van Griethuysen : Implementing Degrowth; Evolutionary Economic Perspectives:
  • Barbara Muraca: Growth, Degrowth, and Justice; A scrutiny of ethical and anthropological assumptions in growth and degrowth
Growth is unsustainable. Long live degrowth?
  • E. Bilancini & S. D’Alessandro: Happy Degrowth vs Unhappy Growth
  • Joaquim Sempere: Degrowth; Proposals and Questions
Making it real. Practical transformations towards degrowth
  • Jørgen Stig Nørgård: Sustainable degrowth through more amateur economy
  • Dick Urban Vestbro: Saving by Sharing – Collective Housing for Sustainable Lifestyles
  • David Barkin: Constructing alternative degrowth strategies; Experience from rural communities in Latin America

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Water vs Energy - Special Report by IEEE Spectrum

The Coming Clash Between Water and Energy

Our thirst for water competes with our hunger for energy. Only radical new ideas will get us out of this mess
Consider a giant sponge, with limbs and tentacles that reach to the horizon. It dips into distant rivers, it delves for deep waters, it digs ditches to catch the rain—all to slake its insatiable thirst.

Clearly, this is no ordinary sea creature quietly snuffling the currents. We have met this sponge, and it is us. We humans are the thirstiest of creatures, and we’ve developed a nearly insatiable taste for this simple but delectable arrangement of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. But we need more. So much more.

We’re not talking about just drinking or bathing. Without water, we’d have practically no energy. Without energy—and therefore cars, planes, laptops, smartphones, and lighting—we wouldn’t be doing much.

In almost every type of power plant, water is a major hidden cost. Water cools the blistering steam of thermal plants and allows hydroelectric turbines to churn. It brings biofuel crops from the ground and geothermal energy from the depths of the Earth. Our power sources would be impotent without water.

IEEE Spectrum's June Special report is about “The Water-Energy Nexus.” It sounds wonky, but it’s a subject about which you’ll inevitably be hearing more and more. In coming years, we’ll undoubtedly face the quandaries of the Water-Energy Nexus because many renewable technologies come with big water tradeoffs. IEEE Spectrum’s Senior Editor, Sam Moore, is with us to discuss the special report in this podcast, and acquaint us with some of the stories.

Check out the rest of the special report: Water vs Energy.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Is Humanity Unsustainable?

The co-inventor of "the ecological footprint" now calls for a planned contraction of the economy, to save the biosphere and promote world fairness. How our primeval brains work against us.

Powerful speech on Radio EcoShock [mp3, transcript by Alex Smith] by Canadian biologist Dr. Bill Rees, April 15, 2010.

At a meeting of the World Federalists, guest speaker Dr. William Rees gave this speech standing, without notes. It shines with clarity, developed form decades of lecturing, in the field of his passion, which he himself developed – the “ecological footprint.” Rees is a professor at the University of British Columbia, Canada – and a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute.

Rees begins with an early warning, following the 1992 United Nations Conference on the Environment. It is a statement by the Union of Concerned Scientists issuing a warning to humanity.

"Many of the Nobel Laureates in science signed on to this particular document but the bottom line is pretty clear: 'A great change in our stewardship of the Earth and our life on it, is required if vast misery is to be avoided, and our global home is not to be irretrievably mutilated.'"

Dr. Rees says this warning had no effect whatsoever. He moves to a more recent statement, from the Millennium Ecosystem Summary Report, in which Rees participated, along with 10,000 other scientists. It was the largest study ever taken of the world's ecosystems. It warned that:

‘human activity is putting such a strain on that the natural functions of the Earth that 'the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain human endeavor can no longer be taken for granted.'

It is no exaggeration to say that Bill Rees has taught and inspired at least two generations of students, ecologists, and environmentalists around the world. Here he outlines the condition of humanity on a small planet, with thoughts on how both can survive.

[via Energy Bulletin]

Monday, May 31, 2010

Peak Oil and Resource Depletion

Anatoly Karlin is the author of the Sublime Oblivion Blog on the geopolitics of limits to growth has assembled many links to relevant articles on Peak Oil and Resource Depletion to provide a foundation for the those interested in exploring these very important concepts. It includes these top links on these issues:

Basic Summaries
Core Books on Resource Depletion
Peak Oil Projections
Energy & the Economy

In his new post AK collects Emerging Technologies: Limits to Growth vs. Moore’s Law.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Running on Empty - Video

What if tomorrow, everyone’s car disappeared.

A Video by Ross Ching inspired by Matt Logue’s Empty LA photographs.

Check out the details here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

America's Energy Future and PickensPlan

Milken Institute Global Conference Panel:
Ted Turner and T. Boone Pickens on America's Energy Future

  • T. Boone Pickens, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist; Founder, BP Capital
  • Ted Turner, Chairman, Turner Enterprises Inc.
  • Michael Milken, Chairman, Milken Institute

Ted Turner didn't mince words: "We've gotta get off the Titanic before it sails." He and T. Boone Pickens argued passionately that America has to start weaning itself off foreign oil imports — and do it now.

Their session began with a recap of how president after president has pledged to achieve energy independence, while the percentage of U.S. oil imported from foreign sources in volatile regions has continued to climb. Today the nation imports some two-thirds of its oil.

"We're paying for both sides of the war," said Pickens, insisting that oil money sent to the Middle East is paying for terrorists and the Taliban. He expressed optimism that President Obama has pledged to end oil imports from the Middle East within 10 years, but was quick to add: "We have to remind him." Pickens pointed out that the U.S. represents about 4 percent of world's population but consumes 25 percent of the world's oil, an equation that's just not sustainable. He called for transitioning the nation's fleet of 18-wheelers to natural gas immediately.

The big question of the day is whether Washington has the political will to effect a fundamental change in America's energy consumption. Turner expressed worry about the influence of special interests and argued that the U.S. has to end oil and coal subsidies to level the playing field for renewables.

Pickens pointed out that China is already moving to ensure its energy independence, and the United States can, too. He believes strongly that we will see a strong energy bill passed this year or next, noting how many millions had signed onto the Pickens Plan online. He believes the grassroots effort can make something happen — and "scare the hell out of those politicians."

Both men agreed that time is of the essence and acting is crucial to our children's livelihoods and lives. Reducing America's reliance on foreign oil, transitioning to natural gas and turning to renewable sources will be a win all around, in terms of national security, economic stability, jobs, cleaning up the environment and fighting climate change.

"We have to go to wind and solar eventually," said Turner. "Why not now? . . . Let's do the right thing and we'll all get rich!"

Watch the full panel discussion online at Milken Institute's web page.

The Crisis

Our dependence on foreign oil forms the intersection of the three most critical issues America currently faces: the economy, the environment and our national security.

The Pickens Plan

America is blessed with the world's greatest wind power corridor and enormous reserves of clean natural gas. The Pickens Plan utilizes these tremendous resources to build a bridge to the future — a blueprint to reduce foreign oil dependence by harnessing domestic energy alternatives and buying time for us to develop even greater new technologies and distribution systems.

The Plan calls for building new wind generation facilities that will produce 20% of our nation's electricity while using our abundant domestic natural gas supply as a transportation fuel as well as for power generation. The combination of these domestic energies can replace more than one-third of our foreign oil imports. And we can do it all in 10 years.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Exergy Evolution of the Mineral Capital on Earth

Dr. Alicia Valero is a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Zaragoza and works in the Centre of Research for Energy Resources and Consumption (CIRCE).

Her main scientific research areas are exergoecology and energy efficiency. In particular, she has had extensive involvement in the application of the exergy analysis in the global assessment of mineral resources on earth.

Download her PhD thesis (English): Exergy Evolution of the mineral capital on Earth


The 20th century has been characterized by the economic growth of many industrialized countries. This growth was mainly sustained by the massive extraction and use of the earth’s mineral resources. The tendency observed worldwide in the present, is that consumption will continue increasing, especially due to the rapid development of Asia, the desire for a higher living standard of the developing world and the technological progress. But the physical limitations of our planet might seriously restrain world economies. In fact, many mineral commodities such as oil or copper are already showing signs of scarcity problems, and consequently their prices are increasing sharply.

Our society is based on an inefficient use of energy and materials, since there is a lack of awareness of the limit. If resources are limited, their management must be carefully planned. But it is impossible to manage efficiently the resources on earth, if we do not know what is available and at which rate it is being depleted.

Therefore, the aim of this PhD has been the assessment of the physical stock on earth and the degradation velocity of our mineral resources due to human action. This has been accomplished through the exergy analysis under the exergoecological approach. This way, the resources are physically assessed as the energy required to replace them from a complete degraded state to the conditions in which they are currently presented in nature. The main advantage of its use with respect to other physical indicators is that in a single property, all the physical features of a resource are accounted for. Furthermore, exergy has the capability of aggregating heterogeneous energy and material assets. Unlike standard economic valuations, the exergy analysis gives objective information since it is not subject to monetary policy, or currency speculation.

Examples of scientific contributions

With the relative abundance of the substances in each of the earth’s outer spheres obtained in this PhD, and the thermochemical information, we were able to calculate for the first time, the average Gibbs free energy, enthalpy of formation and chemical exergy of the atmosphere, hydrosphere and upper continental crust. Furthermore, since the mass of each layer of the earth is well known, we have obtained the first estimation of the earth’s specific chemical exergy: 1,22E9 Gtoe.

This study has obtained an inventory of the most important renewable and non-renewable resources on earth measured in exergy terms. The main novelty introduced in the inventory is the combined assessment of energy resources with non-fuel minerals. Since exergy is an additive property, we have been able to obtain the total exergy of the non renewable energy resources, including nuclear, fossil fuels and non-fuel mineral reserves. Furthermore we could estimate for all renewable resources, the rate of current consumption with respect to the available potential use.

Similarly, for non-renewables, we estimated the resource to production ratio. We came to the important conclusion that vast amounts of energy resources are available on earth, especially of renewable nature. However, we are currently using less than 2% of its potential. On the other hand, we have estimated that the reserves of concentrated fuel and non fuel minerals, which can be practically used by man, represent only 0,01% of the chemical exergy of the earth. Furthermore, their global R/P ratio excluding nuclear materials, is less than 100 years. Hence, humankind is not facing an energy crisis, as many claim, but rather a material’s scarcity.

This PhD has applied for the first time the Hubbert model to non-fuel minerals, with the aim of estimating the year were the peak of production is reached. It has been stated that the bell-shape curve is better suited to non-fuel minerals if it is fitted with exergy over time, instead of mass over time. This way, we take into account the concentration factor, which is very important for the case of solid minerals. Consequently, we have developed the required equations for estimating the Hubbert’s peak for all kinds of minerals in exergy terms.

With the available information about world mineral historic statistics and available reserves, we have carried out the first diagnosis of the state of non-renewable minerals on earth. This PhD has estimated through the exergy analysis, the degradation degree of the mineral commodities, detecting the ones being degraded at the highest rates, and the ones facing important scarcity problems.

We have stated that iron and aluminium are the most extracted commodities but not the most depleted ones, due to their crustal abundance. On the contrary, copper, which is also being extracted at very high rates, is already suffering scarcity problems, with more than 50% of its world reserves depleted. Other commodities such as mercury, silver, gold, tin, arsenic, antimony or lead are even more degraded, with more than 70% of their reserves depleted.