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.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Natural Regression Film on the Energy Crisis

Natural Regression is a short independant documentary that focuses on the energy crisis and how much impact it has on the economy. With interviews from Colin Campbell and Chris Skrebowski, this gives us an insight on the nature of the financial crisis. The financial consequences are so overwhelming that this subject should be at the heart of political debate everywhere.

Watch the full Natural Regression movie here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Google's Clean Energy Initiatives

Powering a Clean Energy Revolution @ Google

Business as usual will not deliver low-cost, clean, renewable energy soon enough to avoid devastating climate change. In fact, even producing large amounts of electricity from renewable sources won't make a difference unless we can find a way to make it cheaper than electricity from coal. That's why in 2007 launched RE C, an initiative aimed at creating utility-scale renewable electricity that is cheaper than coal.

RechargeIT's RechargeIT initiative is aimed at accelerating the adoption of plug-in vehicles and "smart charging" applications. Transportation related greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for roughly one third of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and at least 20% globally. We believe that plug-in hybrids capable of running on electricity are the best near term option for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

Google PowerMeter
Google believes consumers have a right to access detailed information about their home electricity usage throughout the day - to help them save money and make smart energy decisions. Google is developing a prototype product called Google PowerMeter that allows people to see detailed home energy information in near real-time right on their computer.
Combined with their first device partner the TED 5000 - The Energy Detective device from Energy Inc. can help you understand your electricity usage to save energy and money.

Clean Energy 2030
The U.S. has a real opportunity to transform our economy from one running on fossil fuels to one largely based on clean energy. The energy team at Google has been crunching the numbers to see how we could greatly reduce fossil fuel use by 2030. Our analysis suggests a potential path to weaning the U.S. off of coal and oil for electricity generation by 2030 (with some remaining use of natural gas as well as nuclear), and cutting oil use for cars by 40%. Over 22 years this plan could generate billions of dollars in savings and help create millions of green jobs.

Solar Panels
In the summer of 2007, with an eye toward bringing solar power into the mainstream, Google switched on one of the largest corporate solar installations in the United States at our Mountain View headquarters. Their 9,212 solar panels produce 1.6 MW of electricity, which is enough to power approximately 1,000 average California homes. It reduces their carbon emissions and makes good business sense too; the installation will pay for itself in about 7.5 years.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Agriculture as Provider of Both Food and Fuel

The new research paper "Agriculture as Provider of Both Food and Fuel" has been published in AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment by Kesti Johansson, Karin Liljequist, Lars Ohlander and Kjell Aleklett


A database of global agricultural primary production has been constructed and used to estimate its energy content. The portion of crops available for food and biofuel after postharvest losses was evaluated. The basic conditions for agriculture and plant growth were studied, to ensure sustainable scenarios.

The net energy contents for the world and EU27 was found to be 7200-9300 and 430 TWh respectively, to be compared with food requirements of 7100 and 530 TWh. Clearly, very little, or nothing, remains for biofuel from agricultural primary crops. However, by using residues and bioorganic waste, it was found that biofuel production could theoretically replace one fourth of the global consumption of fossil fuels for transport.

The expansion potential for global agriculture is limited by availability of land, water and energy. A future decrease in supply of fossil energy and ongoing land degradation will thus cause difficulties for increased biofuel production from agriculture.

A related blog entry has been published by Aleklett which has also appeared on

Friday, May 7, 2010

Volvo: "We all know that oil is running out"

Demand for oil to outstrip supply within two years
A new article on Perth Now by Paul Syvret

Rising oil prices pose a grave threat to global economic recovery, according to experts. The fear has been expressed by the automobile industry. This week in Perth, Volvo's head of product planning, Lex Kerssemakers, said "we all know that oil is running out".

"We need to find alternative solutions and though we are aware of the alternatives - LPG, CNG, ethanol, electric and so on - we have to introduce these to the market, he said. "If we don't do it now, we won't be ready in five years when oil may be prohibitively expensive".

Mr Kerssemakers said Volvo would have an electric car on the world market in 2012 that would use less than 1.5 litres/100km of fuel - about one-tenth of that used by a current V8-engined sedan. Volvo is not alone in the race to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles - all car companies are either developing alternative engined or fuelled vehicles by themselves or in partnership with other car companies that, in many cases, were once their fierce rivals.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Transition in Action: Energy Descent Action Plan of Totnes and District

‘Transition in Action’ is the UK’s first comprehensive Energy Descent Action Plan designed for and by a local community. It sees the changes necessitated by climate change, peak oil and the UK’s debt crisis not as a crisis, but as a huge opportunity for entrepreneurship, creativity, community, enhanced resilience and a greater quality of life. In these pages you will find not just a vision of a more resilient world, but practical steps to reach it, key research, inspired ideas and a glimpse into the town’s recent past and what we can learn from it. The online version of the Totnes and District Energy Descent Action Plan is available here.

What is an Energy Descent Action Plan?

An Energy Descent Action Plan is a guide to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and reducing our carbon footprint over the next 20 years, during which we expect many changes associated with declining oil supplies and some of the impacts of climate change to become more apparent. In this EDAP we have built a picture of this future scenario based on visions of a better future. What we have tried in the process to invite the community to dream how the future could be, and to then work out the practical pathways by which we actually get there.

"Transition in Action, Totnes 2030, an Energy Descent Action Plan" by Transition Town Totnes has been scripted & edited by Jacqi Hodgson with Rob Hopkins