Peak Oil, Resource Depletion, deminishing EROEI and the long term implications for the continued development of China...


solarz

Brigadier
True but EVs will take time to replace gasoline vehicles even in countries like China where there is a timeframe aimed for. Removing the 55% is great but that will take time even in the most devoted of places and what about those places that don't have any intention or ability to convert wrt delivering the infrastructure and working out the economic mechanisms that allow for smooth transition? For both EVs and renewables/alternative power generation.

After all that work and time (which is cost some more hydrocarbons to pull of), we would have only doubled the time left. That could be the difference between comfortable thriving of humanity or extinction depending on how technology progresses on those other things though. Don't get me wrong, it's good and important to commit to this transition as quickly as reasonable. We know it's already slowly taking place and will take decades even for China to wean off just that 55%.

Let's be realistic here.

People have been saying "we only have 50 years of oil left" for the past 30 years. As the economic landscape changes, previously "unextractable" oil, like the Canadian tar sands, are now part of the "proven reserves".

Electric vehicle adoption will follow supply and demand. As gas gets more expensive, EV becomes more attractive.

It's not as if this is the first time in history that humanity needs to transition away from a previously abundant resource. The end of the bronze age brought about the iron age. Confederate Americans argued that slave labor was essential to their economy.

We already have everything we need to transition away from fossil fuel, it's just a matter of letting the market do it's thing.
 

solarz

Brigadier
Overpopulation is a thing. There is no doubt. There is also no certainty in where it's at depending on how it's defined. But one things for certain, exponential increase is unsustainable at some point in time. Hitting fertility wall phenomenon is not guaranteed for all ethnicities and cultures or types of economies e.g. one that is wealthy and reached developed status may have rules for reproduction or depend on having more children because of the nature of dominant industries within that economy. Just because patterns are apparent doesn't mean the same patterns will always be observed for future cases.

You forget the fact that high fertility countries all have very low per capita emissions. It's not the "exponentially growing" third world populations that are putting a strain on the world's resources, it's the first world inhabitants with zero or negative population growth.

China participated and did as much as they could with international forum discussions and agreements but drew appropriate lines for themselves. China won't be bullied by those elites for their interests but does recognise the issue. One child policy, planting entire European country sized forests. Clean coal scrubbers and newer power stations. The same metrics you showed to prove China has dramatically improved efficiency for joule/watt input is prove that it cares and knows these things are real problems.

As you said, China did not just limit births, they also industrialized the nation. Once the nation was sufficiently industrialized, the birth limit was relaxed.

The real impetus for population control in the early 80s was food security. China's agricultural sector was still labor based back then.

In fact, agriculture is a good case study of why Malthusian limits aren't real. Technological advancements in agriculture has increased crop yields by magnitudes, allowing the modern world to support far more people than would otherwise be possible.
 

SilentObserver

Junior Member
Registered Member
Let's be realistic here.

People have been saying "we only have 50 years of oil left" for the past 30 years. As the economic landscape changes, previously "unextractable" oil, like the Canadian tar sands, are now part of the "proven reserves".

Electric vehicle adoption will follow supply and demand. As gas gets more expensive, EV becomes more attractive.

It's not as if this is the first time in history that humanity needs to transition away from a previously abundant resource. The end of the bronze age brought about the iron age. Confederate Americans argued that slave labor was essential to their economy.

We already have everything we need to transition away from fossil fuel, it's just a matter of letting the market do it's thing.
I think the key argument is the lowering of EROEI as we deplete easily accessible resources not necessarily a total collapse anytime soon.

It is true that the peak oil argument has been going on for decades and we keep on producing more but the easy to access sweet crude is depleting. Not only does extraction of that become less economical, we are moving to harder to extract oil like deep sea, arctic, tar sands and shale oil, all of which has much lower EROEI compared to easy to access sweet crude. I don't belive we will run out of oil anytime soon, it will beomce less economical.

Nuclear and hydro does have high EROEI and are very profitable but have long pay back periods and require more supporting functions like cheap financing, strong project management, and sufficient electric distribution infrastructure compared to hydrocarbons to be profitable.

I think countries like China would be able to manage the shift but the margin for error becomes lower. Countries that cannot effectively deliver infrastructure on time and obtain cheap financing would have a much harder time creating high returns on their investments. Even if the transition is successful unless we get returns on energy input to output higher than easy to access oil, we will see inflationary pressures.
 
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gelgoog

Captain
Registered Member
Well, technology is not stagnating. Just consider the difference in efficiency between incandescent and LED lamps.
Incandescent lamps were used for the better part of a hundred years yet now they were replaced with something a lot more efficient.
An incandescent lamp can convert 5% of the input power into usable light and an LED lamp can convert 40% of the input power.
So it is like 8x more efficient.

Other technologies might also make visible improvements in efficiency. For example fuel cells are a lot more efficient than combustion engines. Like 2x to 3x. Then there are things like grid transmission losses. Those might be reduced if ballistic conductors come into use. A lot of energy would be preserved by switching to electric cars which have regenerative breaking.
The amount of energy wasted is immense.

Energy_2020_United-States.png

Just look at the amount of "Rejected Energy" vs "Energy Services" in the US energy flows in the chart above. All of that is energy losses.
 
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quantumlight

Junior Member
Registered Member
Well, technology is not stagnating. Just consider the difference in efficiency between incandescent and LED lamps.
Incandescent lamps were used for the better part of a hundred years yet now they were replaced with something a lot more efficient.
An incandescent lamp can convert 5% of the input power into usable light and an LED lamp can convert 40% of the input power.
So it is like 8x more efficient.

Other technologies might also make visible improvements in efficiency. For example fuel cells are a lot more efficient than combustion engines. Like 2x to 3x. Then there are things like grid transmission losses. Those might be reduced if ballistic conductors come into use. A lot of energy would be preserved by switching to electric cars which have regenerative breaking.
The amount of energy wasted is immense.

View attachment 70887

Just look at the amount of "Rejected Energy" vs "Energy Services" in the US energy flows in the chart above. All of that is energy losses.
You are talking about finding efficiencies to postpone Peak Oil and drag out the collapse curves... this is good, but in the end it won't really help that much... The main issue is that human has propensity to increase population and consumption to take full advantage of its resources no matter its like a guy making more money but still living paycheck to paycheck because he is now burderned with more expensive house and car to maintain and has gotten used to a same standard of living... then when he loses his job he can sell of some items to recup some money but he still wants to maintain that lifestyle... its the way our modern economic system of money=debt and "interest rate", fractional reserve banking, etc is all structured for perpetual growth... so any efficiences we save, will just be recycled back into growth and we will bump up against the wall again, only every subsequent time we have less levers to pull....

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Airplanes aren't getting any bigger, faster, nor more comfortable, its all about fuel savings these days. This is why Boeing 747 with 4 engines have gone the way of the dodo bird and they pumping out the battery powered (no more bleed engine) Boeing 787 to sell all the airlines since 787 has 20% fuel efficiency over 777 and 40% over 747

The problem is all this does is lower the cost of tickets, and then makes people want to travel more and afford to travel more... we aren't enforcing any true conservation of energy/oil etc...

Its called Jevon's paradox....

Nature abhors a vacuum, the optimization of entropy maximization is that helped push the evolution of intelligent life on our planet in the first place, which ended up consuming most of the hydrocarbons underneath the ground that took billions of years to naturally form via photosynthesis and in the blink of an eye in the last ~150 years we used almost all of this "free energy" up... whilst melting 30% of the polar ice caps and increasing co2 emissions by olders of magnitude and triggering this runaway climate disaster catastrophe...

If you think about it AI and automation has multiplied the "intellectual factor" where a single worker can now do the work of many people... this is a HUGE increase in productivity and thus should translate in huge increases in wealth and standards of living... but if you look at the true wage & purchasing power of the average American worker/family it has stagnated for the last 30 years and in fact in more recent years our living standards have fallen and gone massively backwards!

So what gives? how comes

It is because of the rising energy costs and decreasing EROEI as we slide down the slope of energy depletion and meet our Peak Oil fate... energy is also a work multiplier, in fact a gallon of gas has the same energy as six weeks of human muscle labor... and as energy gets less dense, more scarse and more expensive so does everything else because energy is our ability to do work and the cheap and abundant energy that our globalized JIT (just in time) system has come to utterly depend and rely on (we were always margined to the hilt) is now not able to keep propping us up in terms of the artificially easy way of life and artifically inflated standard of living that we had come to grown accustomed to...

So essentially even with all the advent of AI and automation it hasn't been able to keep up with the decrease in energy... to put another way, the decrease in energy has take away a lot more ability to do "work" (and this productivity) than the increase in AI and automation (with is a work multipier) and that of savings and efficiences have been able to afford to us...

I'm not saying efficiencies aren't important, but you can only find so much efficiencies before the bottom starts falling out... you can only shrink the candy bar so much before you aren't even selling a product at all... and likewise, even if we had the AI and technology to completely automate our society and increase the productivity to orders of magnitude it will still hit the wall of energy cap/rate limiting factor and no matter if we had skynet at our disposable we still cannot violate the laws of thermodynamics nor get "free energy" from nothing... an automated machinsits society still has the need for lots of raw energy inputs as a prerequisite to its existence!

Even with massive improvements in efficiency and in AI automation we are still barely holding on, we haven't see a massive increase in abundance nor wealth and in fact our standard of living is now in reverse and going backwards... we have turned the knob all the way to Hot to maintain a nice lukewarm temperature in a showering that is rapidly running out of hot water and now the water is going cold and we have no more levers to turn...
 

silentlurker

Junior Member
Registered Member
Well, technology is not stagnating. Just consider the difference in efficiency between incandescent and LED lamps.
Incandescent lamps were used for the better part of a hundred years yet now they were replaced with something a lot more efficient.
An incandescent lamp can convert 5% of the input power into usable light and an LED lamp can convert 40% of the input power.
So it is like 8x more efficient.

Other technologies might also make visible improvements in efficiency. For example fuel cells are a lot more efficient than combustion engines. Like 2x to 3x. Then there are things like grid transmission losses. Those might be reduced if ballistic conductors come into use. A lot of energy would be preserved by switching to electric cars which have regenerative breaking.
The amount of energy wasted is immense.

View attachment 70887

Just look at the amount of "Rejected Energy" vs "Energy Services" in the US energy flows in the chart above. All of that is energy losses.
Yes, but how much of that energy loss can be meaningfully converted to useful energy? Your natural gas plant exhaust might technically be losing energy since it exits higher than ambient temp, but there's basically no way to extract extra net energy from it.
 

gelgoog

Captain
Registered Member
Yes, but how much of that energy loss can be meaningfully converted to useful energy? Your natural gas plant exhaust might technically be losing energy since it exits higher than ambient temp, but there's basically no way to extract extra net energy from it.

If we are talking about modern large natural gas power plants those are already pretty efficient. A combined cycle natural gas power plant converts the heat into electricity with 60% efficiency. You can reuse the low-grade waste heat for district heating, like heating houses and water by piping this low-grade waste heat to the local neighborhood. This can raise overall conversion efficiency of the heat into usable energy to like 90%.

What I was talking about is when you need to have a small scale natural gas power generator. In those cases they typically use regular combustion engines and the efficiency will be 30% at best. But if you use fuel cells you get 60% efficiency converting it to electricity. You can also pipe the waste heat to heat water or homes. This will increase efficiency to 90%.

A lot of industrial facilities have local energy generators of this type. You might also find them in places which need large amounts of back up power like hospitals.
 

solarz

Brigadier
You are talking about finding efficiencies to postpone Peak Oil and drag out the collapse curves... this is good, but in the end it won't really help that much... The main issue is that human has propensity to increase population and consumption to take full advantage of its resources no matter its like a guy making more money but still living paycheck to paycheck because he is now burderned with more expensive house and car to maintain and has gotten used to a same standard of living... then when he loses his job he can sell of some items to recup some money but he still wants to maintain that lifestyle... its the way our modern economic system of money=debt and "interest rate", fractional reserve banking, etc is all structured for perpetual growth... so any efficiences we save, will just be recycled back into growth and we will bump up against the wall again, only every subsequent time we have less levers to pull....

You remind me of Fukuyama, author of "The End of History".

Technology isn't staying stagnant, and fossil fuel isn't going to be the most cost effective source of energy in the history of human civilization. You are just looking at the state of the world as it is right now, and assuming it will always be this way.
 

quantumlight

Junior Member
Registered Member
You remind me of Fukuyama, author of "The End of History".

Technology isn't staying stagnant, and fossil fuel isn't going to be the most cost effective source of energy in the history of human civilization. You are just looking at the state of the world as it is right now, and assuming it will always be this way.
Tech isn't stagnant but its slowing down...

Look at Moore's Law or Dennard Scaling or Fusion... the tech that is perpetually 30 years away...

I suppose if you were one of the original inhabitants of Easter Island you would also be yappping about how don't worry there is plenty and Andrew would be saying that the island GDP will be 5X the current GDP in a few decades yada yda ydaada

But we all know how that played out... And earth is no different, earth is isolated 3D island in the vacuum of space and the issue is we are not able to apply the current situation we have to be able to bootstrap ourselves in time to climb out of the sinking energy pit and go on to a Star Trek future..
 

solarz

Brigadier
Tech isn't stagnant but its slowing down...

Look at Moore's Law or Dennard Scaling or Fusion... the tech that is perpetually 30 years away...

I suppose if you were one of the original inhabitants of Easter Island you would also be yappping about how don't worry there is plenty and Andrew would be saying that the island GDP will be 5X the current GDP in a few decades yada yda ydaada

But we all know how that played out... And earth is no different, earth is isolated 3D island in the vacuum of space and the issue is we are not able to apply the current situation we have to be able to bootstrap ourselves in time to climb out of the sinking energy pit and go on to a Star Trek future..

Actually, the Easter Island story is a lot more complicated than you present it to be:

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The actual culprit of collapse may have been an unchecked population of rats rather than deforestation.

As for Moore's Law, that only applies to CPU speed. Computation technology, as a whole, is still advancing at a rapid pace. AI, not computation speed, is now the new frontier.

Finally, stop bringing up your fusion straw man. We don't need fusion to move away from fossil fuel.
 

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