Preface. Even a simple object like a pencil requires dozens of actions to make and dozens of objects that took energy to make. This is why it is unlikely wind, solar, or any other contraption that make electricity, have a positive return of energy, or energy returned on energy invested. If you look at all of the energy of the steps to create a wind turbine or solar panel, they don’t produce as much energy as it took to make them, and certainly not enough extra energy to replace themselves. Besides, electricity is only about 15% of overall energy use, with fossils providing the rest transportation, manufacturing, heating, and the half a million products made from fossils as feedstock as well as energy source.
Just as fish swim in water, we swim in oil. You can’t understand the predicament we’re in until you can see the oil that saturates every single aspect of our life.
What follows is a life cycle of a simple object, the pencil. I’ve cut back and reworded Leonard Read’s 1958 essay I Pencil, My Family Tree to show the fossil fuel energy inputs (OBJECTS made using energy, like the pencil, are in BOLD CAPITALS, ACTIONS are BOLD ITALICIZED).
All the SAWS. TRUCKS, ROPE and OTHER GEAR to HARVEST and CART cedar logs to the RAILROAD siding. The MINING of ore, MAKING of STEEL, and its REFINEMENT into SAWS, AXES, and MOTORS.
The growing of HEMP, LUBRICATED with OIL, DIRT REMOVED, COMBED, COMPRESSED, SPUN into yard, and BRAIDED into ROPE.
BUILDING of LOGGING CAMPS (BEDS, MESS HALLS). SHOP for, DELIVER, and COOK FOOD to feed the working men. Not to mention the untold thousands of persons who had a hand in every cup of COFFEE the loggers drank!
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