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Compressed air energy storage (CAES)

Compressed air energy storage (CAES)

Figure 1. Potential salt dome locations for CAES facilities are mainly along the Gulf coast

Preface. Besides pumped hydro storage (PHS), which provides 99% of energy storage today, CAES is the only other commercially proven energy storage technology that can provide large-scale (over 100 MW) energy storage. But there are just two CAES plants in the world because there are so few places to put them, as you can see in Figure 1 and Figure i.

CAES is the most sustainable energy storage with no environmental issues like what PHS poses, such as the flooding of land and the damming of rivers. And Barnhart (2013) rates the ESOI, or energy stored on energy invested, the best of all for CAES. Batteries need up to 100 times more energy to create than the energy they can store.

A more detailed and technical article on CAES with wonderful pictures can be found here: Kris De Decker. History and Future of the Compressed Air Economy.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of  “Life After Fossil Fuels – Back to Wood World”, 2021, Springer, “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Collapse ChroniclesDerrick JensenPractical PreppingKunstlerCast 253KunstlerCast278Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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How it works: Using off-peak electricity, compressed air is pumped into very large underground cavities at a depth of 1650–4250 feet (Hovorka 2009), and then drawn out to spin turbines at peak demand periods.

Uh-oh — it still needs fossil fuels. But a big drawback of CAES is that it still needs fossil fuels, since electric generators use natural gas to supplement the energy from the stored compressed air…

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Heinberg on what to do at home

Heinberg on what to do at home

Preface. A quick summary:

Best investment: insulate exterior walls, ceiling, and floors for energy savings. Other good changes were to plant a garden and fruit-and-nut orchard, and buy solar hot water heater, solar food dryer, solar cooker, chickens, energy-efficient appliances

Lessons learned: It is expensive, especially energy storage. Solar cookers work mainly in the summer.

In the future there will ll be more bikes and ebikes than cars. There needs to be much more local production of food and other goods to shorten supply chains.

Bottom line: there’s very little we can do as individuals, we can’t mine for the minerals we need, few of us can grow all of our food, despite all these investments Heinberg still heavily depends on the greater world for food, electricity, and clothes, cars and most other objects in our lives can’t be home-made. What is required to make a transition is much bigger than most people imagine.

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Richard Heinberg. 2020. If My House Were the World: The Renewable Energy Transition Via Chickens and Solar Cookers. Resilience.org

For the past two decades, my wife Janet and I have been trying to transition our home to a post-fossil-fuel future. I say “trying,” because the experiment is incomplete and only somewhat successful. It doesn’t offer an exact model for how the rest of the world might make the shift to renewable energy; nevertheless, there’s quite a bit that we’ve learned that could be illuminating for others as they contemplate what it will take to minimize climate change by replacing coal, oil, and gas with cleaner energy sources.

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Rationing. Book review of “Any way you slice it” by Stan Cox

Rationing. Book review of “Any way you slice it” by Stan Cox

Preface. I can’t imagine that there’s a better book on rationing out there, but of course I can’t be sure, I don’t feel the need to find others on this topic after reading this book. As usual, I had to leave quite a bit out of this review, skipping medical care rationing entirely among many other topics. Nor did I capture the myriad ways rationing can go wrong, so if you ever find yourself in a position of trying to implement a rationing system, or advocating for a rationing system, you’ll wish you’d bought this book. I can guarantee you the time is coming when rationing will be needed, in fact, it’s already here with covid-19. I’ve seen food lines over a mile long.

As energy declines, food prices will go up and at some point gasoline, food, electricity, and heating as well, all of them ought to be rationed.

Though this might not happen in the U.S. where the most extreme and brutal capitalism exists.  Here the U.S. is the richest nation that ever existed but the distribution of wealth is among the most unfair on the planet.  When the need to ration strikes, economists will argue against it I’m sure, saying there’ll be too much cheating and it will be too hard to implement.  Capitalism hates price controls. That’s why “publicly raising the question of curbing growth or uttering the dread word “rationing” in the midst of a profit-driven economy has been compared to shouting an obscenity in church”.

Republicans constantly want to cut back the affordable care act and the food stamp program SNAP.  Companies keep their workforces as small as possible and shift jobs and factories overseas to nations with lower wages and fewer regulations…

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Gen IV SMR nuclear reactors

Gen IV SMR nuclear reactors

Preface. Peak conventional oil, which supplies over 95% of our oil, may have peaked in 2008 (IEA 2018) or 2018 (EIA 2020). We are running out of time. And is it really worth building these small modular reactors (SMR) given that peak uranium is coming soon? And until nuclear waste disposal exists, they should be on hold, like in California and 13 other states.

And since trucks can’t run on electricity (When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation 2015, Springer), what’s the point? Nor can manufacturing be run on electricity or blue hydrogen (Friedmann 2019). Once oil declines, the cost to get uranium will skyrocket since oil is likely to be rationed to transportation, especially agriculture.

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Cho A. 2020. Critics question whether novel reactor is ‘walk-away safe’. Science 369: 888-889

Engineers at NuScale Power believe they can revive the moribund U.S. nuclear industry by thinking small. Spun out of Oregon State University in 2007, the company is striving to win approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the design of a new factory-built, modular fission reactor meant to be smaller, safer, and cheaper than the gigawatt behemoths operating today (Science, 22 February 2019, p. 806). But even as that 4-year process culminates, reviewers have unearthed design problems, including one that critics say undermines NuScale’s claim that in an emergency, its small modular reactor (SMR) would shut itself down without operator intervention.

NuScale’s likely first customer, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), has delayed plans to build a NuScale plant, which would include a dozen of the reactors, at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Idaho National Laboratory. The $6.1 billion plant would now be completed by 2030, 3 years later than previously planned, says UAMPS spokesperson LaVarr Webb. The deal depends on DOE contributing $1.4 billion to the cost of the plant, he adds.

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Book review of “Bright Green Lies”

Book review of “Bright Green Lies”

This is a book review of “Bright Green Lies. How the Environmental Movement Lost its Way and What We can Do About It” by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert.

This is a timely book.  The Biden administration is alarmed by how China controls up to 90% of rare earth and other essential minerals we’ll need for bright green power and anything else electronic. Analysts are predicting that the Biden infrastructure plan will include mines for lithium (such as the open-pit lithium mine at Thacker Pass, Nevada), a new copper mine in Arizona on land the San Carlos Apache Tribe considers sacred and more destruction of U.S. land, rivers, and aquifers.

This book covers the amazing amount of damage bright green power will do to the climate, biodiversity, and ecology, but above all by mining.  If you are trying to lose weight, read this book, you will lose your appetite, I guarantee you!

And why destroy our country to mine metals to compete with China? In my book “Life After Fossil Fuels”, I write “Let China monopolize the second most polluting industry on earth. Mining spews out acid rain, wastewater, and heavy metals onto land, water, and air. One fifth of China’s arable land is polluted from mining and industry.  Mining the materials needed for renewable energy potentially affects 50 million square kilometers, 37% of Earth’s land (minus Antarctica), with a third of this land overlapping key biodiversity areas, wilderness, or protected areas. If mined, that would drive biodiversity loss, harm (rain) forests, and poison ecosystems.  Renewable energy is anything but clean and green. And quite a Pyrrhic victory for China!”

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alice friedemann, bright green lies, renewable energy, clean energy, misinformation, lies, propaganda, ecology,

Walter Youngquist: Geodestinies

Walter Youngquist: Geodestinies

Preface. I was fortunate enough to know Walter for 15 years. He became a friend and mentor, helping me learn to become a better science writer, and sending me material I might be interested in, and delightful pictures of him sitting in a lawn chair and feeding wild deer who weren’t afraid of him. I thought his book Geodestinies: The Inevitable Control of Earth Resources over Nations and Individuals, published in 1997, was the best overview of energy and natural resources ever written, and encouraged him to write a second edition. He did try, but he spent so much time taking care of his ill wife, that he died before finishing it. I’ve made eight posts of just a few topics from the version that was in progress when he died at 96 years old in 2018 (500 pages).

More than any other energy and resources writer I know of, he focused on population as being the main problem that needed to be solved if we hoped to have a better future.

This first part covers many topics about energy, consumption, war, soil, oil production on various countries, and more. I have several more sections of this book in other posts under Experts/Walter Youngquist.

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The destinies of all nations and all people are in many ways bound up with the mineral and energy mineral resources of the Earth. Events of the geologic past have richly endowed some nations with valuable resources, whereas others have very few. The result is markedly different destinies for different nations. How these resources have affected the peoples of the past, how they influence our lives now, and how they will determine our futures is the study of GeoDestinies.

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walter youngquist, alice friedemann, energy skeptic

Science : No single or combination of alternative energy resources can replace fossil fuels

Science : No single or combination of alternative energy resources can replace fossil fuels

Preface. Even though this research was from 2002, it is still true today.   There simply are no replacements for the fossil fuels that power our civilization.  If only scientists could violate the laws of thermodynamics and physics.

Even if there were Something Else, we’re running out of time, energy, and mineral resources to replace fossil fuels despite having had all of human history and the last few centuries to find alternatives. Energy transitions take decades. It took 50 years for oil to capture 10% of global energy after it was first drilled in the 1860s, and 30 more years to provide 25% of all energy. It took 70 years for natural gas to go from 1% to 20% of global energy (Smil 2010).

The larger the scale of existing infrastructure, the longer fossil substitution will take. In 2019, wind and solar contributed just 1.3% of total world energy consumption (BP 2020).

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Experts question new energy sources. Oct 31, 2002. AP.

None of the known alternate energy sources are technically ready to take the place of fossil fuels experts say in a new study.

The study by 18 scientists and engineers in university, government and private labs evaluated technologies that would make energy without burning oil, coal or natural gas and found that no single system or combination of systems could replace these fossil fuels.

Hoffert said a combination of renewable energy sources — such as wind and solar power generation, or electrical power beamed from orbiting solar satellites, and nuclear fusion power plants — “are theoretically capable of keeping our civilization going into the future, but the problem is that we haven’t taken the challenge seriously enough to do research in it. We are putting practically nothing into really, seriously studying the problem.”

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Lifespan of infrastructure, transportation, and buildings

Lifespan of infrastructure, transportation, and buildings

Preface. What follows is from the International Energy Agency 2020 report “Energy technology perspectives” on how to transition to net zero emissions by 2050. This might require the replacement of just about everything, since power plants, steel blast furnaces, cement kilns, buildings, trucks, cars, buses and more that run fossil fuels now would have to be replaced or greatly modified to run on hydrogen, electricity, or other renewables since most of this infrastructure will last for decades, and much of it is quite young, especially in China.

Since mining uses 10% of all energy, and many elements are likely to run out or are controlled by China, and energy transitions take 50 years or more (Smil 2010 Energy myths and realities), making such a transition is unlikely. And if conventional oil did start declining in 2018, impossible.

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Figure 1.12 Typical lifetimes for key energy sector assets

Notes: The red markers show expectations of average lifetimes while the blue bars show typical ranges of actual operation in years, irrespective of the need for interim retrofits, component replacement and refurbishments. “Buildings” refers to building structures, not the energy consuming equipment housed within. Examples of “urban infrastructure” assets include pavement, bridges and sewer systems.

The operating lifetime of some assets, especially those that produce materials or transform energy, can span several decades: this means that it could be a long time until they are replaced by cleaner and more efficient ones.

Figure 1.13 Age structure of existing fossil power capacity by region and technology in operation 2018 (source: Platts 2020a)

About 50% of the installed fossil-fired power generation capacity in China was built within the last ten years, and 85% within the last 20 years. The average age of coal plants is over 40 years in the United States and around 35 years in Europe, while it is below 20 years in most Asian countries, and just 13 years in China.

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Utility scale energy storage limited by minerals and geography

Utility scale energy storage limited by minerals and geography

Preface. Natural gas is finite, but aside from (pumped) hydropower, natural gas is the main way wind and solar are balanced now. Therefore, a tremendous amount of energy storage will be needed in the future as natural gas declines.

The current total energy storage capacity of the US grid is less than 1%. What little capacity there is comes from pumped hydroelectric storage, which works by pumping water to a reservoir behind a dam when electricity demand is low. When demand is high, the water is released through turbines that generate electricity.

This study has quantified the energetic costs of 7 different grid-scale energy storage technologies over time. Using a new metric called “Energy Stored on Invested, ESOI”, they concluded that batteries were the worst performers, while compressed air energy storage (CAES) performed the best, followed by pumped hydro storage (PHS).

But unfortunately, pumped hydro and compressed air energy storage can only contribute a small amount of storage, because there are few places left to put dams and underground salt domes. Eventually, as fossil fuels decline, wind and solar power will need to provide at least 80% or more of the electric power, since biomass doesn’t scale up.  Utility-scale electrochemical battery energy storage is essential to keeping the electric grid up in the future, not only to balance sudden surges and dips in intermittent power, but to provide at least a month of energy storage to provide for the seasonal nature of wind and solar, when neither is contributing power to the grid (Droste-Franke, B. 2015. Review of the need for storage capacity depending on the share of renewable energies in”Electrochemical energy storage for renewable sources and grid balancing”,  Elsevier).

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alice friedemann, energy skeptic, renewable energy, alternative energy, energy storage,

54 Reasons why wind power can not replace fossil fuels

54 Reasons why wind power can not replace fossil fuels

Source: Leonard, T. 2012. Broken down and rusting, is this the future of Britain’s ‘wind rush’? https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2116877/Is-future-Britains-wind-rush.html

Preface. Electricity simply doesn’t substitute for all the uses of fossil fuels, so windmills will never be able to reproduce themselves from the energy they generate — they are simply not sustainable.  Nor can electricity generate the high heat required in manufacturing for smelting of metals, glass, and other components.  Consider the life cycle of a wind turbine – giant diesel powered mining trucks and machines dig deep into the earth for iron ore, fossil-fueled ships take the ore to a facility that will use fossil fuels to crush it and permeate it with toxic petro-chemicals to extract the metal from the ore. Then the metal will be taken in a diesel truck or locomotive to a smelter which runs exclusively on fossil fuels 24 x 7 x 365 for up to 22 years (any stoppage causes the lining to shatter so intermittent electricity won’t do). There are over 8,000 parts to a wind turbine which are delivered over global supply chains via petroleum-fueled ships, rail, air, and trucks to the assembly factory. Finally diesel cement trucks arrive at the wind turbine site to pour many tons of concrete and other diesel trucks carry segments of the wind turbine to the site and workers who drove gas or diesel vehicles to the site assemble it.

Here are the topics covered below in this long post:

  1. Windmills require petroleum every single step of their life cycle. If they can’t replicate themselves using wind turbine generated electricity, they are not sustainable
  2. SCALE. Too many windmills needed to replace fossil fuels
  3. SCALE. Wind turbines can’t be scaled up fast enough to replace fossils
  4. Not enough rare earth metals and enormous amounts of cement, steel, and other materials required
  5. Not enough dispatchable power to balance wind intermittency and unreliability

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Ugo Bardi’s The Universal Mining Machine

Ugo Bardi’s The Universal Mining Machine

Preface. Below I’ve excerpted some of Ugo Bardi’s “The Universal Mining Machine” (24 January 2008 europe.theoildrum), but I’ve left a great deal out of this excellent article, I encourage you to read all of it if you have time. The biggest problem the world faces is “Peak Diesel”, which is what my book “When Trucks stop running” is about. Bardi points out “that 34% of the energy involved in the US mining industry is in the form of diesel fuel.” Nor are there more minerals to be found: “There is little hope of finding high grade sources of minerals other than those we know already. The planet’s crust has been thoroughly explored and digging deeper is not likely to help, since ores form mainly because of geochemical (especially hydrothermal) processes that operate near the surface.”

Earth’s mineral resources

The Earth’s crust is said to contain 88 elements in concentrations that spread over at least seven orders of magnitude. Some elements are defined as “common,” with concentrations over 0.1% in weight. Of these, five are technologically important in metallic form: iron, aluminum, magnesium, silicon, and titanium. All the other metals exist in lower concentrations, sometimes much lower. Most metals of technological importance are defined as “rare” and exist mostly as low concentration substituents in ordinary rock, that is, dispersed at the atomic level in silicates and other oxides. The average crustal abundance of rare elements, such as copper, zinc, lead and others, is below 0.01% (100 ppm). Some, such as gold, platinum and rhodium, are very rare and exist in the crust as a few parts per billion or even less. However, most rare elements also form specific chemical compounds that can be found at relatively high concentrations in regions called “deposits”. Those deposits from which we actually extract minerals are called “ores”...

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Extreme flooding from slow hurricanes a danger to farms

Extreme flooding from slow hurricanes a danger to farms

Preface. Yet another danger from climate change for agriculture will be slow hurricanes and cyclones dumping a foot or more of rain over a few days such as the recent hurricanes Harvey (2017), Florence (2018), and Dorian (2019).

Journal reference: Zhang G, et al. 2020. Tropical cyclone motion in a changing climate. Science Advances.

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Le Page M. 2020. Slower-moving hurricanes will cause more devastation as world warms. NewScientist.

Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding in 2017, killing 68 people and costing $125 billion in damages. One reason it was so destructive is that it moved unusually slowly and remained over the same area for days – and as the world warms, there are going to be a lot more slow-moving tropical cyclones like Harvey, according to high-resolution climate models.

A slow-moving tropical cyclone dumps far more rain in one place than a fast-moving storm of a similar size and strength. The winds can also do more damage, because they batter structures for longer.

Harvey, for instance, dumped more than a metre of rain in parts of the Houston area. “Imagine that much water falling in one spot,” says Gan Zhang at Princeton University. “It is too much for the infrastructure to handle.”

Other recent storms, including Hurricane Florence in 2018 and Hurricane Dorian in 2019 have also been slow-moving, leading to suggestions that climate change is increasing the odds of slow-moving storms.

Now Zhang and his colleagues have run about 100 high-resolution simulations of how tropical cyclones behave in three types of conditions: those between 1950 and 2000, those similar to the present and also various future scenarios.

They saw a marked slowdown as the world warms, due to a poleward shift of the mid-latitude westerly winds. It is these prevailing winds that push cyclones along and determine how fast they travel.

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Offshore wind turbines: Expensive, risky, and last just 15 years

Offshore wind turbines: Expensive, risky, and last just 15 years

 

 

 

Preface: The Department of Energy high wind penetration plans require a lot of offshore wind. But is it possible, affordable, or wise to do this? Corrosion leads to a short lifespan of just 15 years. To reduce maintenance, offshore windmills use limited rare earth metals.  A 500 MW offshore wind farm could cost $3.04 billion dollars (Table A-1). The materials (i.e. steel & concrete) needed for 730,099 2 MW windmills in America are staggering. Offshore turbines of 6 MW weigh 757 tons, nearly 2.5 times more than onshore turbines (table 4.3), each one weighing as much as 505 cars of 3,000 pounds each.  Most components are made in China and Europe, so supply chain disruptions would delay repairs or repowering.

Wind turbines can be battered, rusted, corroded, or destroyed by tides, storms, hurricanes, lightning, icebergs, floes, large waves, and marine growth, shortening their lives and increasing maintenance and operation costs.

Why build risky, expensive, short-lived offshore wind farms if a renewable electric grid may not be possible given the lack of a national grid, lack of commercial-level utility-scale energy storage, and the insurmountable issue of seasonal wind and solar?  Peak oil occured in 2018, so sometime within the next 10 years oil shocks will hit and be too precious for building such contraptions, and oil will eventually be rationed mainly to agriculture (if government is not controlled by libertarians, republicans, or demagogues), and after that, the center will not hold.  Best to use the energy to build offshore wind turbines on creating organic farms and other postcarbon strategies.

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Navigant. 2013. U.S. Offshore Wind Manufacturing and Supply Chain Development. U.S. Department of Energy.

Can we afford offshore wind turbines? A 500 MW farm costs $3 trillion dollars and will last only 15 years

offshore wind capital costs 3 trillion dollars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Renewables must help pay for transmission and their energy storage backup of fossil power plants

Renewables must help pay for transmission and their energy storage backup of fossil power plants

Preface. Wind and solar advocates don’t include transmission and backup costs in their net energy calculations. But without fossil backup, the electric grid will come down due to lack of storage. There is almost nowhere left to put pumped hydro storage in the ten states that already have 80% of hydropower, there is only one Compressed Air Energy Storage plant in the U.S. in one of the few salt domes in three states along the Gulf coast that have salt domes (with half of it powered by natural gas turbines), and it would cost $41 trillion dollars to make Sodium Sulfur (NaS) batteries lasting 15 years to back up just one day of U.S. electricity generation (Friedemann 2015).

Mexico is asking renewable companies to pay for transmission and natural gas / coal backup for when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun shining. About time, because this is all a gigantic waste of money if wind and solar can’t stand on their own, a dumb investment when we could have used the money to convert to organic farming, plant more trees, beef up infrastructure and other efforts to prepare for peak oil, coal, and natural gas and the lifestyle that will be forced upon us.

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Garcia, D. A. 2020. Renewable firms in Mexico must contribute to grid backup – CFE chief. Reuters.

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Private renewable energy firms in Mexico should pay for part of the baseload power underpinning the flow of electricity on the grid, the head of the state power company said….Renewable operators had not been pulling their weight in contributing to the infrastructure that sustains them.

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The Invisible oiliness of everything

The Invisible oiliness of everything

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.

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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).

pencils“My family tree begins with … a Cedar tree from Oregon. Now contemplate the antecedents — all the people, numberless skills, and fabrication:

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 SAWSAXES, and MOTORS.

The growing of HEMP, LUBRICATED with OILDIRT REMOVEDCOMBEDCOMPRESSEDSPUN 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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Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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