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 Net Energy and Sustainability, or… the Story of the Overstuffed Strongman (Episode 44 of Crazy Town)

All of humanity’s feats, whether a record-setting deadlift by the world’s strongest man or the construction of a gleaming city by a technologically advanced economy, originate from a single hidden source: positive net energy. Having surplus energy in the form of thirteen pounds of food per day enables a very big man, Hafthor Bjornsson, to lift very big objects. Similarly, having surplus energy in the form of fossil fuel enables very big societies to build and trade very big piles of stuff. Maybe Hafthor has a rock-solid plan for keeping his dinner plate well stocked, but no society seems ready to have a mature conversation about how our sprawling cities and nations will manage as net energy declines. Calling our conversation “mature” might be a stretch, but at least we’re willing to address climate change, sustainability, and the rest of the net energy conundrum head on. Alice Friedemann, author of Life after Fossil Fuels, joins the conversation. For episode notes and more information, please visit our website.

Transcript

Jason Bradford

Hi, I’m Jason Bradford.

Rob Dietz

I’m Rob Dietz,

Asher Miller

and I’m Asher Miller. Welcome to Crazy Town, where residents are feeling nostalgic about 1950s era fallout shelters.

Rob Dietz

The topic of today’s episode is net energy. And please stay tuned for an insightful interview with Alice Friedemann.

Rob Dietz

Hey, Asher, Jason, welcome to another fine episode of Crazy Town. I would like one of you to volunteer to answer a question. Who’s it going to be?

Jason Bradford

Wanna roshambo for that?

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

 

 Runaway Money and Overconsumption, or… the Story of Monetary Mischief in Madagascar (Episode 42 of Crazy Town)

Way back when money consisted of iron pieces, if you wanted to buy a horse or some spices to season your horse meat, you practically had to carry an olympic weightlifting set with you. Early bankers figured out how to clear that obstacle (and prevent a lot of hernias and back injuries) when they invented paper money. Over time all-too-clever financiers cleared more and more obstacles that kept people from accessing and spending money. Today’s world of online purchases, easy credit, and cryptocurrency represents a huge ramp-up in the speed and ease of economic transactions. Yes, some of the inconveniences of yesteryear are gone, but this ramp-up is partly to blame for our problems with overconsumption, climate change, and habitat loss. Join the Crazy Townies as they swap stories around the virtual fire about spending virtual money in the virtual world. And  get advice on how to do the opposite from Nate Hagens, expert on energy, ecological economics, and finance. For episode notes and more information, please visit our website.

Transcript

Jason Bradford

Hi, I’m Jason Bradford.

Rob Dietz

I’m Rob Dietz

Asher Miller

and I’m Asher Miller. Welcome to Crazy Town, where the sanist guy around is protesting the local gas station in a Santa suit.

Rob Dietz

The topic of today’s episode is runaway money. And please stay tuned for an interview with Nate Hagens.

Asher Miller

Did I ever tell you about the time where I had to spend five nights sharing a bed with a 6’9” guy?

Rob Dietz

No, I thought that was Jason’s story.

Asher Miller

No, Jason’s story if I recall correctly is he was up on top of a mountain and he was spooning with two guys.

Jason Bradford

Yeah.

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

Banana Town: Where Michael Moore Is Censored by the Left and Promoted by the Right (Episode 24 of Crazy Town)

Banana Town: Where Michael Moore Is Censored by the Left and Promoted by the Right (Episode 24 of Crazy Town)

Paying attention to the buzz around Planet of the Humans, the new film by Michael Moore, is like standing in the middle of a three-ring circus. In ring #1 are the filmmakers, who raise critical questions about how renewable sources can power industrial society, but do so with questionable facts and mean-spirited attacks. In ring #2 are the left-wing enviros, who are barfing out lazy accusations of ecofascism and doing all they can to avoid addressing the film’s legitimate questions about population and consumption. In ring #3 are the oil-soaked, right-wing libertarians who think this film will help them keep earning and burning their way to the bank at the end of Armageddon Road. Asher, Rob, and Jason grapple with the cacophony, hash out the good and bad of the film and the response to it, and argue for an honest, messy-middle approach to the transition away from fossil fuels. For episode notes and more information, please visit our website and sign up for our newsletter.

Nafeez Ahmed on Synchronous Failure and Post-Pandemic Systems Change

Nafeez Ahmed on Synchronous Failure and Post-Pandemic Systems Change

As the pandemic grows, governments and communities are not only struggling to minimize loss of life and protect our fragile healthcare and economic systems, they are wrestling with questions about how we can recover when this storm eventually passes.

But how many people are thinking about the larger context of this crisis? How many recognize that this pandemic—or some other shock to our interconnected and brittle global systems—could trigger a massive “phase change,” and utterly remake the world as we know it?

I spoke with investigative journalist and systems thinker Nafeez Ahmed about these critical questions.

Nafeez and I discuss frameworks for understanding how the pandemic relates to the larger, systemic environmental, energy, economic, and political challenges we face—including Thomas Homer-Dixon’s concept of “Synchronous Failure,” Joseph Tainter’s “Collapse of Complex Societies,” C.S. Holling’s “Adaptive Life Cycle,” and Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine.” But far from being an abstract, academic exploration, Nafeez and I explore the real-world implications of these forces at play, and provide a call-to-action when we re-enter a world that has been transformed by COVID-19.

Please give it a watch or if you’d rather give it a listen on your favorite podcasting app, we’ve also released the interview on Crazy Town. Oh, and share with your friends and loved ones if you find it worth a listen.

David Hughes’ Shale Reality Check 2019

David Hughes’ Shale Reality Check 2019

1.9 million. 13 trillion. 10 billion. These are the numbers that jumped off the page when I read PCI Fellow David Hughes’s latest “shale reality check” report on the U.S. government’s forecasts of domestic oil and gas production. To elaborate, these forecasts mean that by 2050:

  • 9 million new oil and gas wells will need to be drilled;
  • $13 trillion will need to be spent to drill all those wells; and
  • 10 billion barrels of tight oil production will be “missing” from shale plays to meet the reference case forecast for cumulative production.

These are just some of the crazy numbers behind the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest forecasts for U.S. oil and gas production through 2050.

Every year, the EIA releases a new forecasts of domestic energy in the coming decades. These forecasts—specifically the “reference case”—are virtually taken to the bank by policymakers, investors, and the mainstream media as the most likely scenario of future production, consumption, and prices.

This despite the fact that they are very often wrong and vary tremendously from year to year. Or the fact that for several years now David Hughes has published “reality checks” on the forecasts of tight oil and shale gas production (extracted through “fracking”) found in the Annual Energy Outlook—reality checks that have consistently shown that the EIA’s projections are, to be polite, extremely optimistic.

Hughes’s latest report evaluates the EIA’s reference case forecasts for the top tight oil and shale gas plays (accounting for roughly 90% of production) against:

  • current and historical production;
  • the number of producing wells;
  • the decline rates for wells and fields;
  • the distribution of wells in terms of their quality;
  • definition of the relatively limited “sweet spot” areas in each play; and
  • the projected number of wells, well density, and money required to meet the EIA’s forecasts.

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

A Sea Change Moment?

A Sea Change Moment?

Tomorrow begins Global Climate Strike Week, led by young people to demand urgent action to address the climate emergency. What many hope will be a sea change moment in the struggle to mobilize a real response to this existential threat had a humble start a year ago when a young Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, began spending her Fridays protesting in front of the Swedish Parliament. Inspired by Greta’s example—and her blunt, uncompromising stance—millions of students have since joined her in the “Fridays for the Future” movement. This week is an opportunity for the rest of us to participate.

I will be out on the streets tomorrow and the following Friday in my hometown, and I’ll be joining a number of other activities planned locally over the coming week. PCI is supporting our staff to actively participate in the various communities where they live. We’d like to encourage you to do the same. Visit the Climate Strike website to find activities near you.

I’ll be honest, I’m not much of a protester. But if nothing else, this week presents an opportunity to show younger generations—who will be dealing disproportionately, and unfairly, with the consequences of previous generations’ profligate burning of fossil fuels—that we hear and see them, and support them to take agency.

That said, we will utterly fail them (not to mention future generations and the millions of species who have equal rights to a livable planet) if we simply go back to life-as-usual come October.

This crisis is, quite simply, wicked. As a member of the Post Carbon Institute/resilience.org extended family, you understand that the climate emergency is one of a broader, more complex set of crises that will force an almost unimaginable set of changes to virtually every aspect of modern life — whether we make those changes proactively or are dragged there.

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

Responding to Collapse: Uncertain Future Forum Wrap-Up

Responding to Collapse: Uncertain Future Forum Wrap-Up


When we invited Dahr Jamail, Meghan Kallman, Taylor Brorby, and Winona LaDuke to answer the admittedly difficult and emotionally charged question that is this forum’s topic, we didn’t expect to get the “right” answer from any of them. There is no “right” answer. What’s “right” is subjective—very much dependent on our individual circumstances and how we define “collapse.” I would venture that the answer is also fundamentally unknowable. It will be a moving target as the complex, adaptive systems of energy, climate, economy, and politics interact in ways that we can neither predict nor fully prepare for.

But that doesn’t mean the question—how do we respond to collapse?—is futile or that the attempt to answer it is pointless. In fact, it may be the most important question each of us needs to ask—and re-ask—ourselves and one another over the coming days, months, and years.

That’s why we wanted this to be the very first topic of the Uncertain Future Forum and invited Winona, Taylor, Meghan, and Dahr to answer the question (and respond to one another’s answers) in whatever way they felt compelled. And it’s why I would like to invite you to grapple with the question and share your answer in the comments section below.

Though there are as many answers to this question as there are people asking it, I did notice some common themes in the responses of our authors. One is the need to be honest with ourselves and each other about the reality we face. Another is the need to contend with our own grief, as Dahr Jamail shared.

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

U.S. Department of Energy Doubles Down on Shale Optimism

The U.S. stock market is not the only thing that’s gotten overheated in the last few years. Exuberance over U.S. energy output has hit a record high as natural gas production has reached its all-time peak, and oil production nears highs not seen in 47 years. Thanks to the so-called “shale revolution” (tapping previously inaccessible fossil fuels in shale rock deposits through the use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies), the U.S. government has green-lighted liquefied natural gas export terminals and pipelines and lifted the ban on oil exports. The statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Energy—the Energy Information Administration (EIA)—predicts that the United States will become a net energy exporter in the next five years, a status we haven’t enjoyed since Eisenhower was president.

Although shale development represents a remarkable technological achievement (made possible by cheap loans and questionable finances), the EIA seems to be betting heavily on the long-term prospects of tight (shale) oil and shale gas production, apparently in the erroneous belief that what goes up must keep doing so. This despite ample warning signs that the “shale revolution” will be a short-lived phenomenon. In fact, the higher production goes, the faster and sooner it will decline.

Since 2011 my colleague at Post Carbon Institute, David Hughes (an expert on fossil fuel production who worked for the Geological Survey of Canada for 32 years), has been sounding the warning bell about the danger of betting our energy future on shale. Through intensive analysis of oil and gas production data, he has identified a clear pattern of quite rapid boom and bust cycles in shale plays.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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