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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXVII–Limitless, ‘Clean’ Energy: More Magical Thinking

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXVII

December 29, 2022 (original posting date)

Chitchen Itza, Mexico. (1986) Photo by author.

Limitless, ‘Clean’ Energy: More Magical Thinking

A brief contemplation that shares my comment on the latest post by The Honest Sorcerer regarding the recent fusion energy ‘breakthrough’ that has been making the rounds on many media sites. My current ‘bias’, given my last post, has me viewing this particular topic in a focused way that I outline below.

You’ve hit the nail on the head of the dominant narrative and mass magical thinking that goes on in our world around notions of limitless and ‘clean’ energy: given time (and funding/resources), our human ingenuity and technological prowess can ‘solve’ any problem thrown our way. Limits imposed by our existence on a finite planet are minuscule compared to our unfettered imaginations and abilities provided by our opposable thumbs. Finite limits? Meh. Ecological destruction? Who cares. Global collapse? Nothing to see, look over here…

And you ask a pertinent question: “Who in their sane minds approved the budget for all this?!”

I think energy analyst Art Berman highlights the nefarious actors that have done just this (see here). As he argues, not only are the claims about the ‘breakthrough’ a big nothing burger (since the energy-return-on-investment is about 0.005, or basically zero) but the announcement just happened to coincide with an announcement by the U.S. Congress to fund to the tune of $624 million this type of research.

Given the ties to the military that lay in the shadows of the event and the media propaganda about this fusion energy ‘miracle’ that ignores this connection, we should all be asking some hard, critical questions. Like: is this all just a form of ‘money laundering’ by the government to divert funding in a roundabout way to its military while marketing it as ‘energy research’; and, is this just a funnelling of wealth to the elite that own/control the industries necessary to carry out the work? (Questions that should also be asked about the billions (if not trillions) of dollars heading to Ukraine, NATO, various military and quasi-military establishments around the globe; as well as all the other ‘clean/green’ energy research and industries.)

This certainly plays into one of the themes I’ve been writing about: the actions of our ruling caste is driven by the primary goal of controlling/expanding the wealth-generation/-extraction systems that provide their revenue streams and thus positions of power and prestige. Having control (or at minimum overriding influence) of the politicians/government aids this immensely.

Mix this up with the competition between polities that occurs (and is discussed by archaeologist Joseph Tainter in The Collapse of Complex Societies; and that I have just written about here) and one can well imagine the shenanigans that goes on amongst politicians (i.e., those allocating a society’s resources in the name of ‘citizen prosperity’), industrialists (i.e., those that ‘own’ the needed industries and resources), and the media (i.e., those that own the propaganda machinery and guide/influence societal narratives) to fund ‘research’ (especially military-oriented) and other wealth-extraction/-generation systems in the name of citizen welfare.

But let’s be frank, the ruling caste cares not one iota for the hoi polloi or the ecological systems destruction this pursuit is causing. Their concern is to maintain the rigged game with them at the apex of the pyramid (an apt description given the entire scheme is little more than a gargantuan Ponzi-like structure predicated upon infinite growth on a finite planet). And as Tainter concludes regarding the peer polity competition that arises as an epiphenomenon of this:

“Collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole. Competitors who evolve as peers collapse in like manner.”

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXX–Ignoring Ecological Systems Destruction

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXX

November 28, 2023 (original posting date)

Chitchen Itza, Mexico. (1986) Photo by author.

Ignoring Ecological Systems Destruction

This contemplation shares a response of mine to another within an ongoing discussion regarding a Facebook post by Clean Energy Canada[1] highlighting one of Canada’s major energy companies’ offshore wind farm projects. This ‘think tank’ out of Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada works “…to accelerate Canada’s clean energy transition by sharing the story of the global shift to renewable energy, clean technology, and sustainable industries…”[2]

The energy dilemma our species has found itself immersed in is much, much more complex than just fossil fuels versus non-renewable, renewable energy-harvesting technologies (NRREHT) — aka ‘renewables’ — and about energy-return-on-energy-invested (EROEI). Mind you, the numbers you provide for various EROEI seem rather generous towards renewables and not in line with numbers I have seen[3]; of course, there is much disagreement amongst analysts about not only the numbers pertaining to EROEI but how to best evaluate them. And while EROEI is an important concept and analytical tool for evaluating the potential benefit:cost ratio of fuels, focusing solely upon it and related measurements/analyses often if not always leads to a neglect of the very real ecological consequences of human energy use and the significant extractive and industrial processes associated with it.

And this plight we find ourselves in as we explore (and disagree about) alternatives to fossil fuels is certainly much more complicated than just the focus upon the atmospheric loading due to carbon emissions that most concentrate upon.

Research suggests biodiversity loss, land-system change, and biogeochemical flows are three planetary limits we have more drastically surpassed compared to atmospheric pollution-loading and subsequent changes to climate[4]. These aspects of our ever-increasing impact upon the planet are invariably overshadowed by the clarion calls to reduce carbon emissions and transition to low- or no-carbon technologies.

‘Renewables’ may be marginally better in certain aspects, but they are also less better in others; for example, the energy density of certain fossil fuels is far, far better than solar/wind that must be stored in batteries[5]. They also require storage technologies (and thus materials) whose production wreak havoc upon our ecological systems[6]. This observation should in no way be construed as support for fossil fuels.

Regardless of these observations, my initial and subsequent assertions were to focus attention upon misuse of the term ‘clean energy’.

The terms ‘green’, ‘clean’, and ‘sustainable’ when referring to the products of the energy complex are bold-faced lies and this is what I was pointing out. These are marketing/propaganda terms meant, when it gets right down to it, to sell stuff. But also to advance an idea — an idea that allows people to continue consuming and also feel good about such consumption while simultaneously dispensing with the notion that consumption and the associated penchant to chase the infinite growth chalice is bad for the planet — an increasing concern over the past few decades but increasingly denied/ignored by many because it can all be done with ‘green’ growth via ‘clean’ technologies (oxymorons if ever there were ones).

The ecological damage that we continue to perpetrate upon the planet in our attempts to sustain our complex energy-intensive conveniences (that we have come to depend upon as we’ve lost the skills/knowledge to be locally self-sufficient) via non-renewable, renewable energy-harvesting technologies is for the most part completely and utterly left out of the propaganda/marketing we are exposed to; or, rationalised away by the fanciful narratives weaved about ‘clean’ technologies.

These comforting narratives, much like everything else, are leveraged by the ruling caste and profiteers (and there is much overlap between these two groups) to meet their primary motivation: control/expansion of the wealth-generation/-extraction systems that provide their revenue streams and thus power and wealth. And the narrative control managers that work with and on behalf of these groups know full well that significant psychological mechanisms (e.g., reduction of cognitive dissonance, obedience/deference to authority, groupthink, etc.) can be activated to support such stories.

Some have argued that the industrial processes necessary for these technologies (especially the battery components for storage, the scale necessary to replace fossil fuel power, and the massive electrical infrastructure required) is as bad as that created by our use of fossil fuels — to say little about the observation that we lack the finite resources to do this[7].

While we continue to argue over ‘solutions’ for addressing climate change (i.e., fossil fuels vs renewables in order to reduce carbon emissions), we fail to recognise that this particular conundrum is just one of the symptoms of ecological overshoot.

So rather than addressing our fundamental predicament we seek to attempt to solve one of its many consequences, and in a way that exacerbates overshoot. We ignore the ongoing and massive ecological systems destruction and compound it via marginal improvements in technology not realising that it is our technology that has placed us in overshoot.

We weave stories to tell each other that no sacrifices are necessary (especially within so-called ‘advanced’ economies) and that we have the ingenuity to ‘solve’ anything thrown our way.

And rather than confronting our predicament, admitting the scale of its impending consequences for our (and likely every other) species, and getting down to discuss the really hard choices we need to be making, we continue to not only rationalise away the anxiety-provoking thoughts such an approach would lead to but ‘allow’ the worst of us to ‘control’ our collective future.

[1] It is clear that the algorithms that track my social media interactions recognise my interest in energy issues and periodically place in my Facebook feed these type of posts.

[2] While I have neither the time nor inclination to attempt a ‘forensic audit’ of the funding of this ‘think tank’, it seems self-evident that it’s part of a growing ‘industry’ to market ‘clean’ energy products via the notion that these are ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ (even if they’re not) and receives substantial financial support from the ‘clean energy’ industry.

[3] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[4] See this.

[5] See this.

[6] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[7] See this.

Climate change is a Narrow View of the Human Predicament

Energy awareness

A transition away from fossil fuels seems like a sensible approach to climate change but what are the correct ingredients? Wind, solar, hydrogen, electric vehicles, carbon capture, nuclear, geothermal, heat pumps, hydropower?

It’s like a doctor treating a patient without examining the source of his symptoms.

“If many remedies are prescribed for an illness, you may be certain that the illness has no cure.”

—Anton Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard (1904)

Climate change is a serious threat to civilization, but it is a symptom of the larger problem of overshoot. Overshoot means that humans are using natural resources and polluting at rates beyond the planet’s capacity to recover.

The main cause of overshoot is the extraordinary growth of the human enterprise made possible by fossil energy. As that enterprise grew, more and more energy was needed to support its complexity and continued growth. The carbon emissions that underlie climate change are merely a byproduct of using all of that energy.

Humanity has been having quite a party with fossil fuels for the last century of so. Now it’s time to survey the mess we’ve made. Everyone wants solutions but first we must understand the present state of things and how we got here. Without a map of the territory, we are lost. Choosing a destination without a route will probably get us more lost. Yet, that is society’s current approach.

Ecology and economics come from the same Greek word oikos which means home or household. Ecology means what we know and say about our home. Economics means how we measure and manage our household. It seems strange to me that economics largely excludes ecology and the natural world that we consider to be our home.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXXIV–To EV Or Not To EV? One Of Many Questions Regarding Our ‘Clean/Green’ Utopian Future, Part 2.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXXIV

Knossos, Greece (1988). Photo by author.

To EV Or Not To EV? One Of Many Questions Regarding Our ‘Clean/Green’ Utopian Future, Part 2.

In Part 1 of this two-part Contemplation I argue that the recent trumpeting of electric vehicle (EV) car sales as a prologue to their imminent mass adoption and possibly ‘saving of the world’ from our errant carbon emission ways is more a projection of hope than reflective of realities behind some rather opaque curtains. This growth may continue as cheerleaders hope — at least for a bit longer, and thus appearing to support their assertions — but there exist some relatively strong headwinds suggesting it will not. Time of course will tell…

In attempting to peer behind or through the curtains one must consider: the pattern of previous technology bubbles created by intense mass marketing and purchases by early adopters; the evidence for the manipulation of sales growth statistics feeding into the narrative of widespread and growing adoption; and, the need for current growth to continue in light of resource constraints, a lack of infrastructure supports, government subsidy withdrawals, inflation impacts, and the cost concerns of purchasers (see this recent Bloomberg news article that highlights the international car rental agency Hertz Global Holdings unloading 20,000 EVs (about 1/3 of its U.S. EV fleet) due to higher repair costs, low demand, and reinvesting some of the sales dollars into ICE vehicles).

There is also growing skepticism towards the most marketed aspect of EVs: they are significantly better for the planet’s environment and ecological systems[1]. One needs to step well outside the Overton Window created by the marketing propaganda of retailers (and regurgitated by much mainstream media and most politicians) to gain a more balanced view of this widespread assertion. And this is where I begin this Contemplation…

Carbon tunnel vision has created a widely-accepted narrative where the most dominant and for many the only impact of concern surrounding transportation vehicles seems to be what exits the tailpipe of an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle and does not for an EV. This creates a very narrow, keyhole perspective that ignores the embodied energy and a wide variety of ecologically-destructive, hydrocarbon-based industrial processes that are necessary for the production, maintenance, and eventual reclamation/disposal of both types of vehicles.

As I point out in Part 1 of my series of Contemplations on carbon tunnel vision and energy blindness:
“…the following graphic demonstrates (with respect to particular aspects of the issue of ‘sustainability’) this tendency to narrow our perspective can prevent the acknowledgement of so many other aspects of our world — and the graphic only includes some of the many others that could be considered, such as land-system change and biogeochemical flows. Perhaps most relevant is that this tunnel vision keeps many from recognising that humans exist within a world of complex systems that are intertwined and connected in nonlinear ways that the human brain cannot fathom easily, if at all.

[See an expanded version that includes more variables we’re mostly blind to below]

My own bias leads me to the belief that this hyper-focus on carbon emissions is leading many well-intentioned people to overlook the argument that atmospheric overloading is but one symptom predicament of our overarching predicament of ecological overshoot. As a result, they miss all the other symptom predicaments (e.g., biodiversity loss, resource depletion, soil degradation, geopolitical conflicts, etc.) of this overshoot and consequently advocate for ‘solutions’ that are, in fact, exacerbating our situation.

This rather narrowed perspective tends to be along the lines that if we can curtail/eliminate carbon emissions — usually through a shift in our technology to supposed ‘carbon-free’ ones — then we can avoid the negative repercussions that accompany the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, most prominently climate change. For many this is the only (or, at least, the most prominent) issue that needs to be addressed to ensure our species’ transition to a ‘sustainable’ way of living.

So, let’s try for a moment to open up this rather narrow keyhole and take in a wider perspective. Let’s look at how some of the other significant planetary boundaries are being broached.

When one opens the keyhole wider, the concern with carbon emissions/climate change may be seen as an outsized one in comparison to boundaries that appear to have been more significantly broached, such as: novel entities, biosphere integrity, land-system change, biogeochemical flows, and fresh water change.

This is not to say that the boundary of climate change is not important, it’s to try to better understand why a hyper-focus on carbon emissions is problematic: it’s one of several tipping points that need our attention, and not even the worst. The most pressing areas that we appear to have overshot beyond climate change include:
· Biogeochemical flows: agriculture and industry have increased significantly the flow of phosphorous and nitrogen into ecological systems and overloaded natural sinks (e.g., atmosphere and oceans)
· Novel entities: geologically-novel (i.e., human-made) substances that can have large-scale impacts upon Earth system processes (e.g., chemicals, plastics, etc.) have grown exponentially, even to the point of some existing in all global water supplies
· Biosphere integrity: human demand for food, water, and natural resources are decimating ecosystems (clearing land for mining and agriculture, for example, may have the worst impacts)
· Freshwater change: global groundwater levels in particular have been significantly altered by human activity and expansion (especially our drawdown of aquifers that exceed significantly their replenishment)
· Land-system change: human conversion of land systems (e.g., solar farms, agriculture, etc.) has impacts upon several of the other boundaries (i.e., biosphere integrity, biogeochemical flows, freshwater change) and the significantly important hydrological cycle

Azote for Stockholm Resilience Centre, based on analysis in Wang-Erlandsson et al 2022.

Carbon tunnel vision tends to help minimise, or at worst, ignore these other predicaments of our ecological overshoot. In fact, what I sense and what some of my conversations did suggest is that the issue of ecological overshoot itself is completely off the radar for these commenters. One, in fact, admitted he had never read Catton’s book on the subject but in ‘skimming over’ the summary notes I sent a link for he simply saw “a bunch of vague assertions…didn’t learn anything…probably heading towards a hard wall…”. He then added for effect: “I don’t see any solutions from you. I do see almost entirely your focus on smearing renewables with the exact same material the Deniers and carbon pollution people do. Exactly the same.””

Leaving aside the competing narratives regarding whether or not carbon emissions are in reality greatly reduced through the production and use of EVs[2] — perhaps mostly due to the source fuel for creating much of the world’s electricity that is necessary for powering EVs (hint: it’s hydrocarbons[3]) — for most critics of EVs the dominant issue is the massive mining that is required for the materials to construct the battery components for the storage of energy to run EVs[4].

Proponents of EVs tend to ignore the significantly destructive mining that is necessary and/or rationalise it away by arguing that mining can be carried out in a more environmentally-friendly manner[5], can be avoided through recycling[6], and/or future technological breakthroughs will drastically reduce its impact[7]. An example of this type of thinking is shared in a discussion at the end of this Contemplation.

Regardless of such hopefulness about future possibilities, mining is currently one of the most ecologically-destructive industrial processes performed by humans[8], and a lot must be carried out for the finite battery minerals necessary to store the electrical power required to run EVs[9] — to say little regarding all of the finite hydrocarbon inputs needed to carry this out[10] and the negative societal impacts that arise in areas where much of this mining takes place[11]. All of this potential additional mining has raised growing concerns about the ecological systems impacts of supposed ‘clean-energy’ vehicles[12], and in fact this is true for all non-renewable, renewable energy-based technologies (NRREBTs) that have been marketed as ‘green’ and ‘clean’.

Then there’s also how EVs will worsen plastic pollution in our ecological systems[13]. For a variety of reasons, but especially because they are heavier due to the weight of battery packs, the industry has increased significantly the use of plastic components in EVs[14]. Plastics, of course, are derived from petrochemicals. This graphic depicts the vast array of plastic components that help to create an EV. It is estimated that close to 50% of an EV’s volume is composed of plastic.

These hydrocarbon-based components are integral to the production of EVs and the industry argues that it is through the continued and expanded use of these hydrocarbon-based products that EVs will become even more efficient. (Note that the plasticisation of ICE vehicles has also been occurring[15] in an effort to reduce vehicle weight, avoid corrosion, and reduce costs).

Add on top of this aspect that it has been determined that car tire and brake wear of all types of transportation vehicles are the primary cause of microplastic pollution[16]. Since EVs tend to be much heavier than ICE vehicles (due to their battery packs), the wear on these components is increased[17] leading to substantially increased microplastic pollution with EVs compared to ICE vehicles.

This particular petrochemical-based, plastic-pollution aspect is one that is rarely discussed and awareness of it needs to be raised since it appears our broaching of this specific planetary boundary (novel entities) is one of our most problematic (see graphic above), yet greatly ignored[18] — particularly when it comes to evaluating the ecological impact of EVs. EV advocates are quick to counter such issues with a reminder that it’s carbon emissions that is the most significant and/or only problem to be dealt with (e.g., don’t condemn the good looking for the perfect), minimising the harm caused by other aspects — a clear reflection of the carbon tunnel vision problem summarised above.

Further, as the curtain gets drawn aside with regard to the recycling industry and the myths that have surrounded it[19], it has become apparent that: only a portion of products actually get recycled, with a lot impossible to recycle and ending up in landfills; it requires large amounts of energy, perhaps not as much as the original product production but certainly not zero and in some cases more (and then there’s Jevon’s Paradox regarding how ‘efficiency’ savings are negated via increased demands); and, depending on what is being recycled and the processing necessary, there is much in the way of toxic pollutants created.

So, the argument that EVs and all or most of their components can be recycled and thus mining for its production can be significantly minimised falls far, far short of reality — to say little about the second law of thermodynamics and the related concept of entropy. And this is as true for ICE vehicles as it is for EVs; some of the components can be recycled (with associated ‘costs’) but much cannot — and this is particularly true for the hydrocarbon-derived, plastic components[20].

Despite narratives to the contrary, replacing billions of ICE vehicles with EVs will require significant quantities of hydrocarbon extraction, processing, and burning; the opposite of what EV cheerleaders argue is the primary reason for transitioning to them — to say little about all the hydrocarbons necessary to build and maintain/resurface the roadways these vehicles tend to travel upon, be they asphalt or gravel. Often, EV enthusiasts will counter this reality with arguments that the goal is to reduce the number of vehicles (particularly if they are ICE-based) on the road at the same time, thus mitigating the replacement problem.

This is not happening, however. The world is adding more and more vehicles every year[21], and the vast majority are ICE vehicles. EVs are, despite the ‘replacement-theory marketing hype’, becoming additive to our globe’s vehicles, not replacing the ICE fleet. Not surprisingly, this is exactly the same pattern with non-renewable, renewable energy-harvesting technologies (NRREHTs) such as solar panels and wind turbines — they are adding to our energy production, not replacing any of the hydrocarbon-based energy production they are supposedly meant to supplant[22].

In fact, as energy analyst/petroleum geologist Art Berman argues in this article localities that have taken up large number of EVs (e.g., Norway, where 23% of their fleet was composed of EVs in 2022) have witnessed little to no impact on their overall hydrocarbon consumption. Despite repeated assertions that hydrocarbon demand will drop with the adoption of EVs, the data indicates this is simply false. Berman’s conclusion: “If you like EVs, you should buy one but the data don’t support that driving one will do anything to save the planet.”

It’s perhaps important at this juncture to recall the opening passage from an article authored by Dr. Bill Rees and Meigan Siebert critical of the entire mainstream energy transition narrative:

“We begin with a reminder that humans are storytellers by nature. We socially construct complex sets of facts, beliefs, and values that guide how we operate in the world. Indeed, humans act out of their socially constructed narratives as if they were real. All political ideologies, religious doctrines, economic paradigms, cultural narratives — even scientific theories — are socially constructed “stories” that may or may not accurately reflect any aspect of reality they purport to represent. Once a particular construct has taken hold, its adherents are likely to treat it more seriously than opposing evidence from an alternate conceptual framework.”

The construct that EVs are ‘green/clean’ and an important component of a global energy transition has been with us for the past couple of decades. It took a strong foothold as earlier emissions standards for an array of pollutants from vehicles and industry, as well as greater fuel efficiency, drove research[23] and subsequent narratives. With the realisation that there were technological limits to fuel efficiency improvements, it was suggested that the most ‘efficient’ engine would be the one that didn’t require traditional hydrocarbon fuel due to energy storage batteries as the ‘fuel’. An added ‘benefit’ would be the elimination of exhaust emissions (ignoring, of course, all the emissions created in the manufacture of the batteries, and/or the electricity to charge them). Thus, through the magic of mass marketing, was born the story that EVs were ‘clean’ and ‘green’.

There has been a concerted effort to spread this notion of EV ‘cleanliness’ far and wide, especially trumpeting the lack of tailpipe emissions. A majority of the ‘positive-outlook’ articles that arose in the wake of this have been from publications that are heavily slanted towards encouraging NRREBTs and/or the financing of/investing in them. These are, for the most part, individuals/businesses significantly ‘invested’ in seeing the rapid and widespread adoption of EVs and other ‘green/clean’ technologies. Their rhetoric is purposely slanted towards placing EVs in a positive light and then leveraging that perspective towards purchasers who may wish to ‘do the right thing’ where ‘the right thing’ is buying an NRREBT such as an EV.

This is Marketing 101: grow business revenue through the expansion of market share by getting the product front and centre for potential customers, particularly via the highlighting of features and/or benefits[24]. And when multiple billions (perhaps trillions) of dollars are up for grabs, multiple millions (perhaps billions) will be ‘invested’ in managing/guiding the narrative via all sorts of avenues — to say little about the mainstream media’s dependence upon funding in the way of advertising dollars, regardless of the ‘accuracy’ of what is being marketed via their product.

The massive and significant marketing propaganda we are constantly exposed to[25] about EVs and their ‘great-for-the-planet’ attributes have convinced a lot of people. The majority of these accept without question the positive aspects highlighted in commercial advertising or preached by EV cheerleaders. The illusory truth effect explains a lot of the power of this propaganda/advertising on beliefs: repeated exposure to information regardless of its validity/reliability comes to be perceived as truthful, primarily because familiarity overpowers rationality. This is why many hundreds of billions (perhaps trillions when one includes ‘public relations’ work/agencies/departments for corporations and governments) of dollars are ‘invested’ annually in advertising and narrative management — it works to impact belief systems and thus behaviour[26].

I would argue that consumers are additionally more prone to such narratives to help alleviate and/or reduce the cognitive dissonance that arises from a growing awareness that industrial civilisation is unsustainable and destructive to ecological systems (i.e., infinite growth — that we are continuing to pursue/experience — is impossible on a finite planet and has significant negative repercussions) yet wishing to also believe that human ingenuity and our technological prowess can overcome and ‘solve’ the predicament of human ecological overshoot and/or its symptom predicaments (e.g., biodiversity loss, resource depletion/scarcity, etc.)[27].

A part of me additionally believes that the narrative that EVs can be part of some grand ‘solution’ to our ecological overshoot predicament and its various symptom predicaments is the mind’s attempt to not only reduce anxiety-provoking thoughts but cling to the notion that we all have agency in/control over a very uncertain future[28]. We story-telling apes are creating tales to support such belief systems and reduce our anxiety. Perhaps buying an EV is subsequently not really about addressing environmental concerns; it’s about telling ourselves a comforting tale and engaging in some virtue-signalling to others to help us maintain our self-image as thoughtful, caring beings with agency over our future[29].

Personally, I view technocornucopian perspectives as delusional in a world of significant human ecological overshoot where the surplus energy to continue pursuing growth and such complex technologies is quickly disappearing[30] (if not already exhausted). We have for some time been pulling growth from the future via financial/monetary machinations and supported by geo/political gamesmanship (i.e., wars over resources and market control)[31].

That governments are not only complicit but encouraging the deception about EVs and NRREBTs being ‘green’ perhaps says a lot about their stake in the narrative. And what is a government’s incentive? Aside from the need in a debt-/credit-based economic system to chase perpetual growth to avoid ‘collapse’, this may be just another racket being perpetrated on the masses as U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler suggested war is.

For myself, I tend to gravitate towards the entire energy transition narrative (of which EVs are but one component) being another in a wide array of profiteering rackets, leveraging the growing evidence and recognition that Homo sapiens are having a profoundly negative impact on the planet’s ecological systems. And those that are benefitting from this story will disseminate and protect it vociferously. Others, well, they’re caught up in the narrative/propaganda.

Given the Ponzi-type nature of our monetary/financial/economic systems, geopolitical stressors, resource constraints, and ecological concerns, one has to wonder just how far and how long the uptake of these NRREBTs can or will continue. In fact, some are arguing that the wheels have already fallen off with increasing numbers of planned projects being paused/cancelled[32]. And despite all the marketing and shouting from rooftops that the EV market is exploding, the sheen appears to be coming off the EV narrative.

Michael Shedlock begins this article with: “The market for used EVs is plummeting. What will car rental companies do with the used ones? Problems started in China but have spread to Europe and the US.” Citing a Bloomberg article, he highlights that “A subsidy-fueled boom helped build China into an electric-car giant but left weed-infested lots across the nation brimming with unwanted battery-powered vehicles.”

In this article economist Stephen Moore is quoted as stating: “The Edsel was one of the great flops of all time. I’m here to tell you, if these trends continue, we’re going to see the EV market become the next big flop because car buyers don’t want them.”

Let’s dispense with the binary narrative that is often on display and be perfectly clear and honest for a moment. Both EVs and ICE vehicles — along with all the infrastructure supports necessary for their production and use — are detrimental to our significantly important ecological systems. The continuing production and use of one, the other, or both simply exacerbates the human ecological overshoot predicament.

Once again, while the future cannot be predicted with much accuracy, the current reality is much, much different than the bargaining being carried out by those wishing to see a shift from ICE vehicles to EVs — particularly given that the environmental advantages cheerleaders crow on about are mostly founded upon as-yet-to-be-hatched-technologically-improved-and-massively-scaled-up chickens. These potential breakthroughs/improvements may or may not come to fruition. Most likely they will not make it much beyond a research lab or marginal prototype use, and believing otherwise is akin to faith/hope/wishful thinking; it is certainly not reflective of current realities.

We are being convinced by growth profiteers and their narrative managers that ‘smart’ or ‘green’ or the ridiculously oxymoronic notion of ‘sustainable’ growth is the way to maintain ‘progress’ and that human ingenuity, especially where technology is concerned, will extricate us from any and all issues we encounter along this inevitable path. We are not abiding by the precautionary principle and erring on the side of caution, however; not even close. We are travelling full-steam ahead and creating rationalisations/justifications in our story-telling manner to make us feel good about our suicidal behaviour and actions, thereby reducing our cognitive dissonance.

Without a significant, and likely expedient, reduction of both types of vehicles (that we are very unlikely to do voluntarily), there is little point in bargaining ploys to keep the status quo from continuing for as long as possible which seems to be what the narrative around an energy ‘transition’ and the adoption of NRREBTs is.

I had written a suggestive path forward on this issue that might provide some mitigation by avoiding the exacerbation of our destructive tendencies but in reflection see little point in sharing it. Given the human proclivity to pursue the business-as-usual scenario painted by Meadow’s et al. in The Limits to Growth over the past handful of decades[33], I’m certain any guideline would not be pursued and it would simply be cathartic for me.

While most want ‘solutions’ to our overshoot predicament, this demonstrates a weak understanding of not only what a predicament is (it has no ‘solution’) but also displays energy/resource blindness and denial of the ongoing ecological systems destruction that accompanies all complex technological ‘solutions’. The best mitigation any of us can pursue is a dramatic reduction in our consumptive and excessive tendencies.

The best vehicle in terms of reducing damage to our planet is the one not produced, regardless of type. If reducing one’s dependency upon and/or use of a well-maintained ICE vehicle can help to prevent the production of a new vehicle (of either type), then the negative ecological systems damage that accompanies the creation of transportation vehicles is reduced dramatically. Reducing dependence upon and/or use of an ICE vehicle (to zero if at all possible) will likely go much further than purchasing an EV.

You are not a progressive steward of the environment with your purchase or heralding of an EV (or related NRREBTs). That is a narrative we story-telling apes have weaved in order to avoid reality and reduce our anxieties, engaging in denial and massive magical thinking/bargaining along the way. As I’ve said numerous times, we are an intelligent species just not very wise.

The bottom line is as I commented on a recent FB post regarding supposed misinformation about EV battery ‘facts’: Substituting one resource-intensive and complex (and thus environmentally destructive) technology for another fully and completely overlooks humanity’s fundamental predicament of ecological overshoot, and is more about reducing one’s cognitive dissonance than anything else.

[H/T Schuyler Hupp]

A handful of other ecological variables that could be added: land system changes, resource depletion, food scarcity, biosphere integrity, climate change, novel entities, stratospheric ozone depletion. Then add on top of this massive ecological complexity all the socioeconomic and sociopolitical systems that Homo sapiens have created that exacerbate our ecological overshoot.

Here is the discussion that I referred to above that demonstrates the magical thinking some engage in regarding the energy transition being touted by many. It was in response to this posted article.

Me: It would seem we need to destroy our ecological systems to save them…hmmmmmm.

UB: I am always in favor of creative disruption. It is the very concept of “Seneca Cliff,” normally followed by a “Seneca Rebound”

D: With a sad caveat the Good Doctor has pointed at: it must be not that much fun to be creatively disrupted 😉

Me: The one aspect of this energy ‘transition’ that seems to be invariably left out of the equation is the massive and significant destruction that would and is being wrought on the planet (and a planet with already very overloaded sinks). The scale of the mining and processing that is being considered (and requiring a gargantuan pulse of fossil fuel extraction and burning) would surely put us over (if it hasn’t already) any tipping point from which our planet could recover from (let alone Homo sapiens survive, or many other species for that matter). I’ve not seen anywhere a detailed consideration or analysis of this particular perspective; except to mostly dismiss it via omission of the issue.

E: Sorry Steve Bull — but mining for the energy transition will NOT destroy the biosphere. The “Energy Transitions Commission” is a huge global think tank. They estimated the entire energy cost to mine and build the entire Energy Transition over the next decades. The total thing will release about 4.5 to 9 months of today’s global annual emissions. Once. Fossil fuel emissions will have stopped forever. (Figures here — but I converted to months equivalent CO2 emissions for ease of comparison.)


But it will create too much mining?

From the link above: “Between 2022–2050, the energy transition could require the production of 6.5 billion tonnes of end-use materials, 95% of which would be steel, copper and aluminium which the energy transition will require,”

Again — fossil fuels are 14 billion tons EVERY year.

What about all the raw rock and ore crunched to extract all those metals? It’s still not as bad as fossil fuels. https://www.sustainabilitybynumbers.com/p/energy-transition-materials

Me: We will have to agree to disagree.

Sure, a ‘think tank’ composed of people with very vested (financial) interests and focused on economic growth is guaranteed to be providing objective opinions based on very sound research and models.

It’s a great (cognitive dissonance-reducing) narrative but given how far into ecological overshoot the human species has travelled, whether it is death by a 1000 cuts or 999 or even 900 is truly moot. Both are ultimately suicidal when sustaining ‘growth’ is the fundamental driver (even if it’s not, maintaining the status quo is equally problematic given the amount of resource drawdown it requires).

The most appropriate path would be to attempt to reduce (significantly) all our complex technologies (along with other things like population) rather than attempt to carry on with business as usual via non-renewable, renewable energy-based industrial products.

If you’ve made it to the end of this contemplation and have got something out of my writing, please consider ordering the trilogy of my ‘fictional’ novel series, Olduvai (PDF files; only $9.99 Canadian), via my website or the link below — the ‘profits’ of which help me to keep my internet presence alive and first book available in print (and is available via various online retailers).

Attempting a new payment system as I am contemplating shutting down my site in the future (given the ever-increasing costs to keep it running).

If you are interested in purchasing any of the 3 books individually or the trilogy, please try the link below indicating which book(s) you are purchasing.

Costs (Canadian dollars):
Book 1: $2.99
Book 2: $3.89
Book 3: $3.89
Trilogy: $9.99

Feel free to throw in a ‘tip’ on top of the base cost if you wish; perhaps by paying in U.S. dollars instead of Canadian. Every few cents/dollars helps…


If you do not hear from me within 48 hours or you are having trouble with the system, please email me: olduvaitrilogy@gmail.com.

You can also find a variety of resources, particularly my summary notes for a handful of texts, especially Catton’s Overshoot and Tainter’s Collapse: see here.

It Bears Repeating: Best Of…Volume 1

A compilation of writers focused on the nexus of limits to growth, energy, and ecological overshoot.

With a Foreword and Afterword by Michael Dowd, authors include: Max Wilbert; Tim Watkins; Mike Stasse; Dr. Bill Rees; Dr. Tim Morgan; Rob Mielcarski; Dr. Simon Michaux; Erik Michaels; Just Collapse’s Tristan Sykes & Dr. Kate Booth; Kevin Hester; Alice Friedemann; David Casey; and, Steve Bull.

The document is not a guided narrative towards a singular or overarching message; except, perhaps, that we are in a predicament of our own making with a far more chaotic future ahead of us than most imagine–and most certainly than what mainstream media/politics would have us believe.

Click here to access the document as a PDF file, free to download.

[1] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[2] See this, this, this, this and/or this.

[3] See this.

[4] See this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[5] See this, this, this, and/or this;.

[6] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[7] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[8] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[9] See this, this, and/or this.

[10] See this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[11] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[12] See this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[13] See this.

[14] See this and/or this.

[15] See this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[16] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[17] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[18] See this, this, and/or this.

[19] See this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[20] See this, this, this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[21] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[22] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[23] See this.

[24] See this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[25] It’s hilarious, in a very sad way, that the advertisements that flood my Facebook feed are almost entirely focused upon non-renewable, renewable energy-harvesting technologies (e.g., wind turbines, solar panels) and electric vehicles. This is perhaps because I occasionally comment on these posts. What the FB algorithms seem to be missing, however, is that my comments are quite critical of the assertions being made in the ads.

[26] See this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[27] See this.

[28] See this, this, this and/or this.

[29] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[30] See this, this, and/or this.

[31] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[32] See this, this, this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[33] See this, this, this, this, and/or this.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXV–More Greenwashing: ‘Sustainable’ Development

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXV

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

More Greenwashing: ‘Sustainable’ Development

This contemplation was prompted by an article regarding an ‘independent’ think tank’s report that presented the argument that government funding of the oil and gas industry needed to be shifted towards ‘green/clean’ alternatives. I’ve included a few hyperlinks to sites that expand upon the concepts/issues discussed.

Context, it’s always important. This ‘independent’ think tank, the International Institute for Sustainable Development, is part and parcel of the corporate/business ‘greenwashing’ of our world and ‘solutions’ to its various dilemmas. It’s primary mission is ‘sustainable’ development/growth, a gargantuan oxymoron on a finite planet. Infinite growth. Finite planet. What could possibly go wrong?

In fact, the perpetuation of this continued pursuit of perpetual growth is seen quite clearly in the absence of any discussion about curtailing our growth but rather finding ways to ‘sustain’ it, and the misuse of language (that has become endemic in the environmental movement) and the simplified ‘solution’ offered by arguing that government funds need to be directed away from the climate change-causing oil and gas industry and towards the ‘clean’ energy alternatives of ‘renewables’.

Left out of this discussion to shift funds to what the think tank argues is more ‘sustainable’ (and one has to wonder how much funding is derived for the think tank’s activities from individuals and businesses seeking to profit from increased funding for widespread adoption of alternative energy) is the increasing evidence that ‘green’ alternatives to fossil fuels are neither ‘green’ (because of their ongoing dependence on fossil fuels and environmentally-destructive upstream industrial processes and downstream waste disposal issues) nor actually ‘renewable’ (because of their ongoing dependence upon finite resources, especially fossil fuels and rare-earth minerals). These are, of course, quite inconvenient facts regarding all energy sources: they are ecologically destructive and depend upon finite resources. The only source that is truly ‘renewable’ is biomass but it would be required in such massive quantities for our current world population and global complexities that it must be considered finite and environmentally problematic.

Nowhere is the non-mainstream idea of degrowth proposed. Instead, we are led to believe that business as usual (continued growth) is entirely feasible and infinitely sustainable by adjusting where our resources in terms of money and labour are directed: away from the oil and gas industry and towards energy alternatives. Devastating climate change will then be averted (as well as all the other negative consequences of exploiting and using fossil fuels) and life can continue uninterrupted as we all live happily ever after.

Until and unless we confront the very idea of continued growth and, in almost all cases, reverse this trend there is zero chance of us stopping, let alone mitigating, the various existential dilemmas we have created as a consequence of our expansion and its concomitant exploitation of finite resources. I believe it’s fair to argue we have significantly overshot the planet’s natural environmental carrying capacity, have blown past several important biophysical limits that exist on a finite planet, and have just the collapse that always accompanies such situations to experience in the future.

Many will continue to deny this predicament we find ourselves in. They will firmly believe in the comforting and cognitive dissonance-reducing narratives that individuals and groups, like the International Institute for Sustainable Development, are leveraging to direct resources to particular industries. This is quite normal for anyone beginning to grieve a significant loss which is what we are facing: the imminent demise of our globalised, industrial world and its many complexities and conveniences. We (particularly those in so-called ‘advanced’ economies that consume the vast majority of finite resources and rely upon the exploitative industries that leverage these resources to create the many conveniences to feed and house us) would rather believe in fantasies, myths, and fairy tales than recognise and confront the impending challenges of a life without most (all?) of our complex and energy-intensive tools.

Life without these conveniences is fast approaching it would appear. We have encountered diminishing returns on our investments in such complexities. We have soiled vast regions of our planet with the waste products of our expansion and exploitive endeavours. We have very likely reached a peak in global complexity and will begin our reversion to the norm of much more simplified ways.

Some of the negative consequences of our expansion and increasing complexity have been acknowledged. Instead of slowing our march towards the cliff ahead, however, the vast majority (all?) of our ‘ruling class’ (whose primary motivation, I would argue, is the control and expansion of the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue streams), as they so often (always?) do is leverage the increasingly obvious crises to enrich themselves. They use narrative control mechanisms (particularly their influence over the mainstream media and governments) to craft stories extolling solutions and salvation that not only preserve their revenue streams but expand them in a kind of final blow off top of resource extraction and use; ignoring, of course, the environmental fallout of this.

The more obvious ‘solution’ of reversing the growth imperative is avoided at all costs. Marketing ‘sustainable’ growth via ‘green/clean’ energy alternatives is preferred. Humanity cannot only have its cake and eat it, but it can do so in a vastly improved world of technological wizardry and infinite improvements. Ignore that pesky fact about living on a finite planet over there, it’s a distraction from our ingenuity and creativity. Do not raise skepticism about our ability to overcome challenges. Life is much more happily viewed from inside the Matrix.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXIII–‘Clean Energy’ and the Stages of Grieving

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXIII

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

‘Clean Energy’ and the Stages of Grieving

Today’s thought was motivated by another Tyee article that carries on the notion of ‘clean energy’ and the ‘magical thinking’ needed to buy into such narratives.

As long as language is being manipulated (e.g., ‘clean energy’ is a gargantuan oxymoron), magical thinking employed (e.g., ‘green hydrogen’ or some iteration of it has been on the books for 2+ centuries and is still far, far away, if ever, given the physical and economic hurdles/roadblocks), and fundamental causes of our dilemmas conveniently ignored (e.g., our pursuit of the infinite growth chalice on a finite planet), the ‘solutions’ we so desperately seek will always elude us (if they even exist).

Despite relatively general recognition of humanity’s impending ‘challenges’, we continue to follow the ‘Business-As-Usual’ (BAU) scenario painted for us by Meadows et al. in their 1972 Limits to Growth. Our ‘leaders’ talk a good talk but the reality (given the obvious lack of ‘progress’ in mitigating our issues and their increasingly probable negative consequences) is that we have painted ourselves into a corner from which we apparently cannot extricate ourselves (except through some very convoluted narrative creations).

There is overwhelming and increasing evidence that there is a significant reckoning in terms of energy decline (and various other resources) in our future, regardless of our wishes, ingenuity, and technology. The complexities of our globalised, just-in-time, and highly resource-dependent industrialised societies are losing their support systems in terms of the resources they require. We have encountered significant diminishing returns on our investments and can no longer ‘afford’ them. All the talk of ‘solutions’ is, at this point, seemingly reflective of the first four stages of grief outlined by Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.

We are very keen on avoiding the final acceptance stage. Instead, we listen and accept faulty narratives about how this will all work out just fine. We create and propagate misleading phrases like ‘clean energy’ and ‘net zero emissions’ which are primarily marketing slogans. We allow ourselves to believe in ‘promising’ technological ‘fixes’ that require us to ignore or dismiss the constraints and physical impossibilities that are involved. And perhaps the worst of all, we look the other way when our ‘leadership’ completely ‘jumps the shark’ and whispers in our ears that we indeed can pursue ‘sustainable growth’ (a phrase that totally twists the concept of sustainability and ignores the biophysical constraints of a finite planet) and live, for the most part, happily-ever-after.

Such a fairy tale ending is indeed possible, but only in our imaginations. The momentum of our complex systems and the reality of a finite world straining under the exploitation of cognitively ‘advanced’ walking-talking apes are taking us down a path that is best described by William Catton Jr. in Overshoot: a species that overshoots its environmental carrying capacity is destined to encounter a population ‘collapse’ and any response that increases the drawdown of the fundamental resources upon which the species is reliant only speeds up the process. And this seems very much to be exactly what we are doing as we ‘debate’ ways in which to sustain our living standards and most of our energy-reliant and -intensive sociocultural practices.

Our best option may be to, in the words of author and social commentator John Michael Greer, “Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush”. Degrowth is coming. We can have some say in how this occurs but the longer we delay (and we’re very, very good at delaying our encounters with ‘reality’), the less ‘control’ we will have in meeting the coming challenges.

My suggestion is to detach from the ‘Matrix’ as much as possible by relocalising production of necessary goods but particularly shelter needs and organic and regenerative food production, and ensure the procurement of potable water. The government/politicians/ruling elite are not coming to the rescue; that is not their primary concern despite everything they say. The way in which they have met these challenges (that have been known for a number of decades) is evidence of that. We have continued to follow the BAU path set out in 1972 and simply managed to put ourselves further and further behind the eight ball. It’s perhaps no exaggeration to suggest that the planet burns while our ‘leaders’ are fiddling. Rely on yourself, family, and like-minded community members; not some politician promising more of the same actions that brought us to where we are.

The clean energy economy turns out to be the metals energy economy

The clean energy economy turns out to be the metals energy economy

A very observant longtime friend of mine opined recently that the clean energy economy is really just a metals energy economy where metals provide the basis for energy production and transmission. The idea that this emerging economy is going to be light on resources compared to our current fossil-fuel based economy is a fantasy.

And you don’t have to take his word for it. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has attempted to project the needs of this new economy. The IEA’s report entitled “The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions” contains some eye-popping statistics that drive home just how much in the way of metals might be needed in order to supply the builders of this clean energy infrastructure.

Using two scenarios the IEA estimated that growth in demand coming from clean energy industries just for battery-related minerals will explode by 2040 relative to 2020:

1. Lithium: Between 13 to 42 times.

2. Graphite: Between 8 and 25 times.

3. Cobalt: Between 6 to 21 times.

4. Nickel: Between 6 to 19 times.

5. Manganese: Between 3 to 8 times.

Demand related specifically to renewable energy and its infrastructure is projected to increase for the following minerals under two scenarios:

1. Rare earth elements (REEs): Between 3.4 and 7.3 times more. REEs are important for electric motors and generators.

2. Molybdenum: Between 2.2 to 2.9 times more. Molybdenum is used in solar and wind power because of its ability to transmit electricity well.

3. Copper – Between 1.7 to 2.7 times more. Copper, of course, has long been used in electrical motors and wires.

4. Silicon – Between 1.8 to 2.3. Silicon, of course, is a semiconductor widely used in solar panels. Silicon is the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust after oxygen, so it is widely available. However, it takes considerable energy and a multi-step process to produce silicon of sufficient purity for semiconductor and other applications.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

I Warned Against the Green Energy ‘Boom.’ It Sparked Debate

I Warned Against the Green Energy ‘Boom.’ It Sparked Debate

Challengers raised points that merit responses. Mine lead to one answer: degrowth.

The best intentions in the world will not stop the inertia of a heavy civilization that is rolling on its way. — poet Gary Snyder

In a recent essay I argued that replacing a 150-year-old fossil fuel system with a shiny electrical one in just 25 years to address climate chaos would come with monstrous ecological costs.

I also said it won’t get the job done given that climate change is just one symptom of a greater crisis: the excessive consumption of resources on a finite planet. You had to read deep into the essay to arrive at what I proposed we must do instead of embracing “clean tech” as the blessed saviour.

So let me put it straight here at the top, before I elaborate later: Any imperfect solution to our current civilization-threatening predicament must include dialing down our energy consumption rather than coming up with high-tech visions that keep accelerating it.

And that means reasserting human control over the technosphere now fragmenting us and imposing real limits on the algorithmic conquest of our thinking.

In my article I summarized the work of geologists, journalists, physicists and energy experts — including Simon MichauxSiddharth KaraVaclav SmilGuillaume PitronAlice FriedemannNate Hagens and Tom Murphy — who have done the critical math. The ecologist William Rees, the physicist Antonio Turiel and oil analyst Art Berman also have all made important contributions to this conversation.

Their calculations, which respect biophysical realities and limits, show that humans will have to mine more metals and minerals over the next 30 years than have been dug up over the last 70,000 to build a “renewable” transition.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

The Green Transition is Physically Impossible

The Green Transition is Physically Impossible

The Illusion of Debate

The Illusion of Debate

Hanging Rock, Madison, Indiana

I want to disclose a couple of facts regarding the constant focus in many people’s minds of what is considered healthy debate about “renewable,” “clean,” “green,” and “sustainable” energy, electricity, technology, and/or products and services. Those labels are marketing terms, not reality. In other words, they encourage people to buy into these products and services thinking that they are being mindful when in reality they are only continuing the same system that brought the destruction they are trying to prevent in the first place. Buying solar panels, wind turbines, hydroelectric dams, EVs, and other so-called “clean” devices only continues the system of industrial civilization that is causing the destruction of life on this planet. These devices do not reduce carbon emissions but actually INCREASE them through Jevons Paradox. Reducing emissions REQUIRES reducing ecological overshoot, which requires reducing technology use, period.

Human aversion to loss prevents society from gaining grand scale cooperation to reduce technology use. Those with money and power will always work to undermine taking the correct measures to reduce ecological overshoot, and if one looks at social media platforms, this is painfully obvious as inconvenient truths and messages are pushed to the bottom of algorithms or outright censored. I have had Facebook limit my posting and commenting abilities as a result of posts I made, some of which were years ago. Despite my contesting these decisions, they had no effect on the outcome whatsoever other than a few of my posts were reinstated when they discovered that they made a mistake.

To help one comprehend these so-called “debates,” I have included the following quote:

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Exploring the Massive Clean Energy Boondoggle of Burning Trees as Carbon Neutral

Exploring the Massive Clean Energy Boondoggle of Burning Trees as Carbon Neutral

To the shock of everyone with any semblance of common sense, we are clearcutting forests and burning the trees based on the idea the process is carbon neutral.
Image from Smithsonian article below

Image from Smithsonian article below

EPA Declared That Burning Wood Is Carbon Neutral

In 2018, the EPA Declared That Burning Wood Is Carbon Neutral.

Yesterday [April 23, 2018], the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would begin to count the burning of “forest biomass”—a.k.a. wood—as carbon neutral. The change will classify burning of wood pellets a renewable energy similar to solar or wind power.

[But] Even if a tree is planted for every tree converted to fuel pellets, trees regrown on plantations don’t store the same carbon as natural forests. One recent study suggests it would take 40 to 100 years for a managed forest to capture the same amount of carbon as a natural forest. And since most plantation forests are harvested at 20 year intervals, they will never make it to the carbon-neutral point.

“Unless forests are guaranteed to regrow to carbon parity, production of wood pellets for fuel is likely to result in more CO2 in the atmosphere and fewer species than there are today,” William Schlesinger, President Emeritus of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies writes for Science.

Doomberg picked up on this idea in an extensive set of Tweets.

Doomberg Tweet Thread

  1. In the second half of the 16th century, Britain plunged into an energy crisis. At the time, the primary source of energy driving the British economy was heat derived from the burning of wood, and Britain was literally running out of trees.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Dreaming of clean green flying machines

Dreaming of clean green flying machines

In common with many other corporate lobby groups, the International Air Transport Association publicly proclaims their commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.1

Yet the evidence that such an achievement is likely, or even possible, is thin … to put it charitably. Unless, that is, major airlines simply shut down.

As a 2021 Nova documentary put it, aviation “is the high-hanging fruit – one of the hardest climate challenges of all.”2 That difficulty is due to the very essence of the airline business.

What has made aviation so attractive to the relatively affluent people who buy most tickets is that commercial flights maintain great speed over long distances. Aviation would have little appeal if airplanes were no faster than other means of transportation, or if they could be used only for relatively short distances. These characteristics come with rigorous energy demands.

A basic challenge for high-speed transportation – whether that’s pedaling a bike fast, powering a car fast, or propelling an airplane fast – is that the resistance from the air goes up with speed, not linearly but exponentially. As speed doubles, air resistance quadruples; as speed triples, air resistance increases by a factor of nine; and so forth.

That is one fundamental reason why no high-speed means of transportation came into use until the fossil fuel era. The physics of wind resistance become particularly important when a vehicle accelerates up to several hundred kilometers per hour or more.

Contemporary long-haul aircraft accommodate the physics in part by flying at “cruising altitude” – typically about 10,000 meters above sea level. At that elevation the atmosphere is thin enough to cause significantly less friction, while still rich enough in oxygen for combustion of the fuel. Climbing to that altitude, of course, means first fighting gravity to lift a huge machine and its passengers a very long way off the ground.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Power Grid Operators Warn Of Potential Electricity Shortages Amid Transition To Clean Energy

Power Grid Operators Warn Of Potential Electricity Shortages Amid Transition To Clean Energy

Power-grid operators across the US warn that power-generating capacity struggles to keep up with demand, a worrying sign ahead of summer where heatwaves could lead to rolling blackouts.

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO, operating in 15 states across the US Central region, said last month that capacity shortages this summer due to soaring summer demand might result in outages. Last Friday, California Independent System Operator, or California ISO, outlined energy shortfalls this summer because of heat and wildfires. Texas over the weekend saw triple-digit temperatures in some portions of the state, though grid stability was maintained despite several power plants being offline for maintenance.

WSJ explains grid instability and increased risk of power shortages this summer comes as fossil fuel power plants are “being retired more quickly than they can be replaced by renewable energy and battery storage.” Power grids are racing to retire conventional power plants fueled by natural gas, coal, and diesel to green forms of energy, such as solar power and wind. There’s also the retirement of aging nuclear power plants.

Things are not working as planned in the green economy as power grids are becoming unstable by the retirement of fossil fuel power plants with unstable renewables. The transition isn’t as smooth as climate change modelers once suggested as grid stability worsens, and millions of Americans could be subjected to blackouts this summer as cooling demand soars during heatwaves as grids won’t have enough power to meet demand.

WSJ’s author reveals their blinkered bias or ignorance about alternative energy by stating the following “wind and solar farms – which are among the cheapest forms of power generation.” Alternative energy would be expensive if it weren’t for the government’s tax credits, grants, and other incentives…

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

Are Electric Cars the Solution?

Are Electric Cars the Solution?

Or do visions of ‘clean’ robots supplying mobile freedom steer us down the wrong road?

Fifty years ago, the French political ecologist André Gorz explained that cars masquerade as solutions to the very problems they create. “Since cars have killed the city, we need faster cars to escape on superhighways to suburbs that are even farther away. What an impeccable circular argument: give us more cars so that we can escape the destruction caused by cars.”

Today, cars powered by electricity rather than petroleum have become the promised solution to climate change.

According to Bloomberg, about half of the world’s transportation vehicle sales by 2035 will be electric. Many now assume this switchover is already ushering in a “green transition” to a better world. “Electric vehicles are not just the wave of the future, they are saving lives today,” gushes one environmentally-focused non-profit.

Now, for the record, I own a 22-year-old Toyota 4Runner designed after a Japanese military jeep. My car-savvy wife purchased the vehicle for $3,000 nearly eight years ago. I have never been fond of cars or their associated expenses, but I do appreciate a machine that can last more than 400,000 kilometres. Yet, as my books attest, I am no fan of internal combustion engines, or ICEs, let alone petro states.

However, neither am I an enthusiast for wishful thinking. People who regard the electric car as a significant solution for climate change don’t seem to understand the incredible scale of the problem. Nor do they see that the electric car “solution” accelerates other problematic trends in our technological society.

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

JP Morgan’s misinformation on the clean energy disruption – a handy guide

JP Morgan’s misinformation on the clean energy disruption – a handy guide

The JP Morgan Asset and Wealth Management Annual Energy Paper is one of the most influential publications among global investment and business leaders in the energy sector.

But JP Morgan Chase’s 2021 Annual Energy Paper is a deeply flawed piece of work that promotes some serious misinformation about the clean energy transformation, reinforcing the mistaken belief – often promulgated by fossil fuel companies – that it will be slow, expensive and require onerous state intervention.

Coming from JP Morgan Chase – the world’s fifth largest bank, and the largest lender to fossil fuel industries – the paper informs the policy, investment and business decisions of many influential companies, organisations and governments around the world. Which is why it is important to understand that the world’s largest fossil fuel lender appears largely oblivious to the dynamics of technology disruptions and energy transitions.

Myth 1: Renewable energy forecasts are too optimistic

The Annual Energy Paper, authored by chairman of JP Morgan Asset Management’s chairman of market and investment strategy Michael Cembalest, was overseen by its technical advisor, influential academic Vaclav Smil.

Its tone is set by a graph on the first page depicting alleged failed ‘renewable energy forecasts’. The graph seems to show that these forecasts were overly optimistic, and then repeatedly turned out to be false.

Yet according to Ketan Joshi, who previously worked in science communications for Australia’s national science agency, the sources for the alleged forecasts are impossible to trace.

For instance, he writes: “Danish physicist Bent Sørensen, for instance, seems to have published the figure between 1978 and 1980, and it isn’t easy to figure out where the prediction of 50% by 2000 was made. There was never any ‘Clinton Presidential Advisory Panel’ – the phrase can only be found in republications of this very chart; so that’s a mystery.”

…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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