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[Episode #108] – Will Energy Transition Be Rapid or Gradual?

[Episode #108] – Will Energy Transition Be Rapid or Gradual?

Champions of energy transition see it happening relatively quickly, emphasizing the advances that are being made in technologies, policy, and projects. While fossil fuel incumbents see a long, gradual process of energy transition, assuring us that demand for their products will remain strong for decades to come. So who’s right? Is energy transition going to be rapid, or gradual?

A new paper co-authored by Carbon Tracker, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and the Rocky Mountain Institute contrasts these narratives and scenarios, and identifies some key distinguishing characteristics that can help us understand where they differ, as well as clarifying their underlying assumptions and perspectives, using those insights to inform our outlooks. In this episode, one of the authors from Carbon Tracker explains the analytical framework applied to these contrasting narratives, and shares his insights about the impact of the energy transition on financial markets, domestic politics and geopolitics, and how incumbents will have to navigate the new reality of climate change.Guest:

Kingsmill Bond is the Energy Strategist for Carbon Tracker, a London-based clean energy think tank. He believes that the energy transition is the most important driver of financial markets and geopolitics in the modern era. Over a 25 year career as an equity analyst and strategist at institutions such as Deutsche Bank, Sberbank and Citibank, he has researched emerging markets, the shale revolution and the impact of US energy independence. At Carbon Tracker, he has written about the impact of the energy transition on financial markets, domestic politics and geopolitics, and authored a series of reports on the myths of the energy transition, looking at the many arguments made by incumbents to deny the reality of change.

On Twitter: @KingsmillBond

On the Web:  Kingsmill’s page at Carbon Tracker

The Top 5 Ways We Use Oil & Gas

The Top 5 Ways We Use Oil & Gas

Petchem

If climate change and the use of fossil fuels is starting to worry you, consider this: The lion’s share of the petroleum in the United States is being used just to get around–to get people and things from point A to point B. 

Industrial, residential, commercial and electrical power usage of petroleum pales in comparison.   

Fossil fuels–which include crude oil and other liquids–are refined into petroleum products for a multitude of uses, and last year, the United States consumed over 20 million barrels per day. 

A whopping 69 percent of that was consumed by transportation. Industry, which the masses like to villainize most in terms of fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, used only 25 percent. Residential usage accounted for only 3 percent of our petroleum consumption, and commercial, only 2 percent. 

What about electricity? American electricity generation used only 1 percent of those petroleum products. 

Source: EIA

So, for anyone looking to pinpoint where we need to start cheerleading for renewables or fossil-fuels shaming, here are the top 5 uses of petroleum products to help redirect the debate: 

#5 Oceans of Plastic: Still Gas, 0.703M BPD

While primarily referring to methane and ethane, “still gas” is any form or mixture of gases produced in refineries by distillation, cracking, reforming, and other processes. That means it also includes ethylene, normal butane, butylenes, propane, propylene, and others. 

It’s used most as refinery fuel or petrochemical feedstock. 

The conversion factor is 6 million Btus per fuel oil equivalent barrel.

U.S. refineries burned nearly 240 million barrels of still gas in 2018. 

But petrochemicals are one of the largest drivers of global oil demand, so it’s a circular competition here for still gas. 

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

Plans for a global Dystopia

Plans for a global Dystopia 

Global policy planners intend to deliver replacements for both dollar hegemony and fossil fuels. Plans may appear uncoordinated and in their early stages, but these issues are becoming increasingly linked.

A monetary reset incorporating state-sponsored cryptocurrencies will enable exchange controls to be introduced between nations by separating cross-border trade payments from domestic money circulation. The purpose will be to gain greater control over money and to direct its investment into green projects.

The OECD will build on current tax disclosures to make everyone’s income and capital known to governments and therefore readily taxable, money destined to kick-start economic growth. Under the guidance of supranational organisations, governments will redirect investment into green technology. The objective, particularly for Europeans, is to neutralise Russia’s increasing dominance of the global energy market by becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

But perhaps as Robert Burns put it, “the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”. They are based on Keynesian fallacies, but cannot be ignored.

Introduction

There appear to be policy areas being driven by statist responses to events, encouraging global institutions to take on a coordinating role. It means deeper levels of centralised planning by unaccountable bureaucrats. Assuming their plans continue to gain credence, we could end up with a dystopian world where supranational bodies direct individual governments to conform. We are already on this road to perdition. The OECD has coordinated attempts by governments to restrict the freedom of their citizens to avoid taxes by forcing over a hundred jurisdictions to automatically supply information on the financial affairs of every citizen, irrespective of nationality and where they reside. 

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

Economists: Greta Thunberg’s Ideal World Would Result In A “Human Tragedy Of Disastrous Proportions”

Economists: Greta Thunberg’s Ideal World Would Result In A “Human Tragedy Of Disastrous Proportions”

Whether you were inspired by Greta Thunberg’s tearful UN speech…

…. or merely thought it was the year’s greatest meme, in which an indoctrinated, emotionally frail child is being preyed upon by adults with a far bigger and more lucrative agenda, you probably do not realize how much your everyday life could change if the world were to follow the advice of climate activists to attain Thunberg’s ecological utopia.

To provide some perspective on that question, several economists spoke to RT to share their thoughts out how the proposed changes could affect the global economy and the daily lives of people around the world.

Fossil fuels

The first thing that comes to mind to stop reported global warming is to impose a carbon tax and divest from the fossil fuel industry, as this sector is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. However, “a carbon tax and/or forced divestiture from fossil fuels would ultimately make the kind of cheap, varied and efficient transportation that people around the world are accustomed to extremely expensive and more limited,” warns Peter C. Earle, an economist at the American Institute for Economic Research.

Apart from public transport, cars could also become less accessible to most individuals. So if you drive to work without a second thought, the carbon tax could suddenly double or triple the cost of your daily trip, leaving tens of millions of people cut off from their livelihoods, according to the analyst.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions can have much more serious economic implications, Dr Pierre Noël, Senior Fellow in Economic and Energy Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), told RT.

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

The carbon trap by Paul Chefurka

The carbon trap by Paul Chefurka

Preface. We are caught in the carbon trap — we utterly depend on fossils that don’t have an electric replacement. Someday people will figure this out the hard way, but Chefurka compassionately points out that there is no one to blame for our situation, and it’s not something we can do anything about.

Here are just a few ways our lives depend on fossils:

Petroleum diesel powers the transportation that matters: heavy-duty trucks, rail, and ships 

Manufacturing depends on process heat and steam generated by fossil fuels  

Energy to keep the electric grid up around the clock 

The majority of people alive today should thank natural-gas based fertilizers, and oil-based pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides   

Half a million products are made out of fossil fuels and with energy from fossil fuels

The natural gas that heats homes and businesses.   

  • About 90% of homes and businesses depend on fossil fuels for heat, mainly natural gas  (EIA 2018). 
  • Generating heat from electricity today is terrifically wasteful.  Two-thirds of electricity is generated by burning natural gas and coal, and two-thirds of this coal and natural gas energy vanishes as heat, plus another 6-10% is lost on the wires, so only 24 to 28% arrives at homes and businesses.  It’s far better to use fossils onsite to generate heat.

***

Whether we realize it or not, everyone living on planet Earth today is caught in what I have come to call the “carbon trap”. The nature of the trap is simple, and can be described in one sentence:

Our continued existence depends on the very thing that is killing us – the combustion of our planet’s ancient stocks of carbon.

This unfortunate situation was not intentional, and is no one’s fault.

The trap was constructed well outside of our conscious view or understanding.

Its design came from our evolved desires for status, material comfort and security.

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

Can concentrated solar power be used to generate industrial process heat?

Can concentrated solar power be used to generate industrial process heat?

This post is based on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) paper:

Kurup, P., et al. 2015. Initial Investigation into the Potential of CSP Industrial Process Heat for the Southwest United States. National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

***

Industries use enormous amounts of fossil fuels to generate heat and electricity to make products like steel, cement, chemicals, glass, and refine petroleum, with nearly three-quarters of energy used in the form of heat. Industry uses 30% of all energy, and 83% of that energy is generated by fossil fuels mainly to create process heat directly, indirectly with steam heat, or to generate electricity at the factory for reliability and to operate machine drive equipment (EI 2010).

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is CSP-to-generate-high-heat-needed-by-industry.jpg

It is possible for a Parabolic Trough collector (PTC), which looks like a giant upended cattle trough, to make some of this industrial heat and replace some of the fossil fuels used (mainly natural gas).

But the industrial uses this concentrated solar power collection is most useful for are heat applications from 110 to 220 C (230 – 430 F), especially those processes that use pressurized water or steam.

So that leaves quite a few very important industries out, since they use 2000 F heat or more, such as iron, steel, fabricated metals, transportation equipment (cars, trucks), computers, electronics, aluminum, cement, glass, machinery, and foundries.

Industries where solar industrial process heat (SIPH) might be used are paper, dairy, food, beer, chemicals, and washing/cleaning.   No doubt some processes within other industries like plastics and rubber, textiles, and others also have a need for industrial process heat that’s less than 430 F.

NREL isn’t proposing gigantic, billion dollar concentrated solar power collectors like the ones that take up miles of land in the deserts of California, Nevada, and Arizona.

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

Climate Variability vs AGW

Climate Variability vs AGW

Emissions of CO2 from burning fossil fuel contributes significantly to a gradual increase in the world’s average temperature.  What’s also known but less understood is the erratic variation in the average temperature due to cycles in the ocean, resulting in episodes of El Nino and La Nina.  Some claim that these temperature extremes are well-understood as a result of changes in the trade winds, as the wind pushes the water around the Pacific ocean, exposing colder or warmer water to the surface. This may have been a perfectly acceptable explanation, except it doesn’t address what causes the wind to vary — in other words the source of the erratic wind variation is just as unknown. 

So we are still left with no root cause for the ocean cycles. Apart from the strictly seasonal changes we have no explanation for the longer-term pattern of natural variation observed. 

The likely key to a physical understanding rests in solving the fluid dynamics of the ocean. There are two aspects to this that have long presented an intellectual challenge. The first challenge has been to model the sloshing dynamics of a huge body of water — this typically involves numerical calculation in the form of computational fluid dynamics (CFD). The second challenge is to feed in a possible forcing and see if that can match the cyclic patterns observed. This requires a search through plausible physical mechanisms. Complicating matters is that the cycles may be chaotic so that any agreement we find would be useless from a practical standpoint, as chaotic patterns are impossible to model regardless of the source forcing.

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

Report: Just Ten Percent of Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies Would Completely Pay For a Global “Green Transition”

Report: Just Ten Percent of Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies Would Completely Pay For a Global “Green Transition”

Stephanie Kelton explaining what Ben Bernanke meant in 2009 when he said the Fed doesn’t “spend tax money” when it transfers money to banks, but simply changes numbers in a computer. “To lend to a bank, we simply use a computer to mark up the size of the account they have with the Fed.” Kelton: “It’s exactly like putting points on the screen at a baseball game,” and a scorekeeper can “never run out of points.”

I’m not a fan of the “how are you going to pay for it?” scam, since it’s obvious the government never pays for anything it really wants in the sense of raising new revenue. It just spends the money. For proof, just look at the Iraq War, or any recent war, or any Republican tax cut plan. (See the video above for a slightly longer explanation of why governments that control their own currency never have to tax to spend.)

The fact is, a government that issues its own currency and whose economy is not ravaged by inflation can always write checks to buy anything it wants — and the idea that it “pays for” what it wants by selling bonds is a fiction, since every bond sale is a trade of an asset for an asset, not a loan. The Treasury market also gives rich people something safe to invest in. Neither of these goals is related to financing government spending.

But for those who do fetishize “paying for it,” here’s one for the books.

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

As Cost of Climate Crisis Grows, Climate Movement Escalates

AS COST OF CLIMATE CRISIS GROWS, CLIMATE MOVEMENT ESCALATES

The warnings of climate chaos are coming so fast they are difficult to keep up with. Storms, heatwaves and climate-related weather disasters are increasing at a rapid pace. The leadership of the two corporate-dominated political parties are trying to keep the climate issue out of the 2020 campaign, but the movement is becoming too big to ignore.

Climate justice protests against fossil fuel infrastructure, politicians and the media are also growing. An industry publication describes how activists are “driving pipeline rejections” reporting, “From large, interstate pipelines to small lines connecting towns and neighborhoods, anti-fossil fuel activists have proven highly successful at blocking, through regulations or lawsuits, new natural gas infrastructure in the Northeastern United States.”

Day 214 of blockade against the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Reports of Climate Chaos Increase

Several reports in recent weeks are expressing new concerns about the climate crisis.

An MIT study published this week found that we may be “at the precipice of excitation.” MIT researchers reported that when the rate at which carbon dioxide enters the oceans pushes past a certain critical threshold, it can trigger a reflex of severe ocean acidification that lasts for 10,000 years. The history of the earth shows that over the last 540 million years, this has coincided with four of the five great mass extinctions. Today’s oceans are absorbing carbon at an order of magnitude faster than the worst case in the geologic record, even though humans have only been extracting carbon for the last 100 years. This is likely to be similar to past global catastrophes potentially culminating in the Earth’s sixth mass extinction.

June 20  report by the Center for Climate Integrity found that US coastal communities face more than $400 billion in costs over the next 20 years, much of it sooner, to defend themselves from inevitable sea-level rise.

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

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, Future History

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, Future History

In Donald Trump’s go-back-to-where-you-didn’t-come-from America, where the fear of immigrants (as well as their grotesque mistreatment) still seems on the rise, just wait. There’s so much more to come. Climate change has barely begun to hit this planet big time and yet, while there’s much writing about the grim circumstances (including gangs, drugs, and violence) that continue to send desperate Central Americans north to the U.S. border, global warming is also a growing factor in the equation. If the weather destroys the possibility of growing your food, you’ve got to do something else or go somewhere else. In the coming decades, count on one thing: thanks to the way we’re changing our very planet, ever more people are going to be uprooted from their homes and sent wandering in desperation across this globe of ours. And if you think about it, since Donald Trump is so desperately intent on aiding and abetting the intensification of global warming via fossil-fueled projects of every sort, he should really be considered the ultimate “invader” of this country. Given what we know about the reactions of those not forced to flee to those who are — to, in fact, a planet already filled with the displaced and refugees escaping violence on a scale not seen since the end of World War II — expect things to grow worse. More heat, more upheaval, more wars, and whatever turns out to follow the “populist right” on an increasingly unnerved planet, along with potentially 250 million or more displaced people by perhaps mid-century. Given the backstory so far, it’s not likely to be pretty.

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

Why solar power can’t save us from the coming energy crisis

Why solar power can’t save us from the coming energy crisis

Preface. Embedded within the posts below are even more reasons why solar electricity can’t replace fossil fuels.  Meanwhile, all solar and wind do is add to the giant fire of burning fossil fuels and contribute a tiny bit more power, about 4% of all the power we use. But that will end at some point of the maximum grid integration level for a given area which is already happening in California (California hits the solar wall).

* * *

Solar power contraptions require oil for every single step of their life cycle. 

If solar power and concentrated solar power plants can’t produce enough power to replicate themselves entirely, plus produce the energy needed by society, then they are not sustainable.  Oil is used by mining trucks, ships to take the ore to facilities that use fossil fuels to crush the rock and permeate it with petro-chemicals to extract the metal from the ore.  Then the metal is taken by diesel truck to a smelter which can only run on a blast furnace running 24 x 7 x 365 for years to extract the metal for fabrication (these aren’t electric because even one outage would destroy the brick lining). Every single part uses fossil energy to make, and thousands of parts are shipped on diesel vehicles to the assembly factory.  And of course, in all of these steps, workers drive to work to do their jobs, including finally building roads, cement platforms, and electric transmission to connect the solar PV or Concentrated Solar plant to the existing electric grid. 

Wind and solar power require even more fossil fuels

Wind and Solar Power Require MORE Fossil Fuels

Solar is seasonal

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

‘Clean’ natural gas is actually the new coal, report says: Don Pittis

‘Clean’ natural gas is actually the new coal, report says: Don Pittis

Global investment of more than $1 trillion in planned LNG plants at risk

Employees work next to tanks for liquefied natural gas at a factory in Xian, China in June. China is a prime customer in a worldwide LNG expansion. (Reuters)

There’s no question that when you burn it, methane, the main component of natural gas, is much cleaner than coal.

With that in mind, you might think a newly released report titled The New Gas Boom should be cause for celebration.

Instead, the fresh analysis from Global Energy Monitor, a group well known in energy circles for keeping track of coal plant construction in Asia, sounds a warning, not just for the climate but for investors in what it calculates as a risky $1.3 trillion US worth of global gas infrastructure.

Effectively, the report warns that rather than being an environment-friendly product that can help solve our climate problems, gas is the new coal.

The explosion in spending on planned new liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities — the vast majority in the U.S. and Canada — combined with new calculations for leakage from the LNG supply chain called fugitive gas — means the world may soon turn against gas in the same way it turned against its solid fuel relative.

“New studies have shown there is significantly more fugitive gas than studies showed five years ago, and the gas is also a bigger contributor to climate change than was understood,” said James Browning, one of the report’s authors.

A 34,000-ton heavy lift vessel carries barges for LNG Canada completing pre-construction work at Kitimat, B.C., last fall to prepare the port for larger vessels once the new $40-billion natural gas export facility is constructed.(YouTube/LNG Canada)

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

Hydropower can’t help with the energy crisis

Hydropower can’t help with the energy crisis

Preface. When fossil fuels are gone, there aren’t many ways to balance the unreliable, intermittent, and often absent for weeks at a time power from wind and solar.  Biofuels and burning biomass is one solution, it’s dispatchable and can kick in at any time to make up for lack of wind and solar, but using biomass as a power source is one of the most destructive ways to generate power as I explain in “Peak Soil” and probably has a negative return on energy invested.

So Plan B for renewable power would have to be hydropower.  That was the main proposal Stanford professor Mark Jacobson had to keep the electric grid stable and up and running.  But in 2017, a group of scientists pointed out that Jacobson’s proposal rested upon the assumption that we can increase the amount of power from U.S. hydroelectric dams 10-fold when, according to the Department of Energy and all major studies, the real potential is just 1% percent of that.  And since dams are so ecologically destructive, there would be a great deal of opposition to even building 1% of the dams Jacobson proposed.

Plus, most states don’t have hydropower. Ten states have 80% of hydropower, with Washington state a whopping 25% of hydro-electricity.

Hydropower isn’t always available.  A lot of water has to be held back to provide agriculture and cities with water, so there will be many times of the year when it can’t be released to keep the electric grid up.

And hydropower isn’t renewable, dams have a lifespan of 50 to 200 years.

Without all that additional hydroelectricity, the 100% renewables proposal falls apart. There is no Plan C because of all the shortcomings of battery technologies.

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

Vanishing open spaces: population growth and sprawl in America

Vanishing open spaces: population growth and sprawl in America

Before the fossil fuel age began, about 80 to 90% of people farmed to make a living. Since the end of the oil age will send us back to the past, farmland and farmers will once again comprise the greatest numbers of people.  So it’s alarming that on the cusp of peak global production of oil, we’re losing farmland at such a fast clip to development.   We need all the land we can get – in the Great Depression people were hungry, back when there was just a quarter of the population we have now, with 25% of people still farmers, unlike the 2% today. 

Cities were originally built where the best farmland and water existed. As cities and towns grow, they sprawl outwards over this prime farmland – in fact, that’s where 85% of developmental sprawl happens. The United Nations calls this soil sealing – the permanent covering of soil with impermeable materials such as asphalt or structures.  This leads to a total soil loss of food and fiber production, for water to infiltrate and be held and purified, and often increases flooding , the ability of the soil to hold water, loss of purification capacities, loss of carbon sequestration, increased urban heat from the loss of vegetation, and less biodiversity (FAO 2015).

Between 1945 and 1975, enough farms disappeared beneath concrete to pave Nebraska (Montgomery 2007), about 49.5 million acres (77,350 square miles).

Between 1982 and 2010 the U.S. lost 41.4 million acres, 14% of its crop land.  That’s equal to 65,000 square miles, an area as large as Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania

Over a third of all land that has ever been developed occurred in the last 25 years.  If we keep paving over cropland at this rate, it will all be gone in 200 years.   

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

Rumors of War

Rumors of War


The race to economic collapse is an international competition sparking threats and tensions summoning the specter of war. The imploding center of this collapse is that of industrial technocracy based on fossil fuels. All the nations will go through it on differing schedules. It has been playing out slowly, painfully, and deceptively — hence, my term for it: the long emergency.

Following a dumbed-down media unable to parse the delusions du jour, one might think, for instance, that the USA and China are engaged in a symbolic battle for the heavyweight championship of the world. Rather, both are freaking out at a prospective decline in activity that will make it impossible to support their current populations at even close to the levels of comfort they had lately achieved.

For China, that means very lately. Up until the turning millennium, most Chinese lived as though the twelfth century had never ended. For but two decades now, a new and quite large Chinese middle class has been driving cars around freeways, eating cheeseburgers, wearing designer blue jeans, shooting selfies at the Eiffel Tower, and even dreaming of trips to the moon. They’ve barely had time to turn decadent.

Getting to that was quite a feat. China compressed its version of the industrial revolution into a few decades, catching up to a weary, jaded West that took two hundred years achieving “modernity,” and now it is seeming to surpass us — which is the reason for so much tension and anxiety in our relations. The real news is: we’re all already in the climax of that movie. Nobody will surpass anyone.

 …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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