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Thermal Storage Hopium

Thermal Storage Hopium

Photo by Photoholgic on Unsplash

After realizing that there is not enough mining capacity to “produce” the necessary amount of metals to build enough batteries (not only lithium, but copper, nickel and much more), a mad scramble to find an alternative electricity storage solution began. Last time I revisited the problem, the hype was all about using aluminum waste to convert its embedded chemical energy into hydrogen and heat. Now its time for thermal batteries to receive their fare share of criticism.

Thermal storage is touted as a “clean and sustainable alternative” to Lithium-Ion Batteries. According to media reports: “The thermal batteries industry is in the nascent stage of development, but it is gaining increasing attention, as governments and companies worldwide look for alternative green solutions. These batteries work by heating a substance to store thermal energy, which can be converted into heat or electricity. Energy from renewable sources, such as solar and wind farms, can be stored to use when energy is not being produced on-site, to ensure a stable flow of electricity to the grid.”

Well, where to start? It is one thing to store excess electricity generated by wind and solar as heat, it is quite another to convert that heat back into electricity… A “problem” grossly overlooked by the technutopists pushing this idea. You see, the efficiency of such an energy storage system is still ruled by physics, and thinking that this is just another “problem” to be solved, well, is magical thinking at best. As discovered by Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot in 1824, not even an ideal, frictionless engine can convert 100% of its input heat into work: that nasty second law of thermodynamics puts a fundamental limit on the thermal efficiency of all heat engines…

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

Dodging The Gator – What Can Be Done?

Dodging The Gator – What Can Be Done?

Photo by Dušan veverkolog on Unsplash

Humanity is in overshoot, and a major correction is already underway, something, which will only accelerate even further. A runaway energy crisis, together with resource depletion, climate change and ecosystems collapse will upend centuries of growth and prosperity. But what does that mean on an individual level? Is there any way to course correct? If not, what are the possible ways of adaption?

The world economy faces a runaway energy crisis, not seen by most commentators. The energy needed to extract the next unit of both oil and minerals increases exponentially due to rich depleted deposits being replaced with ever poorer quality ones. Since energy is the economy, not money, an exponential rise in this area will eventually make further expansion impossible, and lead to a relentless decline. Something, which cannot be stopped, nor financed without bankrupting the economy… In the meantime, both investors and politicians act as if energy were just a cost item, and its supply could expand without any hurdles. What could possibly go wrong?

We are clearly approaching a civilizational tipping point, and there is nothing anyone in power can do about this. The entire process is driven by physics and geology, not wishful thinking and clever humans supposedly inventing their way out if this mess. However, if you were following the logic of how we got here so far, I don’t think it is realistic to say that the passing of this inflection point will suddenly upend civilization, and push everyone, everywhere back into the stone age in a matter of years. Instead, we are about to walk down a long winding road fraught with all sorts of perils, and have to prepare ourselves accordingly.

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

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXIII–Ruling Class Endgame For Everything: Wealth Generation and Wealth Extraction

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXIII

December 9, 2022 (original posting date)

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

Ruling Class Endgame For Everything: Wealth Generation and Wealth Extraction

Todays’ contemplation has been once again prompted by a great article posted by The Honest Sorcerer, this time the second part of some observations regarding the complex and evolving European energy and economic situation.

Well said!

One of the things I have come to believe is that the ruling caste of our world is driven primarily by one overarching motivation: the control/expansion of the wealth-generation/-extraction systems that provide their revenue streams and thus positions of power and prestige.

Everything is leveraged towards this endgame. EVERYTHING!

The political/media arm of this caste spins/markets their policies/actions in ways to give the impression that they serve the masses, but this is simply a epiphenomena of their machinations. While some — even perhaps a majority — of their ‘ill-gotten’ wealth is directed towards ‘public’ services, much is siphoned off and directed up the power/wealth structures inherent in all complex societies to individuals/families within the privileged class. It is a skimming/scamming operation that takes no prisoners and encompasses all of society’s systems; in particular, our socioeconomic one where our financial institutions create credit/money-from-thin-air and then ‘invest’ it or charge interest for its use.

As the world’s current dominant hegemon, the United States does this ‘better’ and more broadly than everyone else.

What we seem to be experiencing with economic sanctions, energy infrastructure sabotage, false flag attacks, significant transfers of armaments and other military support, and finger pointing when events arise whose responsibility is in question, is a concerted effort by the United States and certain allies to not simply justify/rationalise/spin (re)actions but to assert and attempt to sustain its dominant role in global wealth-extraction/-generation.

Here I am reminded of a passage by Noam Chomsky from his 2003 book, Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance:

Those who want to face their responsibilities with a genuine commitment to democracy and freedom — even to decent survival — should recognise the barriers that stand in the way. In violent states these are not concealed. In more democratic societies barriers are more subtle. While methods differ sharply from more brutal to more free societies, the goals are in many ways similar: to ensure the ‘great beast,’ as Alexander Hamilton called the people, does not stray from its proper confines. Controlling the general population has always been a dominant concern of power and privilege…Problems of domestic control become particularly severe when the governing authorities carry out policies that are opposed by the general population. In those cases, the political leadership may…manufacture consent for its murderous policies.

As we continue to bump into the hard reality of biogeophysical limits to growth on a finite planet and the diminishing returns that inevitably result, I expect we will witness much more of this consent manufacturing — along with concomitant ‘devolution’ towards increased tyranny across the globe, but especially within the alliance of the United States and its supporters that repeatedly claim to be fighting for liberty and democracy.

We will likely also experience increased intervention in various sociocultural arenas but especially the economic realm, particularly as it pertains to increasing exponentially the creation of fiat currency (possibly in digital form) to ‘paper’ over out-of-control price inflation — which will likely be ‘controlled’ via continuing statistical manipulations of its measurement (if its measurement continues at all), with the ‘success’ of fighting it spread far and wide by the propaganda arms of the State.

The situation is no better in the nations that are challenging US hegemony. Controlling one’s domestic population, through overt force or covert narrative manipulation, is — as Chomsky points out above — a dominant concern of the ruling caste in every complex society in order to garner necessary support from the hoi polloi.

These machinations and legitimisation activities, however, are completely and totally unsustainable upon a finite planet for they require constant energy and material resource inputs. And in a world experiencing ever-increasing stress due to constant expansion of the human experiment (both on a resource extraction and an ecological systems destruction front), things appear to be approaching a significant inflection point.

Here I will close with a review of what archaeologist Joseph Tainter argues in his 1988 book The Collapse of Complex Societies with regard to peer polities caught in a competitive spiral while encountering the inevitable phenomenon of diminishing returns and the probability of global sociopolitical collapse.

Collapse today is neither an option nor an immediate threat. Any nation vulnerable to collapse will have to pursue one of three options: (1) absorption by a neighbor or some larger state; (2) economic support by a dominant power, or by an international financing agency; or (3) payment by the support population of whatever costs are needed to continue complexity, however detrimental the marginal return. A nation today can no longer unilaterally collapse, for if any national government disintegrates its population and territory will be absorbed by some other.”

Past collapses have occurred in two different political situations: a dominant state in isolation or as part of a cluster of peer polities. With global travel and communication, the isolated dominant state has disappeared and only competitive peer polities now exist — this, of course, will eventually change as our complex global systems breakdown due to energy shortages.

Such polities tend to get caught up in spiraling competitive investments as they seek to outmaneuver others and evolve greater complexity together. The polities caught up in this competition increasingly experience declining marginal returns and must invest ever-increasing amounts leading to greater economic weakness.

Withdrawing from this spiral or collapsing is not an option without risking being subsumed by a competitor. It is this trap of competition that will continue to drive the pursuit of complexity regardless of human/environmental costs. Incentives and economic reserves can support this situation for a lengthy period as witnessed by the Roman and Mayan experiences where centuries of diminishing returns were endured.

Ever-increasing costs and ever-decreasing marginal returns typify peer polities in competition — a negative feedback loop that a State’s ruling caste will not abandon for fear of losing their privilege/power. This ends in either domination by one state and a new energy subsidy, or collapse of all.

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.”

Be it from ecological overshoot (the root cause of all the above) or sociopolitical machinations of our ruling caste, the writing would seem to be on the wall for this latest hominid experiment we have, in a self-congratulatory manner, termed ‘wise man’…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXI–Diminishing Returns On Investments In Complexity

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXI

December 4, 2022 (original posting date)

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

Diminishing Returns On Investments In Complexity

Another very brief contemplation prompted by The Honest Sorcerer’s latest writing regarding our energy predicament.

What you have described so well is perhaps the conundrum faced by every complex society throughout history: diminishing returns on investments in complexity.

This phenomenon appears to apply to almost everything in the human realm but most importantly resource extraction and use as you suggest.

We do tend to put into action the easier and cheaper solutions to our perceived problems with those, in turn, adding to our complexity and creating even more problems that need even more attention (i.e., energy and other resources).

I have argued before and continue to believe that the ‘best’ use of our remaining energy resources would be to encourage local communities to become self-sufficient (especially in terms of potable water procurement, food production, and regional shelter needs) but perhaps even more importantly decommission those complexities that pose significant risk to present and future species.

As I wrote some time ago: “Three of the more problematic [complexities] include: nuclear power plants and their waste products; chemical production and storage facilities; and, biosafety labs and their dangerous pathogens. The products and waste of these complex creations are not going to be ‘contained’ when the energy to do so is no longer available. And loss of this containment will create some hazardous conditions for human existence in their immediate surroundings at the very least — in fact, multiple nuclear facility meltdowns could potentially put the entire planet at risk for all species.”)

I believe ‘simplification’ is coming but am highly doubtful it will be through much if any ‘coordinated’ effort by our ruling caste. As many who have studied our predicament have argued, it will be Nature that imposes the ‘solution’ to this conundrum that is humanity and we will have little to say about it.

As walking, talking apes that tend to deny reality and believe in ‘magic’, we will continue to weave comforting narratives that our human ingenuity and concomitant technological prowess can save us from ourselves.

Imagination, however, is not reality and while we can think up all sorts of possibilities the starkness of physical laws and biological principles stand firmly in the path ahead preventing our magic from having any real impact — except, perhaps, to exacerbate our predicament.

Bye-bye Carbon

Bye-bye Carbon

Photo by K B on Unsplash

Ours is a carbon based economy. On the other hand, carbon emissions are wrecking the climate; for proof just take a look at this short tour de force from Paul Beckwith. In related news UK emissions in 2023 fell to lowest level since 1879. But why is that so? Are we on a path to a green Nirvana, or something entirely different is going on? If you suspect that it is the latter, then this one is for you.

For starters, take a look at this chart, from the Carbon Brief article linked above. Wow, the UK is back to 1879 levels of emissions, when steam locomotives were all the hype, and we didn’t have neither airplanes nor cars! I mean, isn’t that shocking?! This is a precipitous, relentless fall, clearly signalling an end to an era.

There is one minor snag though: this has little to nothing to do with climate policies. And while the well researched and fairly objective Carbon Brief article admits so, it fails to name the elephant in the room. Beyond the many blips and dents what you can see on this chart, dear reader, is a textbook example on how peak carbon looks like. The UK has unwillingly provided us with a Petri-dish experiment on how the depletion of a finite energy resource puts an end to an era of economic, military and geo-strategic dominance together with rising living standards.

Missing entirely from the conversation around both emissions and economic growth is the fact that this is what happens when a country is running out of cheap and easy to access carbon, like easy to mine coal, or oil and gas gushing out from a well. Take a glance at the chart above once again…

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

Stragedy Unfolds

Stragedy Unfolds

A bitter rant on Europe’s self-implosion

It is now the second time I’m having afterthoughts upon publishing an article. After writing about how Europe’s well intended but disastrously planned environmental initiative puts us right on track to a permanent deindustrialization, thoughts kept coming up on why is that not seen as a problem by policy wonks. Perhaps understanding the parallels with what is currently unfolding in Eastern Europe could help lift the fog.

There is a looming sense of civilizational decline in Europe, stemming from the loss of cheap condensed energy. Yet, denial and hope, together with its eternal springs, still reign supreme in the higher echelons of power. There seems to be a firm belief, that no matter how unattainable the objectives we set to ourselves are, someone, somewhere will surely come up with something. Intermittent „renewables”? Costly, heavy, material and energy intensive to make batteries? Oh, someone somewhere is surely working on a storage solution (or more) to come around those minor technicalities. Not enough resources to build all that stuff? Oh, someone somewhere will surely open up a new mine… After all, demand and a good deal of subsidies always begets more supply, now isn’t it?

Well, no. That level of magical thinking is an insult on all practitioners of sorcery, and leaves even underpants gnomes’ green with envy. There are no more cheap and easy to get resources to extract, and what’s even more concerning, there are no more habitats left to destroy on this planet. Mining the seabed, and stirring up all the carbon stored in the sediment, is just one of the most disastrous ideas… Oh, and as an aside, there is no more surplus energy from oil left to do all that additional digging, smelting, transportation and manufacturing, but that’s really just me nitpicking on some minor details.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXXVII–Despite Warnings We Have Continued Business-As-Usual and Doubled-Down On Our Avoidance Behaviours

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXXVII

Rome, Italy (1984). Photo by author.

Despite Warnings We Have Continued Business-As-Usual and Doubled-Down On Our Avoidance Behaviours

The following is my comment on The Honest Sorcerer’s latest piece that highlights the impossibility of bypassing thermodynamic laws (especially Entropy) in our quest for the Holy Grail of a sustainable civilisation; in this instance via a ‘circular’ economy.

While what you argue appears self-evident for the increasingly unlikely prospects of the ‘green/clean’ utopian future a lot of ‘futurists’ predict will unfold as the seemingly endless stream of technological ‘breakthroughs’ come to fruition, it seems that the vast majority of people who even show some awareness of our predicament will ignore/deny/rationalise away the evidence (universal thermodynamic laws or not) in order to cling to their dreams of infinite growth and ‘progress’ upon a finite planet. I even find the argument about physical, material limits is denied by many/most of these people.

This notion that limits are meaningless appears to have got its legs from economists and business ‘leaders’ who have argued that technological progress and human ingenuity trump material limits, particularly due to the idea of infinite substitutability and recycling. History has apparently demonstrated again and again that humans adapt their technology and resource use by finding alternative and/or new sources for their material wants.

What this approach does, however, is not only focus upon a relatively small slice of human pre/history where the leveraging of a number of catalysts to technological change have occurred (especially the creation of debt-/credit-based fiat currency and hydrocarbon use that both allow the pulling of finite resources from the future into the present), but cherry picks behaviours and events.

The processes that contribute to the recurrent collapse of complex societies are minimised/ignored, with a lot of rationalising that ‘this time is different’. We can recycle. We can elect ‘wise’ leaders’. We can work together. We can avoid past mistakes. We can mine passing asteroids. We can innovate. We can migrate to other planets. We can overcome limits. We can adapt. We can slow/control/halt the growth imperative. We can find a means of creating limitless ‘clean’ energy. We can do anything we imagine and set our minds to.

And while these assertions can make us feel better by avoiding the anxieties that arise when we frame things from a perspective where these ‘hopes’ are viewed as magical thinking that avoids reality, they are leading us to pursue the ‘business-as-usual’ scenario (of the 13 possible) painted by the original Limits to Growth study. A scenario where human ecological overshoot and the consequential collapse of population and industrial society were imminent during our current century.

The Limits to Growth researchers proposed that it was possible to avoid this scenario and achieve a sustainable lifestyle but required significant changes be made as soon as possible. In the intervening years, however, our species seems to have ignored the warnings and ‘motored’ ahead with ‘business-as-usual’. And rather than heed the signals our planet and its other species have been sending us (and increasingly so over the past handful of decades), we’ve doubled down on our avoidance behaviours — especially the stories we share about all this and how everything will be alright…somehow but mostly because of human ingenuity and technology, those god-like qualities we storytelling apes possess.

The Arrow of Time

The Arrow of Time

Photo by Brandon Molitwenik on Unsplash

The circular economy and an endless recycling of materials is an absurd proposal, and not only from a technical perspective; the very idea of a “sustainable” high tech society is in a direct conflict with the laws of physics. 

After reviewing the technical reasons behind energy & resource cannibalism, as well as their combined effect on our prosperity, now I invite you to put on an even wider angle lens. Without further ado, let me introduce the subject matter of today’s post: entropy‘Wait, entro-what?! What does this mumbo-jumbo has to do with our dreams of a green economy centered around the endless recycling of products?’ Let me explain.

In general entropy is a measure of disorder or randomness. A sophisticated object like a computer chip, or a living organism like a flowering plant, has very low entropy (or minimal chaos) to it, while the same microchip left to disintegrate in the bottom of a landfill, or that plant thrown out to the compost heap, on the other hand, displays an increasingly higher and higher level of entropy.

The same is true for energy. Enriched uranium and petroleum are both sources of concentrated, high density energy, unlike diluted, lukewarm waste heat emanating from an engine, or dissipated through a cooling tower. You see, by using energy we are not destroying it, we simply harness its capacity to work. We take a concentrated low entropy energy source, utilize it to our purpose, and let it dissipate as heat. In this process energy becomes ever more diluted and dispersed, and thus its entropy increases. The more of our high grade energy has been transformed into waste heat in a system, the higher the level of entropy rises.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

We Are Not Mining with Renewable Energy

We Are Not Mining with Renewable Energy

…and when we do, shit is going to get real

The way we like to think of “renewables”. No smoke, just green fields and a clear blue sky… Photo by Serge Le Strat on Unsplash

There are no “renewables” without mining, an unsustainable practice turbocharged by burning fossil fuels. Yet, advocates of green technologies still believe that we could somehow electrify the recovery of critical minerals, and continue with civilization in a “business as usual but greener” manner. In reality, this could not be further from the truth.

Before we delve into the topic of using renewables to continue extracting metals from Earth’s crust, let’s tackle the environmental aspects of this activity. And while at it, let me also draw your attention to the deep and intimate relationship mining has with burning fossil fuels. What a fascinating — but also disastrous — symbiosis of technologies…

Perhaps it’s no exaggeration to say that the term “building a mine” is actually an euphemism for environmental destruction on a truly industrial scale. First of all, opening a site for mineral extraction inevitably comes with destroying a green blanket of a living habitat. It takes large harvesting machines cutting down all those trees and shrubs — all powered by burning diesel fuel, as there are no power plugs nearby to do all this with electrified chainsaws. Then a bunch of diesel guzzling excavators and bulldozers are brought on site to build roads leading to the would be mining site. Next, a fleet of trucks arrive to haul all those logs away — again, by burning diesel — as the distance and load is usually far-far beyond what an electric semi could cover.

Plumes of diesel smoke everywhere. Photo by Dominik Vanyi on Unsplash

…click on the above link to read the rest…

The End of the Colombian Age

The End of the Colombian Age

We are witnessing the end of an era in history spanning half a millennium; the end of Western dominance in geopolitics. For those who understand the role of resources and energy in economics, culture and politics, it comes as no surprise that this shift in global power has an awful lot to do with resource depletion in particular, and overshoot in general — not unlike the many major shifts in human history. What we are facing here is something akin to the fall of the Soviet Union, but this time on steroids, and with global consequences affecting every nation on the planet to boot.

We live in truly remarkable times. Most people born into a middle of an era expect things to continue smoothly, with the past being a reliable guide for the future. Those who have the “fortune” to born into the very last decades of an age tend to think similarly, and fail to recognize that they are witnessing something which future historians (if there will be any) will commemorate as an end to a period, and a beginning of a new era. Perhaps its no exaggeration to say, that what we see here is the collapse of modernity in two acts, the first being the fall of the West.

Let me start with Erik Micheals and his fine blog Problems, Predicaments, and Technology, where he has recently shared an interesting story about us, Rationalizing, Storytelling, and Narrative-Generating Apes. He closed with citing historian Joseph Tainter, author of the book The Collapse of Complex Societies, on how civilizations end. Incidentally, I also closed my last article with a definition and description of civilizational decline, so I think this is a good place to pick up the thread.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Capitalism Cannot Turn Into Anything But Autocracy

Capitalism Cannot Turn Into Anything But Autocracy

…only to disintegrate altogether soon after

The history of capitalism has an arc of its own. It has a beginning, a high point, and yes, an end — with or without revolutions, climate change or ecological destruction. Capitalism follows a trajectory of natural evolution culminating in a Orwellian dystopia, right before its quick demise. Join me in this short review on the origins of capitalism to understand why every attempt made at dismantling it has failed — and will continue to do so — until the authoritarian technologies making it possible disappear in the not so distant future.

According to Investopedia “Capitalism is an economic system characterized by private ownership of the means of production, with labor solely paid wages. Capitalism depends on the enforcement of private property rights, which provide incentives for investment in and productive use of capital.” What is sorely missing from this definition — as always when it comes to economics — is the role of technology and energy. Both factors have played a crucial role in the conception of this idea, let alone its growth into the hydra it has become. Contrary to common wisdom, I argue, neither of these critical inputs — energy and technology — were brought about by capitalism itself, it was completely the other way around. It was the use of technology and an ever growing availability of energy which has made capitalism possible, and thus the loss of these will be the cause which will eventually bring it to its knees.

Capitalism can never hoped to be dismantled without abandoning technology.

I know that is a harsh statement, perhaps prompting some of my readers to point out how anti-technology I am, and how a socialist revolution / green technologies / Bitcoin / gold / or fill in the blank could turn things around overnight. Well, all I ask is this: bear with me for a few more minutes.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

The Great Simplification Ahead

The Great Simplification Ahead

“Until debt tear us apart”

There is no denying that a major economic downturn is now in the books, and that lacking an energy miracle, the world economy is about to go through a major shift. After discussing the faulty nature of prevailing economic metrics (GDP) in last week’s essay, and understanding how economic growth has turned into stagnation 18 years ago already, let’s turn our eyes towards the future. What might the world economy look like after the onset of the coming crisis? How would world leaders react? Could gold or bitcoin save the day? Let’s dive in.

There is a yawning gap between real economic productivity and debt in the world economy. Despite the fact that GDP seems to be growing, real economic output (best measured by energy consumption) has been stagnating for almost two decades now. As a result Western nations have lost their dominance in the world economy, and now face a steep decline due to an ever worsening energy balance and their colossal import dependence.

You see, this is not a matter of money or the lack thereof. Governments all around the world had the chance to print all the money they wanted in the past two decades. There were two thing they could not conjure up, however: cheap raw materials and energy. Contrary to common wisdom, the green energy transition is not a miracle waiting to happen, only an expensive and utterly unsustainable addition to the existing fossil fuel energy infrastructure. Shale oil, the much heralded “solution” to peak oil, has also run its course and now is close to reaching its all time high… Only to embark on a steep decline afterwards. None of this is a monetary question, only a matter of geology and economics: resource depletion and the resulting cost increase. Printing money does not solve any of these issues, only creates more inflation.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Financing the End of Modernity

Financing the End of Modernity

How financialization heralds the end of the industrial age

That didn’t worked out as intended… Who would’ve thought? Photo by micheile henderson on Unsplash

Western neoliberal economies are on the brink of a steep economic decline. Barring an energy / productivity miracle a prolonged and deep recession is clearly on the horizon. While mainstream pundits keep “informing” the public how GDP was actually growing in the past decades (except for a few brief moments), and how the G7 is still the top economic power block, the real economy of goods and services tells a completely different story. Growth — in the sense of real economic output — has stopped 18 years ago in the West, and conditions are now ripe for a rapid contraction. A sobering assessment of the real economy — in which your humble blogger is still actively involved — has become due. Buckle up.

As long time readers might already know by heart: money is not the economy, energy is. Money is but a claim on energy and resources. Everything we mine, grow, manufacture and consume takes energy to produce. No energy, no production, no services. The more we produce / consume the more energy is used up. And while it may seem like that rich countries have somehow decoupled their economies from energy use (ie managed to grow GDP much faster than energy consumption), in fact the opposite is true. All they did was send their high energy intensity manufacturing and mining abroad, then imported all they needed using their overvalued currencies, thus becoming more independent on foreign trade than ever.

The public, together with it’s ruling elite, was led down the primrose path with GDP, and now a reckoning is in short order.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

White (Hydrogen) Lies

Photo by Carlos Torres on Unsplash

Geologists, while searching for oil and gas in France, have found the biggest deposit of pure naturally occurring hydrogen yet. A source of fuel which “burns clean” and hot, and thus can “replace” fossil fuels in “hard to decarbonize” areas of the industry like steel, glass or cement manufacturing, not to mention the fact that it could be directly used to make fertilizers (ammonia) from. Heck, it might be even more abundant elsewhere than it was previously thought. “Yippee, modern civilization is saved! Or not…?”

The myth of a hydrogen economy is a tough creature to slay. It has grown multiple heads over the decades, and as you cut one off, three or four new heads pop up to replace it. Since each head has a different color it certainly looks like that we will run out of the color gamut sooner than ideas on how hydrogen could “save” modernity. First, there was Grey hydrogen which, by the way, is still the most economically viable and thus the most widespread source of this fuel. Ironically it’s demise in its role as the savior of modern civilization came from the climate movement itself, since it is made directly from methane (natural gas). “Its foul mouth reeks with CO2 and methane! Down with it.”

Good riddance. With the same sword swing the Brown/Black head started to roll as well: as it is also made with fossil fuels directly (via coal gasification). Two heads with one swing! Not bad, isn’t it? The faith that modern civilization cannot perish and must go on no matter what, however, has gave birth to a plethora of new heads. It started to look clear decades ago already that electrification alone will not be able to save modernity, especially when it comes to high heat applications or long distance transport. Somebody had to come up with something.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

This Energy Crisis Is Here To Stay

This Energy Crisis Is Here To Stay

…and can potentially become highly explosive

Photo by Luke Jernejcic on Unsplash

When it comes to energy these years, bad news seem to be popping up like mushrooms on a shiitake-farm. A recent flurry of articles on “The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News”, Oilprice.com, is a case in point. Wind farm projects going for broke. War in the Middle-East. Solar panels collecting dust in warehouses. Renewables businesses losing their profitability. What is still missing though is much needed context, the connection of these dots beyond the obvious political considerations. Join me in this quick sit-rep of sorts to see where are we with this energy crisis of ours in this tumultuous moment in history… Or shall I say, in the next chapter of The Long Emergency? Decide it for yourself.

Our globalized economy seems to be experiencing ever more “problems” taking an ever higher amount of investment to “solve”. And while governments all around the world could print and conjure up all the money they dared to imagine, all these efforts have achieved was an almost unprecedented wave of stagflation — a persistent combination of economic stagnation (or even decline) combined with record high inflation and debt levels. It certainly looks like the world economy has reached a point of diminishing returns on almost every front. Despite all the money and investment, the “problems” we were trying to “solve” just got bigger — and not a tad bit smaller. What’s wrong with you, World?

Well, what long time observers of the real economy of goods and services have seen coming is finally here. Actually, it has been knocking on our door since the middle of 2021. The world economy was sleepwalking into a deep energy crisis, affecting all sectors all at once…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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