[p2p-research] How (not) to resolve the energy crisis
Paul D. Fernhout
pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Mon Nov 23 00:37:00 CET 2009
Ryan Lanham wrote:
> On Sun, Nov 22, 2009 at 4:02 PM, Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:
>> On Sat, Nov 21, 2009 at 08:03:12PM -0700, Matt Boggs wrote:
>>> Increasing the share of renewable energy will not make us any less
>>> on fossil fuels as long as total energy consumption keeps rising.
>> Please cite references for your claim.
> Use of fossil fuels and energy use per capita are both growing...even in
> World Bank, the UN and many other measurement bodies publish regularly on
> Whether renewables offset these uses I cannot say...I doubt anyone can.
> What is clear is that energy consumption and carbon production are both
> increasing. Science groups just today announced goals of peaking carbon in
> 2015 and reducing it then by 1/2 by 2030. Certainly the first goal is
> fantasy. Hard to say about the second.
My understanding (Lester Brown's site I think) was hazily that fossil fuel
use was growing at around 1% per year (or was until the great recession)
while renewables were growing at around 30% per year. However, because
fossil fuel use is so much larger than renewables, the absolute numbers were
somewhat comparable back then. That will shift if renewable continue their
It may even be more in favor of renewables now because of the recession:
According to Brown, citizens and industry may be ahead of the government in
addressing concerns about energy use and climate change.
He pointed to figures from the U.S. Department of Energy that show
decreases in oil use by 10 percent and coal use by 11 percent over the last
two years. Projections are that emissions from coal plants will be 10.1
percent less in 2009 than the previous year.
Chief among the factors leading to the drop in carbon emissions, Brown
said, are a turning away from coal-generated electricity, a drop in the
nation's vehicle fleet and a notable increase in wind power.
M-M: Would you hazard a guess as to what might be attributable to
conservation and lifestyle changes?
Brown: It's difficult to say, and I'm reluctant to use a number. The larger
share came from the recession and the smaller from efficiency gains and
shifting to renewables and natural gas. Oil use went down 5 percent in 2008,
and it's going down another 5 percent in 2009. Coal went down only about 1
percent in 2008, but in 2009 by 10 percent. Overall, carbon emissions were
down 3 percent in 2008 and then 6 percent in 2009, and that adds up to the 9
percent for the last two years.
There is a tendency to think of this as just a temporary thing. There are
things in motion now that almost guarantee that carbon emissions are going
to be dropping for some years into the future, and that's what I find of
Natural gas use may be up though?
More from that article with funny things going on:
Brown: There are a number of things in the policy pipeline, like the
automobile fuel economy standards that were announced in February — a 42
percent increase in miles per gallon for cars and a 25 percent increase for
light trucks by 2016. That's a very substantial factor when predicting fuel
use and carbon emissions. And then we have the appliance efficiency
standards. Here, what most people don't know, unless they're tracking these
things closely, is that for some years now the Department of Energy has not
translated congressional legislation on appliance efficiency standards into
regulations that could be used by the appliance manufacturers.
Within days of taking office, Obama instructed the DOE to get this
legislation translated into regulations that appliance manufacturers can
use. There's a huge backlog of gains coming there. A third thing, of course,
is that there are pretty strong economic incentives for developing wind,
solar and geothermal, and we're going to see an enormous increase in all
three of them in the years immediately ahead. The fourth thing, as of the
beginning last week, is the decision by the federal government to set
standards for itself in cutting carbon emissions, and that will undoubtedly
encourage state governments to do the same thing.
These will add up to a very substantive decline in carbon emissions in
the years ahead. Beyond that, we have some other trends that are playing an
There's a lot of talk about raising automotive fuel efficiency and almost
no recognition of the fact that the U.S. automobile fleet is starting to
shrink. This year, we'll be selling about 10 million new cars, but the
retirement rate is about 14 million cars. This is interesting for two
reasons. It means the U.S. automobile fleet will shrink this year by nearly
2 percent, and it means that the automobile sector is now producing a steel
surplus. The steel used for 10 million new cars, which are relatively small
compared to the 14 million being retired, is much less than the steel being
scrapped. So not only is the number of cars being scrapped 40 percent more
than the new cars being made, but the cars being scrapped are larger and
have more steel in them than the newer, smaller cars. This is an amazing
situation where we have an industry that is normally a net consumer of steel
producing a steel surplus.
Onward to a post-scarcity future? Give people new cars, and you have more
steel left over than when you started. :-)
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