[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
 >> dependent
 >>> on fossil fuels as long as total energy consumption keeps rising.
 >> Renewable
 >> Please cite references for your claim.
> Use of fossil fuels and energy use per capita are both growing...even in
> Europe.
> http://www.google.com/publicdata?ds=wb-wdi&met=eg_use_pcap_kg_oe&tdim=true&q=global+energy+consumption
> World Bank, the UN and many other measurement bodies publish regularly on
> this.
> 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 
exponential growth.

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 
most interest.

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 
important role.
   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. :-)

--Paul Fernhout

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