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Sustainable Civilization: The Energy Picture

Consider the U.S. 2006 energy picture:
2006 Data BBL/Equal 10 5.75 5.75 1.5 2 Oil Natural Gas Coal Renewables Nuclear 25 BBL Total 40.00% 23.00% 23.00% 6.00% 8.00% 100.00% Residential Commercial 11.00% 4.400% 2.530% 2.530% 0.660% 0.880% 11.00% Electric Power 39.00% 15.600% 8.970% 8.970% 2.340% 3.120% 39.00%

Overall

Transportation 28.00% 11.200% 6.440% 6.440% 1.680% 2.240% 28.00%

Industrial 22.00% 8.800% 5.060% 5.060% 1.320% 1.760% 22.00%

What if we had to generate all of our power from solar photovoltaic’s? To put it in electrical terms 1 Barrel = 42 gallons. 1 gallon (roughly) = 144,000 BTU or 36,700 watthour. 25 billion barrels is roughly the electrical equivalent of 38,535,000,000,000,000 watthour. Readily available (limited quantity) photovoltaic panels are 10% efficient in converting sunlight to electricity, such that for every hour that a square yard of such panels are in direct sunlight, 100 watthour of electricity is generated. We can guess it’s going to take a large array. Let’s say the average daily solar exposure of our array is six hours of sun, with a further adjustment of 50% of the array being in shade, dirty, undergoing work, etc. Also assume an optimistic total “loss” of only 5 days of sun per year. (Thinking of the author’s residence state of Arizona) How large does such an array need to be to generate 38,535,000,000,000,000 watthour? 38,535,000,000,000,000 Divided by six (hours per day) 6,422,500,000,000,000.00 Divided by 360 (days operation per year) 17,840,277,777,777.80

Divided by 50% (adjust for various blockages and partial downtime) 35,680,555,555,555.60 Divided by 100 (watts generated per square yard) 356,805,555,555.56 number of square yards of collector Divided by 3,097,600 (square yards in a square mile) 115,187.74 square miles of photovoltaic panels, or an area say 340 miles on a side Then the “hydrogen economy” arguments want to use the electrical power to electrolyze water to replace 10 billion barrels of portable fuel. If we really want to do so, what is the efficiency LOSS in splitting water? In labs it is 50%. In the 2005 Department of Energy "Solar Decathlon" competition the New York Institute of Technology found their hydrogen fuel cell power storage approach didn't reach the 25% efficiency they hoped, vs 80% for lead-acid batteries. If you really wanted to use the array to split hydrogen from water, 40% of the array would need to be at least four times the size. An obvious point must be the engineering challenge of constructing over 100,000 square miles of photovoltaic material, and the applicable mounting frames. If such is to be a stand-alone array, envision the response from environmentalists regardless of where you wanted to place it. At the moment, the bulk of the energy being used in the United States is being purchased and used by the private sector. The cumulative cost of the array, if say each 100 watt unit costs only \$500, is

SUSTAINABLE CIVILIZATION: The Energy Picture

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500 miles on a side. an estimate of the best wood yield is 2 cord per acre per year. is reported to have 4% of the remaining global supply. our (2006) remaining internal supplies could meet current military fuel needs for well over 100 years. etc. using present industrial farming. use).402. (With a “T”). In higher latitudes. or an area just over 1. which is 1.S. remaining traditional oil supply was somewhat less than 22 billion barrels (BBL).4 BBL.S. but of course the remaining wells CANNOT be pumped fast enough to meet that demand. the data from most oil nations is seen as highly suspect. with 72% of such being in the form of jet fuel. essentially equal to the annual firewood growth of 2.1% of U. (It’s probably as good an estimate as any. To example. PEAK OIL SCOPE OF THE OIL SITUATION UNITED STATES EXAMPLED For the moment the U.S.777. or rework infrastructure for a solar economy. passed peak production in the early 1970’s. Where do you imagine1 we could possibly get annual energy income from renewable resources equal to the fuel equivalent of 10 billion barrels of oil? The remaining domestic fossil fuel bank account represents less than 3 years of present demand. But long before depletion.S. but it is doubtful it could even reach 50% of present use. Using more optimistic estimates of remaining useable supply. GLOBAL DEPLETION Recent (2004) global oil use approached 30 billion barrels (BBL) per year. Let's look at the basic oil facts for the United States to try and start to put the situation in perspective. only pumps 8% of our own use. TIMELINE . If the U. The U. and China increased yearly at their recent rates. Emergency measures might increase the pumping rate significantly. This number would put the global supply at around 800 BBL.. In fact it rises every year.S. U. DOE also estimates that U. is the largest single nation oil consumer (China is rapidly catching up). the time for global depletion is only delayed by around 30%. the power generated would not be worth the effort or cost. In 2004 China burned around 2. including weapons construction. Oil production (pumping rate) in the U. at recent consumption rates global oil supplies still may be exhausted before 2040. 800/30 = 26 years (2030)..S. but the supplies CANNOT operate any significant portion of the economy.5 BBL more recently estimated at 10 BBL/Year. which would preclude any internal use of oil to expand domestic production. in 10 days the commercial supply drops to about 8% of expected demand.S. annual use. we might be able to feed 40% of the current population. But of course. There may not be a lot of time left to implement some functional alternative. This was a 14% increase from 2003. depletion would occur around 2024.S.000 barrels of petroleum. defense use is (2005) was estimated at around 123 million barrels per year (1% to 2% of total U. in overcast climates. If we just had to keep our military machines in operation.3 million square miles.S. That is \$178 TRILLION Putting photovoltaic panels where the demand is does not necessarily work.777. annual use.000 BTU per acre per year. 10 billion barrels of oil is 60. and has been in decline since then. The United States Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that in 2004 the continental U.S. The 2006 “Annual Energy Management Report” indicated the Pentagon used 116. with the highest average per person oil use.480 trillion BTU.960. The widely debated (whether to drill or not) Alaskan wilderness fields represent probably another 10 BBL. In a United States cut off from foreign oil. gets cut off from foreign fuel supplies. With a slow decline we might have something like that for perhaps 20 years final exhaustion.) We need to act to eliminate this dependency before an emergency is upon us. we encounter the challenge of Peak Oil (demand exceeding pumping rate). U.S. or even current food. or about 8% of the annual global use.778. If every other nation on the Earth held their use to 2004 levels. DOE indicates the U. Even if you completely eliminated the U.800.WORST CASE Posit that there is a 10 day supply of oil and fuels "in the pipeline" at any given time. Food alone may represent 20%+ of the U. or 40. 2004 use was 7. 1 SUSTAINABLE CIVILIZATION: The Energy Picture Page 2 of 8 Last printed 11/15/2011 9:06 a11/p11 .S.00.S. demand is not stable. Perhaps the most significant factor is the expanding use in China.\$178.

which equals around 36.000 BTU. We need to set aside the rigid mindset that separates and sees our infrastructure as distinct aspects of biological.) What does this translate to in real world terms? In general. In late 2006 Mexico announced that its giant Cantrell oil field which at its peak produced around 730 million barrels per year has fallen to 650 million with progressive decline expected. annually it is around 60 BILLION gallons.Time gained from coal to oil +30 . (Transportation or cooking of the food NOT included in this estimate. It all needs to work together with minimal loss of energy in such transformations as are necessary.Time gained from tar sands +22 .000 calories of food requires2 the use of 20. if you eat commercially produced food. and upon which the majority of the 6+ billion population depends. HIDDEN RESOURCE DEPENDENCE FOSSIL ENERGY EMBEDDED IN FOOD In peak oil discussions it is frequently presented that food production using hybrid / green revolution crops requires 10 calories2 of input (in the form of pesticides and fertilizers) for every calorie of food produced. oil will no longer be cheap. and global peace is enforced. ends.Global population around 6. or between 15% and 20% of U. structures and other engineering. the population must somehow plummet.000 calories of oil. as wells dry up. we might expect natural attrition to lower the population to 1. population of 300 million. in use worldwide.S. a food calorie is in fact 1. If the peak oil commentators are right then to produce 2. THE ROOT PROBLEM 2006 . Some say it already has. And the information on remaining supplies is not necessarily reliable.S.000 "heat" calories."Peak Oil". but it can at least be argued using known data. It can be argued that a sustainable global population can not exceed 1. (55% of a gallon) For a projected U. no increase in population. if energy is not used at any rate greater than 2005. not bumble blindly on. In contract China requires a new city the size of Philadelphia EVERY 30 DAYS. which is the point where the wells simply cannot be pumped as fast as demand. This one field represents 2% of the world capacity. In early 2006. 2 Please note.Pick you own year for effective depletion of traditional oil. Although they are normally spelled the same.Time gained from shale oil +20 . put humanity in a timeframe that is essentially: 2030 . As an example. EXACTLY WHAT IS REQUIRED. and the present infrastructure will have to be progressively shut down. The Columbia University "Vertical Farm" project raises this estimate to 20:1.Time gained from easy uranium 2107 . We need to re-think our civilization from the grass roots up. and do not take into account energy loss in the transformations. Sometime before exhaustion. Kuwait announced it had mis-represented its remaining supply of oil to be twice the true amount. Belief in or dedication to a particular ideology may alter individual perceptions. but not physical facts. the food production miracle of the green revolution crops. essentially what it was before the oil party started. may soon be reached. The real-world situation of course is that overall the population continues to grow.2 billion. WAKE UP CALL The flow of stored energy needed to operate our infrastructure is ending. Posit therefore that a gallon of gasoline contains 144. Absent this un-sustainable input.6 Billion.000 food calories. all energy transformation calculations presented in this treatise are “rough”. the population in the United States would be stable or maybe in a slow decline. a human needs 2000 calories of energy per day.2 billion by 2087. or abundant. Page 3 of 8 Last printed 11/15/2011 9:06 a11/p11 SUSTAINABLE CIVILIZATION: The Energy Picture . Population demographics1 are such that if a one child per couple guideline was rigorously followed. and information and intellect. At the end of course. annual fossil fuel use as oil. BIG PICTURE BEST CASE TIMELINE The known available & remaining "fossil" alternatives. +5 . and assuming no increase in demand.Most optimistic “fossil” options end The author believes the above timeline is far too optimistic. Despite the "bad press" absent immigration and pro-population growth government programs. Your real world mileage may vary. you daily meals represent a dependency3 on oil equal to a 30 mpg vehicle driving 16 miles.