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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%


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


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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.

the global human population has increased six fold. It's where we are today. Close your eyes for a moment. or the global population shows that in almost every defined area whether political or physical. and continue to increase the population even in the face of facts that the food surplus cannot last the natural lifespan of the present population. powered by energy radiated from a fusion reactor. But each new belly to fill. The burning strains the air recycling system.com SUSTAINABLE CIVILIZATION: The Energy Picture Page 4 of 8 Last printed 11/15/2011 9:06 a11/p11 . and can calculate the area to grow food based on plant selection and growing conditions. From that point on. We are facing not any government created arbitrary currency or policy limit to human achievement. With enough energy. those who run government and businesses appear determined to run full speed for as long as possible. and centrally available energy. We know the minimum calorie energy and nutrition required per person. Eliminate all human resource use that is not "life-support" for a fixed population. or area of naturally recycled resources required to provide for the uses of a person. (Would you really want such anyway?) FRAMING THE PICTURE 3 This energy excerpt is from a larger treatise on “Sustainable Civilization”. Since the fossil fuel era really began. the food infrastructure becomes less and less productive. Much of our present infrastructure and processes are not sustainable. We can calculate the available land. but it is finite. Nevertheless those who can be awoken must be. The timeframe when the first nonrenewable yet essential input fails to meet demand is the lifespan of our present civilized infrastructure. products and services it allows. resources can be reworked. water. it would take several additional planets to provide for humanities present resource use rate. now standing at more than six billion. We can calculate the area required for solar energy to grow industrial materials and fuel. In general. The world may appear large. The present infrastructure is producing food beyond that which is calculable for the sustainable input. and imagine you are traveling on a multi-generation spacecraft. The rational conclusion is they do not see any solution from the top down. The concept of determining the "footprint".LIMITS As we enter a new millennium. but the factors of physical resources. We have calculated that we are already diverting to human use one-half of the productive life of the Earth. we are beyond a sustainable population3. just send an email request to: unno_2002@yahoo. and other resources. and each gallon of fertilizer and pesticide used. moves us closer to “peak food”. nation. but people love the extra food. Business as usual is suicide. our farms still grow sufficient food to feed everyone. and even our day to day allowance of incoming solar energy. The dramatic but obviously temporarily increase in the growth of food is met by expanded numbers until even these sources are strained. But those who see the problem and speak of it are maligned. Without it we may leave much of the Earth a high-tech desert. such veneer of civilization as holds back the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" could easily crumble. You have only the biological diversity and resources put on board by the builders. How is this possible? How are we providing for 6+ billion people? Our infrastructure is dependent on the non-renewable withdrawal of the energy valued stored in fossil fuels. Everything remains a "work in progress". and can help certain crops grow more abundant. and the tradeoff in food area. multiplying by 6 billion provides a sobering comparison to the available renewable resources of the Earth. For the moment. When you have estimated some basic footprint area per person. Regarding the "peak oil" situation. and you still find sustainability is at best questionable. To make the best decisions and implement the best courses of action we need the best minds at work. Awhile back people found accumulations of long-stored complex molecular feedstock that work as convenient fuel. and if anyone has an interest in this "Sustainable Civilization" or any of the appendices. human civilization faces numerous challenges. We have a deadline and the clock is ticking. Without reliable food. They have been advised repeatedly of the problems we face. city. It will take time and significant effort to implement change.

To those who consider the concept of long term sustainability. The businesses. yes. Like spendthrift heirs. this all stops. and life support for an expanding population. The situation with the government of a state is further limited. the challenges of the coming "peak oil". which demands ever-faster destruction of the remaining stored energy. whether per person. and the realization of how dependent we are on the destruction of non-renewable resources… You have the choice offered by Morpheus. It's not that driving a gas-guzzling vehicle is "wrong". It's a waste of a finite resource. The state cannot print money. or civilization. for significant problems to arise. or: Take the red pill. think. The fossil energy embedded in food shows that the peak in oil availability is a concern not only for those who drive a huge SUV. feeding an expanding population. has been a spiraling shortsighted mistake. but it's the personal decision of the driver. stop. the federal government can pay out any amount it likes: It can print money. But there is more to the story. all of the jobs. rightfully deserve the "blame" of their increased throughput. but everyone dependent on green-revolution crops. with a per person energy and resource use that is probably greater than that of any other definable group on the planet. But first and foremost. in "The Matrix": Take the blue pill. This leads to overall price and wage increases. Whether you are picking garden plants. The "problem" comes when the same destruction of a finite resource is the sole means to provide an essential aspect of life. and tax revenues. Essentially the entire global socio-economic-industrial system. All of the fossil fuel powered machines. and you may not like what is necessary. and in particular expanding energy supplies. we have squandered most of the incredible resource oil represented not in long term improvements. let alone having any useful funding for anything else. "Sustainability" must become part of every decision. the supply and demand for goods and services remains fairly stable. essentially self-sufficient communities. stop. somehow. where the need is known to be long-term and far outlasting the finite resource. wake up and believe whatever you like. It is the same the rest of the way down the government chain. or in the number of people. repays (not likely). It can go into debt: For money that it eventually. expanding food supply. Nations such as the United States. The federal government will have difficulty keeping national defense in operation. Do NOT believe that any federally funded program is "sustainable". The government programs. society. All of the crops dependent on fossil fuel derived pesticides and fertilizers. or if not acknowledge you don't care about your children's future. This scientific miracle. but little to no net change in spending decisions. 4 In what has become traditional inflation. it can only hold a gun to the head of the state residents and demand a percentage of the value the residents have produced. or. is a source of "actual" price increases. but on devices. stop. Expanding demand though. We do not need to reach the point where we are “out” of oil. As fossil fuels are depleted. uses. Expanding "money" in these manners4 is a source of inflation. and the government tax revenue dependent on such. Yes. stop. deciding on your vote for Propositions or politicians. Page 5 of 8 Last printed 11/15/2011 9:06 a11/p11 SUSTAINABLE CIVILIZATION: The Energy Picture . while the money supply is increased. evolved and developed under a paradigm of continued growth in population. but "… you may not like how deep the rabbit hole goes…" To achieve sustainability is going to present large challenges. LOOK TO THE LONG TERM.When humanity started its 100+ year oil party most of the 1 billion or so individuals lived primarily in small. planning for your healthcare. It can go into debt for money it never intends to repay.

which requires essentially a steady-state population. or a complete take over by governments controlling every aspect of life? Virtually anything inbetween is an inherent conflict. that as the grass composted. if this country gets cut-off from foreign oil. In the big picture. so do the excessive tax revenue that funds growing programs. private sector businesses. Virtually nothing we do today has any meaning if your goal is our children living as adults in a world still powered by oil. how? CO2 & GLOBAL WARMING absent a scientific miracle. what we experience as our life support infrastructure is no more real for the long-term than the experiences of an amusement park visit. When burned the hydrocarbons combine with oxygen from the air. our "best case" scenario could be the global warming presented in his book and movie "An Inconvenient Truth". The oil I don't burn is bought and used by someone else. without which the industrial food infrastructure that feeds the present population fails. The result per gallon is exhaust with a CO2 aspect of 19. If the global warming sentinels such as Vice President Gore are correct4. clean air. If the excesses in production end.e. followed by collapse if we've not used the time and resources to shift to a sustainable infrastructure and balanced population. but with an ecosphere more polluted and with lessened life-support capability. if we continue fossil fuel use. Life support. and all of infrastructure and aspects of civilization that are dependent on such. must be local. one gallon of gasoline weighs about 6. for each gallon of gasoline burned you would need to use organic methods to grow around 1/2 acre of lush vegetation.2 pounds of CO2 per person per day.We are entering a new paradigm. and seal it away "forever" such that it is never eaten or rotted5. perhaps as farm chemicals. Resources and energy must be accumulated.25 pounds. within a decade rising demand (i. prompt a return to "King Coal" and the associated greater pollution. In a manner of speaking. SUSTAINABLE CIVILIZATION: The Energy Picture Page 6 of 8 Last printed 11/15/2011 9:06 a11/p11 . This allows a short-term continuation of the status quo. 5 Minor conservation efforts such as driving a hybrid (I drive a Prius) may reduce your personal costs and allow you to divert the savings for greater personal changes. or the government. Every gallon of gasoline burned releases CO2 equal to nine people breathing a full day. (Est. or refused to admit. Whether voluntarily now. and the short term benefit (long term danger) of fission reactors. both greenhouse gases which would not naturally have been in the atmosphere. Conservation does not remove the conundrum of embedded fossil fuels in our food. No function based on such is sustainable. and used and invested wisely. Is your The author heard a presentation by a lawn-care firm that growing a lush lawn was good for the environment – removing CO2 – that was then good for creating compost. If the peak oil and fossil fuel depletion folks are anywhere near right. Glaciers and the polar ice caps are melting. we need to end all dependence on non-sustainable factors. You also get carbon monoxide and other nasty stuff.) To use plants to remove the CO2. we are living in a theme park. or from exhaustion a few more polluted decades from now. No fossil fuel use is sustainable. The presenter did not get. but they have virtually NO significance in the overall picture. No economy based on fossil fuels is sustainable. must again be local. ask yourself.3 pounds and around 8 pounds (1 gallon in liquid form) of water vapor. the central theme is the end of the fossil fuel era. The economy. or that human activity is a cause. the CO2 was re-released to the atmosphere. Are we going to have a society of free individuals working together voluntarily. STARTING with fossil fuels. at 2.e. ARE YOU PREPARED? CONSERVATION Whether you believe the global temperature is rising. For relevant background. whether for individuals. China at around 14% per year) and falling supply (i. safe water. If you believe that business as usual can continue. in a matter of weeks virtually everything we see and experience as modern society will shut down. As an example. with the same need for a sustainable infrastructure and balanced population. at least whatever aspects you rely on. No government program based on the economy of a fossil fueled society is sustainable. gather it all. the losses in the Cantrell field in Mexico) WILL. the CO2 level in the atmosphere is increasing. and nutritious food.

and teach our children to do the same. we can at least "lobby" for elimination of misguided incentive to expansion. pesticides. your children need to understand the scope of the situation and know how to obtain the essentials of life in a sustainable manner. But short of affirmative limits being imposed. the engines and machines that pump the groundwater (beyond renewal rate). and with a significant risk that civilization itself may be lost. conservation that merely provides "more of the same" prompts a larger and more dependent population.personal "life support" and "security" arrangements ready for this? No conservation measure for oil is going to make anything "better" unless it is linked to a program to end our addiction in the time the conservation programs allows. plow the fields. Hopefully. which our use destroys in a comparative blink of the eye. The transition period to a post-oil paradigm promises to be an unpleasant. and how to avoid the worst of the collapse that he and other peak oil advocates present. Even if global population was in decline. Perhaps our greatest insanity is our use of fossil fuels as fertilizer. but at least when we are forced to stop. the world is NOT going to sustain 6+ billion people absent the green revolution crops (dependent on fossil fuel derived fertilizers and pesticides). In the manner we use much of it. Burning it for energy is silly. process the food. Absent such a link. and the population that has grown far beyond levels that can be sustained in an environmentally favorable manner on renewable resources. "Waiting for the magic elixir". the impact is not directly life threatening. draconian conservation methods may not allow for remaining fossil fuel use to continue long enough for global population to lower to sustainable levels. we will not reach a point where our government intrudes on family decisions. and portends a greater "hangover" to our oil party. No matter how bad we may think things could become. we destroy other aspects of the environment. Unless you are. dangerous time. during which individual survival may be difficult. SUSTAINABLE CIVILIZATION: The Energy Picture Page 7 of 8 Last printed 11/15/2011 9:06 a11/p11 . as Heinberg comments. and powering machines to greatly expand food production. we must keep our heads.. etc. In the big picture. Fossil fuels represent an essentially nonrenewable resource of untold millions of year’s accumulation of energy.

61 of gasoline.92 per gallon.10:1 is by David Pimentel. Use the formula Food Item Calories times ten. OBSERVATIONS by Professor ALBERT A. living as we do. sales costs not included) 4 A SELF-EVIDENT TRUTH . times price per gallon equals estimate of cost of embedded fuel used to grow the food item (Processing. BARTLETT . Cornell University ecologist. national and global scales. shipping.1 2 United Nations 2005 demographic data used Oil / food . has exceeded the carrying capacity of the Earth. it is AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH that all proposals or efforts to slow global warming or to move toward sustainability are serious intellectual frauds if they do not advocate reducing population to a sustainable level at the local. your food represents $1. 3 THIS SITUATION IS NOT SUSTAINABLE! As a consequence. At $2.If any fraction of the observed global warming can be attributed to the activities of humans. divided by 36. then this constitutes positive proof that the human population.000.

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