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Eight Energy Myths Explained

Tyler Durden's picture


Submitted by Gail Tverberg of Our Finite World blog,

Republicans, Democrats, and environmentalists all have favorite energy myths. Even Peak Oil believers have favorite energy myths. The following are a few common mis-beliefs,  coming from a variety of energy perspectives. I will start with a recent myth, and then discuss some longer-standing ones.

Myth 1. The fact that oil producers are talking about wanting to export crude oil means that the US has more than enough crude oil for its own needs.

The real story is that producers want to sell their crude oil at as high a price as possible. If they have a choice of refineries A, B, and C in this country to sell their crude oil to, the maximum amount they can receive for their oil is limited by the price the price these refineries are paying, less the cost of shipping the oil to these refineries.

If it suddenly becomes possible to sell crude oil to refineries elsewhere, the possibility arises that a higher price will be available in another country. Refineries are optimized for a particular type of crude. If, for example, refineries in Europe are short of light, sweet crude because such oil from Libya is mostly still unavailable, a European refinery might be willing to pay a higher price for crude oil from the Bakken (which also produces light sweet, crude) than a refinery in this country. Even with shipping costs, an oil producer might be able to make a bigger profit on its oil sold outside of the US than sold within the US.

The US consumed 18.9 million barrels a day of petroleum products during 2013. In order to meet its oil needs, the US imported 6.2 million barrels of oil a day in 2013 (netting exported oil products against imported crude oil). Thus, the US is, and will likely continue to be, a major oil crude oil importer.

If production and consumption remain at a constant level, adding crude oil exports would require adding crude oil imports as well. These crude oil imports might be of a different kind of oil than that that is exported–quite possibly sour, heavy crude instead of sweet, light crude. Or perhaps US refineries specializing in light, sweet crude will be forced to raise their purchase prices, to match world crude oil prices for that type of product.

The reason exports of crude oil make sense from an oil producer’s point of view is that they stand to make more money by exporting their crude to overseas refineries that will pay more. How this will work out in the end is unclear. If US refiners of light, sweet crude are forced to raise the prices they pay for oil, and the selling price of US oil products doesn’t rise to compensate, then more US refiners of light, sweet crude will go out of business, fixing a likely world oversupply of such refiners. Or perhaps prices of US finished products will rise, reflecting the fact that the US has to some extent in the past received a bargain (related to the gap between European Brent and US WTI oil prices), relative to world prices. In this case US consumers will end up paying more.

The one thing that is very clear is that the desire to ship crude oil abroad does not reflect too much total crude oil being produced in the United States. At most, what it means is an overabundance of refineries, worldwide, adapted to light, sweet crude. This happens because over the years, the world’s oil mix has been generally changing to heavier, sourer types of oil. Perhaps if there is more oil from shale formations, the mix will start to change back again. This is a very big “if,” however. The media tend to overplay the possibilities of such extraction as well.

Myth 2. The economy doesn’t really need very much energy.


We humans need food of the right type, to provide us with the energy we need to carry out our activities. The economy is very similar: it needs energy of the right types to carry out its activities.

One essential activity of the economy is growing and processing food. In developing countries in warm parts of the world, food production, storage, transport, and preparation accounts for the vast majority of economic activity (Pimental and Pimental, 2007). In traditional societies, much of the energy comes from human and animal labor and burning biomass.

If a developing country substitutes modern fuels for traditional energy sources in food production and preparation, the whole nature of the economy changes. We can see this starting to happen on a world-wide basis in the early 1800s, as energy other than biomass use ramped up.

Figure 1. World Energy Consumption by Source, Based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects and together with BP Statistical Data on 1965 and subsequent

Figure 1. World Energy Consumption by Source, Based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects and together with BP Statistical Data on 1965 and subsequent

The Industrial Revolution began in the late 1700s in Britain. It was enabled by coal usage, which made it possible to make metals, glass, and cement in much greater quantities than in the past. Without coal, deforestation had become a problem, especially near cold urban areas, such as London. With coal, it became possible to use industrial processes that required heat without the problem of deforestation. Processes using high levels of heat also became cheaper, because it was no longer necessary to cut down trees, make charcoal from the wood, and transport the charcoal long distances (because near-by wood had already been depleted).

The availability of coal allowed the use of new technology to be ramped up. For example, according to Wikipedia, the first steam engine was patented in 1608, and the first commercial steam engine was patented in 1712. In 1781, James Watt invented an improved version of the steam engine. But to actually implement the steam engine widely using metal trains running on metal tracks, coal was needed to make relatively inexpensive metal in quantity.

Concrete and metal could be used to make modern hydroelectric power plants, allowing electricity to be made in quantity. Devices such as light bulbs (using glass and metal) could be made in quantity, as well as wires used for transmitting electricity, allowing a longer work-day.

The use of coal also led to agriculture changes as well, cutting back on the need for farmers and ranchers. New devices such as steel plows and reapers and hay rakes were manufactured, which could be pulled by horses, transferring work from humans to animals. Barbed-wire fence allowed the western part of the US to become cropland, instead one large unfenced range. With fewer people needed in agriculture, more people became available to work in cities in factories.

Our economy is now very different from what it was back about 1820, because of increased energy use. We have large cities, with food and raw materials transported from a distance to population centers. Water and sewer treatments greatly reduce the risk of disease transmission of people living in such close proximity. Vehicles powered by oil or electricity eliminate the mess of animal-powered transport. Many more roads can be paved.

If we were to try to leave today’s high-energy system and go back to a system that uses biofuels (or only biofuels plus some additional devices that can be made with biofuels), it would require huge changes.

Myth 3. We can easily transition to renewables.

On Figure 1, above, the only renewables are hydroelectric and biofuels. While energy supply has risen rapidly, population has risen rapidly as well.

Figure 2. World Population, based on Angus Maddison estimates, interpolated where necessary.

Figure 2. World Population, based on Angus Maddison estimates, interpolated where necessary.

When we look at energy use on a per capita basis, the result is as shown in Figure 3, below.

Figure 3. Per capita world energy consumption, calculated by dividing world energy consumption (based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects together with BP Statistical Data for 1965 and subsequent) by population estimates, based on Angus Maddison data.

Figure 3. Per capita world energy consumption, calculated by dividing world energy consumption (based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects together with BP Statistical Data for 1965 and subsequent) by population estimates, based on Angus Maddison data.

The energy consumption level in 1820 would be at a basic level–only enough to grow and process food, heat homes, make clothing, and provide for some very basic industries. Based on Figure 3, even this required a little over 20 gigajoules of energy per capita. If we add together per capita biofuels and hydroelectric on Figure 3, they would come out to only about 11 gigajoules of energy per capita. To get to the 1820  level of per capita energy consumption, we would either need to add something else, such as coal, or wait a very, very long time until (perhaps) renewables including hydroelectric could be ramped up enough.

If we want to talk about renewables that can be made without fossil fuels, the amount would be smaller yet. As noted previously, modern hydroelectric power is enabled by coal, so we would need to exclude this. We would also need to exclude modern biofuels, such as ethanol made from corn and biodiesel made from rape seed, because they are greatly enabled by today’s farming and transportation equipment and indirectly by our ability to make metal in quantity.

I have included wind and solar in the “Biofuels” category for convenience. They are so small in quantity that they wouldn’t be visible as a separate categories, wind amounting to only 1.0% of world energy supply in 2012, and solar amounting to 0.2%, according to BP data. We would need to exclude them as well, because they too require fossil fuels to be produced and transported.

In total, the biofuels category without all of these modern additions might be close to the amount available in 1820. Population now is roughly seven times as large, suggesting only one-seventh as much energy per capita. Of course, in 1820 the amount of wood used led  to significant deforestation, so even this level of biofuel use was not ideal. And there would be the additional detail of transporting wood to markets. Back in 1820, we had horses for transport, but we would not have enough horses for this purpose today.

Myth 4. Population isn’t related to energy availability.

If we compare Figures 2 and 3, we see that the surge in population that took place immediately after World War II coincided with the period that per-capita energy use was ramping up rapidly. The increased affluence of the 1950s (fueled by low oil prices and increased ability to buy goods using oil) allowed parents to have more children. Better sanitation and innovations such as antibiotics (made possible by fossil fuels) also allowed more of these children to live to maturity.

Furthermore, the Green Revolution which took place during this time period is credited with saving over a billion people from starvation. It ramped up the use of irrigation, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, hybrid seed, and the development of high yield grains. All of these techniques were enabled by availability of oil. Greater use of agricultural equipment, allowing seeds to be sowed closer together, also helped raise production. By this time, electricity reached farming communities, allowing use of equipment such as milking machines.

If we take a longer view of the situation, we find that a “bend” in the world population occurred about the time of Industrial Revolution, and the ramp up of coal use (Figure 4). Increased farming equipment made with metals increased food output, allowing greater world population.

Figure 4. World population based on data from "Atlas of World History," McEvedy and Jones, Penguin Reference Books, 1978  and Wikipedia-World Population.

Figure 4. World population based on data from “Atlas of World History,” McEvedy and Jones, Penguin Reference Books, 1978
and Wikipedia-World Population.

Furthermore, when we look at countries that have seen large drops in energy consumption, we tend to see population declines. For example, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were drops in energy consumption in a number of countries whose energy was affected (Figure 5).

Figure 6. Population as percent of 1985 population, for selected countries, based on EIA data.

Figure 6. Population as percent of 1985 population, for selected countries, based on EIA data.

Myth 5. It is easy to substitute one type of energy for another.

Any changeover from one type of energy to another is likely to be slow and expensive, if it can be accomplished at all.

One major issue is the fact that different types of energy have very different uses. When oil production was ramped up, during and following World War II, it added new capabilities, compared to coal. With only coal (and hydroelectric, enabled by coal), we could have battery-powered cars, with limited range. Or ethanol-powered cars, but ethanol required a huge amount of land to grow the necessary crops. We could have trains, but these didn’t go from door to door. With the availability of oil, we were able to have personal transportation vehicles that went from door to door, and trucks that delivered goods from where they were produced to the consumer, or to any other desired location.

We were also able to build airplanes. With airplanes, we were able to win World War II. Airplanes also made international business feasible on much greater scale, because it became possible for managers to visit operations abroad in a relatively short time-frame, and because it was possible to bring workers from one country to another for training, if needed. Without air transport, it is doubtful that the current number of internationally integrated businesses could be maintained.

The passage of time does not change the inherent differences between different types of fuels. Oil is still the fuel of preference for long-distance travel, because (a) it is energy dense so it fits in a relatively small tank, (b) it is a liquid, so it is easy to dispense at refueling stations, and (c) we are now set up for liquid fuel use, with a huge number of cars and trucks on the road which use oil and refueling stations to serve these vehicles. Also, oil works much better than electricity for air transport.

Changing to electricity for transportation is likely to be a slow and expensive process. One important point is that the cost of electric vehicles needs to be brought down to where they are affordable for buyers, if we do not want the changeover to have a hugely adverse effect on the economy. This is the case because salaries are not going to rise to pay for high-priced cars, and the government cannot afford large subsidies for everyone. Another issue is that the range of electric vehicles needs to be increased, if vehicle owners are to be able to continue to use their vehicles for long-distance driving.

No matter what type of changeover is made, the changeover needs to implemented slowly, over a period of 25 years or more, so that buyers do not lose the trade in value of their oil-powered vehicles. If the changeover is done too quickly, citizens will lose their trade in value of their oil-powered cars, and because of this, will not be able to afford the new vehicles.

If a changeover to electric transportation vehicles is to be made, many vehicles other than cars will need to be made electric, as well. These would include long haul trucks, busses, airplanes, construction equipment, and agricultural equipment, all of which would need to be made electric. Costs would need to be brought down, and necessary refueling equipment would need to be installed, further adding to the slowness of the changeover process.

Another issue is that even apart from energy uses, oil is used in many applications as a raw material. For example, it is used in making herbicides and pesticides, asphalt roads and asphalt shingles for roofs, medicines, cosmetics, building materials, dyes, and flavoring. There is no possibility that electricity could be adapted to these uses. Coal could perhaps be adapted for these uses, because it is also a fossil fuel.

Myth 6. Oil will “run out” because it is limited in supply and non-renewable.

This myth is actually closer to the truth than the other myths. The situation is a little different from “running out,” however. The real situation is that oil limits are likely to disrupt the economy in various ways. This economic disruption is likely to be what leads to an  abrupt drop in oil supply. One likely possibility is that a lack of debt availability and low wages will keep oil prices from rising to the level that oil producers need for extraction. Under this scenario, oil producers will see little point in investing in new production. There is evidence that this scenario is already starting to happen.

There is another version of this myth that is even more incorrect. According to this myth, the situation with oil supply (and other types of fossil fuel supply) is as follows:

Myth 7. Oil supply (and the supply of other fossil fuels) will start depleting when the supply is 50% exhausted. We can therefore expect a long, slow decline in fossil fuel use.

This myth is a favorite of peak oil believers. Indirectly, similar beliefs underly climate change models as well. It is based on what I believe is an incorrect reading of the writings of M. King Hubbert. Hubbert is a geologist and physicist who foretold a decline of US oil production, and eventually world production, in various documents, including Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels, published in 1956. Hubbert observed that under certain circumstances, the production of various fossil fuels tends to follow a rather symmetric curve.

Figure 7. M. King Hubbert's 1956 image of expected world crude oil production, assuming ultimate recoverable oil of 1,250 billion barrels.

Figure 7. M. King Hubbert’s 1956 image of expected world crude oil production, assuming ultimate recoverable oil of 1,250 billion barrels.

A major reason that this type of forecast is wrong is because it is based on a scenario in which some other type of energy supply was able to be ramped up, before oil supply started to decline.

Figure 8. Figure from Hubbert's 1956 paper, Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels.

Figure 8. Figure from Hubbert’s 1956 paper, Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels.

With this ramp up in energy supply, the economy can continue as in the past without a major financial problem arising relating to the reduced oil supply. Without a ramp up in energy supply of some other type, there would be a problem with too high a population in relationship to the declining energy supply. Per-capita energy supply would drop rapidly, making it increasingly difficult to produce enough goods and services. In particular, maintaining government services is likely to become a problem. Needed taxes are likely to rise too high relative to what citizens can afford, leading to major problems, even collapse, based on the research of Turchin and Nefedov (2009).

Myth 8. Renewable energy is available in essentially unlimited supply.

The issue with all types of energy supply, from fossil fuels, to nuclear (based on uranium), to geothermal, to hydroelectric, to wind and solar, is diminishing returns. At some point, the cost of producing energy becomes less efficient, and because of this, the cost of production begins to rise. It is the fact wages do not rise to compensate for these higher costs and that cheaper substitutes do not become available that causes financial problems for the economic system.

In the case of oil, rising cost of extraction comes because the cheap-to-extract oil is extracted first, leaving only the expensive-to-extract oil. This is the problem we recently have been experiencing. Similar problems arise with natural gas and coal, but the sharp upturn in costs may come later because they are available in somewhat greater supply relative to demand.

Uranium and other metals experience the same problem with diminishing returns, as the cheapest to extract portions of these minerals is extracted first, and we must eventually move on to lower-grade ores.

Part of the problem with so-called renewables is that they are made of minerals, and these minerals are subject to the same depletion issues as other minerals. This may not be a problem if the minerals are very abundant, such as iron or aluminum. But if minerals are lesser supply, such as rare earth minerals and lithium, depletion may lead to rising costs of extraction, and ultimately higher costs of devices using the minerals.

Another issue is choice of sites. When hydroelectric plants are installed, the best locations tend to be chosen first. Gradually, less desirable locations are added. The same holds for wind turbines. Offshore wind turbines tend to be more expensive than onshore turbines. If abundant onshore locations, close to population centers, had been available for recent European construction, it seems likely that these would have been used instead of offshore turbines.

When it comes to wood, overuse and deforestation has been a constant problem throughout the ages. As population rises, and other energy resources become less available, the situation is likely to become even worse.

Finally, renewables, even if they use less oil, still tend to be dependent on oil. Oil is  important for operating mining equipment and for transporting devices from the location where they are made to the location where they are to be put in service. Helicopters (requiring oil) are used in maintenance of wind turbines, especially off shore, and in maintenance of electric transmission lines. Even if repairs can be made with trucks, operation of these trucks still generally requires oil. Maintenance of roads also requires oil. Even transporting wood to market requires oil.

If there is a true shortage of oil, there will be a huge drop-off in the production of renewables, and maintenance of existing renewables will become more difficult. Solar panels that are used apart from the electric grid may be long-lasting, but batteries, inverters, long distance electric transmission lines, and many other things we now take for granted are likely to disappear.

Thus, renewables are not available in unlimited supply. If oil supply is severely constrained, we may even discover that many existing renewables are not even last very long lasting.


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Wed, 04/23/2014 - 18:38 | 4688322 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

These peak oil threads ain't as much fun was they once were...

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 18:58 | 4688371 gmrpeabody
gmrpeabody's picture

Thank God I filled both vehicles yesterday...,

Oh, wait...

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:16 | 4688422 Goldilocks
Goldilocks's picture

Denis Leary - Asshole (Uncensored Version) (4:41)

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:03 | 4688759 pods
pods's picture

You are never going to be seriously talking "sustainable" without addressing our ponzi-credit-as-money system.

Oil wasn't the problem, just the solution for needing YoY compounding growth.

Fucking bankers should be killed twice, once for screwing us and anther for pushing the unneeded burning of fuels.


Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:16 | 4688817 dryam
dryam's picture

A debt based money seems to work when it's very easy to obtain & harness cheap oil. It's like playing sports on mega-steroids. One barrel of oil gives 23,000 man-hours of work which equals a man working 10 hour days for 8 years with weekends & holidays off.

Take away cheap oil and a debt based money system collapses and ultimately dies. It's a matter of time & simple mathematics.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:22 | 4688839 0b1knob
0b1knob's picture

Just burn aborted Canadians to generate energy.   Everybody wins.

Hell the Obama administration will probably give them subsidies.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:47 | 4688915 FredFlintstone
FredFlintstone's picture

They were heating hospitals in Great Britain with aborted fetuses also. The rich Chinese eat them.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 22:54 | 4689129 gmrpeabody
gmrpeabody's picture

Waste not..., want not.  <sarc>

I think I want to puke...

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:07 | 4688773 dryam
dryam's picture

Myth busting mother fuckers!!!

This also why paper game of the Fed/ECB/BOJ/etc. will soon be up as the disconnect between real world resources and paper assets continues to widen.

Peak cheap oil is THE reason for the main economic & political storms across the globe. Greed on Wall Street, the housing bubble & collapse, worldwide debt, money printing, etc. are just small tornadoes spinning off of the greatest hurricane ever in the history of the earth: peak cheap oil.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 18:58 | 4688373 Seer
Seer's picture

Yup, the flat-earth folks (and their [il]logic) are steadily losing out... 

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:33 | 4688474 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Yep,  the ones that wouldn't know kerogen from condensate going on about the "evidence" for abiotic oil...

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:42 | 4688503 Seer
Seer's picture

I always get this twitch in my batting arm whenever I hear someone mention "abiotic oil."

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:09 | 4688587 CrazyCooter
CrazyCooter's picture

I wish I could find a link to one of my favorite Far Side cartoons. It has this cow, with an enlarged skull, that is alarmed whiled the other cows are sanguine. I believe the setting was a slaughterhouse.

That summarizes the whole energy debate for me, on a 100 year timeline (i.e. population will have to correct to available energy sources).



Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:27 | 4688858 directaction
directaction's picture

Nobody still falls for that idiotic abiotic oil silliness anymore. .

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:47 | 4688525 acetinker
acetinker's picture

Flak, I ain't on the 'abiotic oil' train simply because I first heard of it through Lindsey Williams.  That said, I don't think it comes from dinosaur bones, either.

I'm sure you're aware that BP is back out in the GOM, attempting to go even deeper than Deepwater Horizon.  How quickly we forget.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:03 | 4688569 CrazyCooter
CrazyCooter's picture

Oil comes from copious amounts of small, photosynthetic plants, accumulated over millions of years, in unique oceanic conditions, and then buried, capped with and impermeable layer whilst being cooked like a nice pot of tea for millions more years.

Here is the PBS version of the story ...



Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:19 | 4688606 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Yep, well said...

Oil is cooked shales released via natural fracking and faulting, captured in a geological formation known as an anticline...

The greatest of which is/was Ghawar....

There are oil related  deposits in pretty much every stage of evolution in NA, from kerogen infused marl of the Green River to oil trapped in the source rock, (the Bakken) to oil that made it to the surface and has slowly been oxidizing (Athabasca tar sands)....  

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:26 | 4688635 acetinker
acetinker's picture

Cooter, I ain't never said so, but I like you.  What you describe above sounds a lot like 'abiotic oil'.  You and Lindsey and PBS/ABC may be right, but it don't much matter if it takes a gallon of refined crude to extract a gallon of crude which has yet to be refined, does it?

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:42 | 4688692 CrazyCooter
CrazyCooter's picture

Abiotic oil basically means it is not from a living source (e.g. plants). The link I gave is a documentary that is reasonbly fair and balanced. Check it out.



Wed, 04/23/2014 - 22:06 | 4688977 acetinker
acetinker's picture

Cooter, with all due respect, there's no fkn way that PBS/ABC has produced content that is "reasonably fair and balanced".  That's Rupert Murdock's byline, LOFL!

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 22:44 | 4689105 CrazyCooter
CrazyCooter's picture

First, it is PBS/ABC in AUSTRALIA, not the US.

Second, always be prepared to judge everything based on merit and fact. I am not stupid. I am very well read on this subject. I do not sling links in fight club without purpose. Bring something besides prejudice.

For those of you bored by the PBS/ABC stuff, Pennwell publishing has a series of "non-technical" books on oil exploration, refining, petrochemicals, nat gas pipelines and some others. All you need is a noggin with some brain cells that still rub together and you too can play along. They are not cheap, but are excellent investments and are CCGARCR (Cooter Certified Grade A Rocking Chair Reading).

That Pennwell series will open your eyes in ways nothing else will all because of real world know how.



Thu, 04/24/2014 - 21:34 | 4693492 acetinker
acetinker's picture

First of all- I didn't intend to piss you off, I'm an asshole.  I do intend to remain an asshole, just so you know.  Anyway, PBS and ABC are multinational media corporations.  They produce different flavors of bullshit tailored to their various markets, but rest assured it's all bullshit.  Always keep in mind that every good lie has to have a fair amount of truth in it, and proceed from there.

Thanks for the Pennwell reference.  It is no doubt hacked and available online as a .pdf and I will keep it bookmarked in my noggin' for future reference.  To be honest, I don't mind paying for good shit, but your reco (even though I like you) is only worth about 20 bucks right now ;)

Fri, 04/25/2014 - 04:15 | 4694108 J.A.F.O.
J.A.F.O.'s picture

Your ignorance and assumptions are still showing.  ABC Australia is in no way affilitated with PBS or ABC US. It's fully independent, and publicly funded.  Heck, Murdoch, via his cronies in the Australian government, is currently trying to get it de-funded.

Fri, 04/25/2014 - 07:15 | 4694384 acetinker
acetinker's picture

So, you're on the executive board @ ABC Australia?  You know exactly how it's funded, do you?  If you're in such a position to know this exactly, you can't be trusted to opine on it.  Ironic, isn't  it?  Now, fuck off.

Fri, 04/25/2014 - 21:20 | 4697894 acetinker
acetinker's picture

Yeah, it's all good. Just red arrow me, you useless piece of human shit.  Identify the sources of the 'publc funding' you speak of.

The Carnegie Foundation?

The National Endowment for whatever the fuck?

The Carlyle Group?

The Ruth And Carl (whatever,you can insert your own favorite Jewish name here) foundation?

You're dumb as dirt if you believe a single thing these people say.

That is all.


Thu, 04/24/2014 - 22:54 | 4693732 rocker
rocker's picture

The Earth is Alive, Alive I tell you. It's alive.  And yes, it has been doing it for over a million years. Many, many years.  Not born 10,000 years ago. 

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:43 | 4688904 NidStyles
NidStyles's picture

Oh how did I know you'd be in here...

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 09:47 | 4690305 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Take a hint, no one cares what you have to bring to the table...

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 07:10 | 4689711 Motorhead
Motorhead's picture

Hehehe.  And you don't hear Jim Puplava ranting about "peak oil" anymore, either.

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 09:47 | 4690311 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

And pray tell, what exactly does that imply?

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 18:45 | 4688337 AdvancingTime
AdvancingTime's picture

Thanks for some great charts! We should remember that for most of his 60,000 years on earth man has been a minor consumer of the earth’s stores of energy. With the discovery of fire man began to increase his demands and draw on the short-term energy stores that had been accumulated over scores of years or even centuries by woody plants. 

Only in the last hundred years with the invention of the internal combustion engine and a huge increase in population has man  begun to tap the planets long-term energy supplies of oil and natural gas at an alarming rate. In merely a blink of an eye we have shaped a world where our lifestyles revolve around and are dependent on oil and the consumption of energy from fossil fuels. The article below goes into some of the issues I wrote about in my book concerning long-term planning.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:00 | 4688382 Seer
Seer's picture

Perpetual growth on a finite planet.  Unless you start with this as the fundamental to challenge you will just end up adrift.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:29 | 4688454 msmith9962
msmith9962's picture

Exponential growth from energy dense petroleum x exponential growth from debt based currency = pop

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:40 | 4688492 Seer
Seer's picture

Anyone starting to think that the instructions to "go forth and multiply" might be a bit misguided?

Yeah, it takes energy to grow.  Seems that collectively we FAIL to grasp some really, really simple things... (all those snake-oil salesmen -Madison Avenue- are just too dazzlging I suppose)

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:58 | 4688555 acetinker
acetinker's picture

From one of the best minds of our time-

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:43 | 4688511 Seer
Seer's picture

Have to admit, though, it was one hell of a party, no?

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:46 | 4688521 magnetosphere
magnetosphere's picture

the party is just getting started.  it is going to be one hell of a battle for survival of the fittest

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:06 | 4688577 acetinker
acetinker's picture

Nope, the party's over

It's time to call it a day

They've burst my pretty balloon...

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:10 | 4688402 aVileRat
aVileRat's picture


Few comments:

- Renewable energy is green energy. Someone may want to check out the "carbon footprint" of the yellow river and hoover dam networks, or the upstream "footprint" of solar arrays. American exceptionalists always seem to forget gallium and the rare metals that are used come from some of the worst, deepest mines in the world. Just because you don't see the net effect does not mean it's not there.

- Robert Redford kindly leaves out the whole fact that most alternative energy structures such as wind, tidal or current solar tech suffers from material & structural engineering limitations. The average half-life of a solar pannel is 2 years. The average well ? about 16 years at least (pre turnaround).

- Moving your energy footprint does not mean people are becomming more energy efficent. ex: cloud & computational capacity. While individual PC's and manufacturing is becomming "green", in reality this is heavily correlated to offshoring where green footprints are not monitored by eco-activists. In reality, due to limitations in moores law slowing down, large database clusters are actually becomming more inefficient due to massive increases in cooling & product disposal costs as hardware becomes obslete/burns out at a much faster rate than the 1980's where uniframes were being moved towards slower turnaround times on client/personal pc boxes.

- Batteries will save us: Go google the disposal process for a battery. Now go figure out what the carbon footprint for an average Toshiba or Panisonic battery is. Hint: it's not US$70/boe (note convert the KJoul of the bat to the BOE).

- Energy optimization (Nest) will half the US energy footprint: Explain to me how going from having 60% of the time retail circuits are "off" in a household will be less energy intensive than having all the circuits in your house on for "50% load capacity" 24/7 ?

(not an oil shill, but wish someone was competent enough to call & Al Gore on their bullshit). Maybe Michael Lewis can do his next book on the dark shady world of European "green credits" and how Al Gore "invented" the carbon credit fraud.

The more you know.

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 00:31 | 4689301 disabledvet
disabledvet's picture

is it too much to ask for a solar powered cell phone? i mean seriously...the el cheapo solar calculator is still working forty years running now and it cost a buck.

yet "no, we're rich. nothing for a dollar. especially nothing GOOD for a dollar."

all energy crises are manufactured in my view. we in fact have too MUCH energy. in that sense "going green" is an Epic Fail because you're only allowing for the fraud of "energy conservation" to continue.

In other words "thanks for watch your prices soar."

all to maintain the dollar as the global reserve currency? if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck.

the only exception i make is for coal...which simply can't be reproduced anywhere else in the Solar System.

There are some extraordinary discoveries being made about our sun lately btw...and how those "rays" in fact travel.

and here is some actual news:

supposedly the results from measuring the solar "wind flow" in outerspace have been quite remarkable. we're obviously protected here on earth because we have an electro-magnetic field surrounding our planet. which begs the question...

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 13:28 | 4691303 AGuy
AGuy's picture

"is it too much to ask for a solar powered cell phone? i mean seriously...the el cheapo solar calculator is still working forty years running now and it cost a buck."

The Solar power Calc uses microwatts of power. A Cell phone uses watts of power, or about 2000 time more power than the solar powered calc. You argument is like asking why we don't have jumbo jets powered with lawn mower engines.

 "all energy crises are manufactured in my view"

To be frank with you, you are absolutely clueless on this topic.


Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:23 | 4688440 CrashisOptimistic
CrashisOptimistic's picture

The paragraph about fewer needed to work on farms "freed up labor to go and work in cities" is a bit odd.

Who said there was a scarcity of labor in cities?  Who said those farmers wanted to go to a city, assuming there was work there?

This was just phase one of automation, where the 50 year old farmer loses his job and then doesn't go to farm machinery school to learn to build machines (or today to software engineering school to learn to program the machine that took his job).

No, the 50 year old went on benefits, or he starved.

FYI 25% of Ukraine's workforce is in farming.  Non Farm Payrolls doesn't mean much there, nor should it.  They don't need tractors.  Human labor is getting enough crops out to feed themselves.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:01 | 4688752 falconflight
falconflight's picture

Agriculture driven primarily by labor is a death spiral population wise.  Farming even with all the machines is a lot harder than standing in a fast food window taking orders.

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 05:28 | 4689545 SAT 800
SAT 800's picture

Population death spiral equals survival. Wake up please. If you feed them they will reproduce; not good.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:50 | 4688529 Stoploss
Stoploss's picture

"With the discovery of fire man began to increase his demands and draw on the short-term energy stores that had been accumulated over scores of years or even centuries by woody plants. "


So, how many book sales?  Besides yourself of course.

Poor fire, waited too long for discovery..

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 18:48 | 4688341 813kml
813kml's picture

So you're saying there are too many humans?


Wed, 04/23/2014 - 18:50 | 4688350 prains
prains's picture

it's not the humans causing all the shit it's the reptilian aliens without blood, souls or feelings

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 18:59 | 4688380 813kml
813kml's picture


Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:53 | 4688727 pods
pods's picture

Uhhh, Gingers.


Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:01 | 4688384 Seer
Seer's picture

Caught one of the bastards trying to steal my truck the other day.  The dog took care of it...

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 18:52 | 4688356 Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill's picture

Not for much longer, the way things are shaping up.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:11 | 4688405 813kml
813kml's picture

It will truly be survival of the fittest before long, dumbfucks and fatties need not apply.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:45 | 4688518 Seer
Seer's picture

Sadly, some of those have lots of money to get themselves farther along than Darwin would otherwise suggest they should go... (think fat-bastard bankers)

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 06:18 | 4689610 CHX
CHX's picture

If the going gets tough, fatty might become tomorrows supper ? Think e.g. "Cannibalism in the cars" by Mark twain. 

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 06:09 | 4689595 CHX
CHX's picture

YEP, TPTB do everything they can to address this issue. It's plain and so obvious, to see for everyone with some functioning visual system and a pair of interconected neurons. Prepare accordingly, time is running.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:01 | 4688385 Relentless101
Relentless101's picture

There's two kinds of people in this world... and I don't like them.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:23 | 4688442 Emergency Ward
Emergency Ward's picture

And get off my fucking lawn !!

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 18:52 | 4688357 El Vaquero
El Vaquero's picture

Renewable energy only as renewable as the equipment used to extract it.  I wish people would understand this.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 18:57 | 4688369 prains
prains's picture

just like electric cars, while they themselves may not pollute, their production and manufacturing of the electricity to run them sure the fuck does. How much electricity in the world is COAL produced?


just relocating the pollutants is all that's going on to a differnt part of the supply chain

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:26 | 4688449 Seer
Seer's picture

I don't promote anything other than the right tool for the job.  In many cases electric vehicles DO make sense.  Electrical motors are, indisputably, way more efficient; and I think the manufacture of them is likely less energ-intense.  Where it stops looking quite so good is when you take into consideration batteries...  Personally I'm looking to get a hold of an electric golf cart to use to hop around my property on; short trips are hard on ICE engines (internal combustion engines), and it's during start-up that they contribute the most pollution;I often I find a need to just GO, no time to spend waiting for a choking ICE engine to get past its cold stall point.  Again, I don't promote these things: I've got diesels that do most of my work; in this case electric just makes more sense.

Half the electricity in the US is prodiuced by burning coal.  In the end I think that there's is no such thing as a "win."

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:34 | 4688478 msmith9962
msmith9962's picture

I had a plug in electric but it would stop after 100 feet when the cord ran out. 


Not that I really think there are any answers but I dont think technology is it.  I think we need to simplify and go backwards a little.  Rocket mass stoves, permaculture, things that just about everyone could achieve.  Not that they would.  No solutions really.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:50 | 4688530 Seer
Seer's picture

Yes, technology is NOT the future.  I'm straddling two worlds.

My house is heated by passive solar and wood.  My property is "permaculture:" actually, I'm kind of angling toward silviculture (grass grows like crazy, grazing and browsing animals make sense here).

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:21 | 4688835 directaction
directaction's picture

Yup. No such thing as a "win." Professor Guy McPherson explains the reasons best. 

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:57 | 4688949 msmith9962
msmith9962's picture

I've seen a couple of his talks recently.  What a downer.

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 01:25 | 4689282 explodinghead
explodinghead's picture

I am not saying technology will save us but this is a potential alternative to chemical batteries.


Sun, 04/27/2014 - 00:20 | 4700401 Seer
Seer's picture

Flashback!  I recall years ago taking a liking to the flywheel storage idea.  I really do think that this is one of the most sensical approaches, well, I'm sure there are some practical limits.  I think that if the cases those things are housed in are protective against malfunctions that this is WAY safer than having a huge bank of batteries just waiting to be shorted out.

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 13:41 | 4691414 AGuy
AGuy's picture

"Personally I'm looking to get a hold of an electric golf cart to use to hop around my property on; short trips are hard on ICE engines (internal combustion engines),"

Did you ready the article about fattys?

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:35 | 4688466 lotsoffun
lotsoffun's picture

prains - the whole hoax of the electric car was this.  i'm so annoyed by this, i'm almost all caps.

i'm an old man now.  once i was young.  it was the late 60's and everybody hippie was into save the planet and coke was into ' i want give the world a coke, in perfect harmony'.  now i'm bitter at the stupidity.

the concept of the electric car was, that instead of burning fossil fuels by each little individual engine, the fossil fuels, whether petro or coal, or anything else, would be burnt in one place, converted into electricty, and ensure that the emissions would be properly cleaned and pollution to the environment lowered.

now, we are all lied to with the 'more miles per gallon'.  it is a total lie.  it is more miles to the gallon for the amount of gasoline put into each automobile that these 'hybrids' burn, but net, net, generating, transmitting and then storing and using fossil fuel generated electricity costs more.  it's less efficient. 

it was only dreamed up because of the pollution savings.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:05 | 4688567 Seer
Seer's picture

The entire notion of MPG is worthless.  I've coined the term PMPG for People Miles Per Gallon.  I can take a fucking Hummer and stuff it full of people and get better PMGP than a Prius.  Sadly, this is not REAL world, as most with Hummers tend to carry fewer people.  And then there's the issue for trucks in general: there are tons of trucks running around where I am that are at least twice the power of my truck, yet they, on any average trip, are likely to haul/work LESS.  A good tool misused is a bad tool.  A bad tool that is used well can actually be a good tool.

Fact is is that electric motors ARE more efficient than ICE motors.  Electric motors do not require all the oils and filters that ICE Motors require: I wish that I didn't have to spend all the time and money that I do to do all the maintenance crap on ICE motors that I do, but that's just the way it is for me now.

Having worked in a fairly large corporate structure (was international) and dealing with centralized systems and non-centralized systems I can state that managing centralized ones were easier.  I can, therefore, see that centralized power production also can be better managed.  HOWEVER, there are all the other risks and wide-scale disruptions that also need to be analized, and long-term I KNOW that centralization will fail, but this doesn't invalidate my position on it being mostly more efficient (just means that it's less worse than other things, all will eventually fail).

I cannot speak to the hybrid thing.  I just recall advising someone to go with a Volks diesel rather than a Prius.  I figured that the complexity of the Prius was a big minus.  I can like either ICE or electric motors, but not necessarily mixed, and for different applications.  My favorite words/phrase is: It depends.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:47 | 4688914 NidStyles
NidStyles's picture

Seriously, a '94 Honda Civic can get better gas mileage than a Prius without all of the aero parts the Prius has. The Prius is a marketing tool not an economy car. 


If you are going to compare actual economy cars with something and your nonsensical "PMPG" at least make it a fair comparison. 

Sun, 04/27/2014 - 00:22 | 4700404 Seer
Seer's picture

You're not even addressing the heart of the discussion.  Rather, you bust in spouting a bunch of crap.  Fucking loser...

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 11:59 | 4690908 prains
prains's picture



the centralized power generation thing sounds like it was a disaster avoided and in the end Seer has a point. The only answer I can come up with is that there is none. And this has us all flummoxed which then allows big oil and big gov to do whatever they want, ie. pollute, strip mine, pipe line, lie, cheat and steal.....all in the name of "jobs"


we have no real green alternative becasue we don't have a "green" means to produce the machines to produce the "green" alternative nor maintain them. we are an agrarian society waiting to happen.....the problem is agarian food production can't support this globe with 2 billion let alone 7,8,9....billion


in the end the fucking Neocons and Oligarchs will probably get their way, Woar 3.0

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:02 | 4688565 Bobportlandor
Bobportlandor's picture


Coal used for electrical production in US = 858,351,000 tons, producing 1,572,179,000,000 KWH of 3,898,792,000,000 total KWH = 40.32%

The largest energy source used.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:08 | 4688397 Seer
Seer's picture

Come on!  How are you going to deliver a happy ending unless you start with a premise that's all geared for that outcome?  </sarc>

I recall explaining the perils of biofuels to someone.  It was actually to someone older than me (in which case you'd think that he shoud be wiser and more conservative), but he insisted that we had to get around somehow.  I should have looked him in the eyes and said that I'd take his grandchildren for the Soylent Green to power his stupid ass around...  And then one time on a biofuels panel (me the only non-proponent on an 6 person (8?) panel) I had some farmer-dude tell everyone that he didn't care that markets back in the mid west would dictate the price of fuels, he only cared about selling... yeah, as I emphasized, he would help attract out-of-area energy investors to buy up his operations (just like what the West has done all around the globe), and there goes OUR land.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 18:58 | 4688372 noob
noob's picture

Fucking parasites!

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:05 | 4688389 tahoe1780
tahoe1780's picture

El Vaq,   Exactly!  See medieval Europe for a renewables-powered economy without the infrastructure enabled by fossil fuels.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:07 | 4688392 Taint Boil
Taint Boil's picture



18 million barrels a day, 365 days a year, what could possibly go wrong? Can’t wait until Hackmadahama takes out some refineries – now THAT will be the black swan.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:18 | 4688430 Seer
Seer's picture

Remember when all the environmentalists were being blamed for blocking the construction of new refineries?  Had the oil industry built more, especially for light sweet crude, then they're really be hurting today.  It's possible that they really wanted to build for heavier crude, but coming out and stating so would call into light diminishing light sweet crude, which in turn would suggest that if one type of crude is in decline then that means any/all could also go into decline: no more disputing peak oil (production).

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:49 | 4688924 NidStyles
NidStyles's picture

Which is why the whole situation is essentially manufactured hysteria. 

Sun, 04/27/2014 - 00:23 | 4700406 Seer
Seer's picture

Do you rely on that brain for survival?

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:21 | 4688433 mccvilb
mccvilb's picture

The technology to produce electricity from SAFE liquid salt thorium nuclear reactors has been around for 50 years but it was never commercially developed in favor of the water-cooled uranium burning reactors.

Kirk Sorensen a NASA phd scientist has been trying to promote them for decades. There's enough thorium readily available to supply the world with all the energy it will need for thousands of years. In an LFTR if the reactor is damaged the liquid salts can be evaporated off and the reaction stops. There is an additional advantage in that it can be designed to recharge spent fuel and reuse it.

Unlikely we'll see them built in our lifetime because they would put the oil companies out of business. The propagandists are already hard at work trying to keep this technology repressed.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:31 | 4688464 Seer
Seer's picture

"There's enough thorium readily available to supply the world with all the energy it will need for thousands of years."


That's a sorely incomplete equation there.  If you are going to spout off a timeframe then you MUST specify the rate of consumption!  If you promote INCREASED usage and you don't calculate it into that interval then you're either ignorant or you are being deceitful.

"The propagandists are already hard at work trying to keep this technology repressed."

RIght, and they'll all be willing to lose their positions of power (though ensuing social collapse) why?  Because they hate us for our freedoms?

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:43 | 4688509 mccvilb
mccvilb's picture

I love A-holes like you who come along and do exactly what you're accusing me of doing. This is a political discussion board. The link I provided (at least I provided one) will take you to several related links where you can do your own research. How is that deceitful?  Show us what you provided to support your stance.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:14 | 4688598 Seer
Seer's picture

So, you cannot back what you read?

Again, if you cannot provide SIMPLE fucking numbers to back up your shit then shut the fuck up.  WHAT IS THE PROPOSED RATE OF GROWTH/CONSUMPTION?  Seems everyone is anxious to toss out simple percentages, yet you, with the solution for all of mankind can't fucking do it?

I've eaten people alive on stage in front of a lot of people.  Some fucking pikier like you I'd just wipe my feet on...

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:05 | 4688765 mccvilb
mccvilb's picture

What are you, twelve years old? This juvenile response of yours tells me you're a witless sociopath. I'm not here to provide instruction for you. Nuclear or any other kind of energy for that matter won't solve all the world's problems but if you were half as smart as you think you are you'd have known that much. Ultimately it could and most likely will provide all of the world's energy requirements forever, but what you're asking is mutually exclusive of consumption curves. There are many other factors limiting growth and consumption. They will cycle negatively long before we run out of sources of energy. Please don't bother responding to this. You have added nothing constructive here.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:43 | 4688897 Seer
Seer's picture

"Please don't bother responding to this. You have added nothing constructive here."

Don't tell me what to do you fucking stupid-ass PUNK.  A fucking member for 17 weeks and you come in here spouting worthless shit!

"Ultimately it could and most likely will provide all of the world's energy requirements forever,"

Yeah, let's just gamle ALL of civilization on "most likely!"  Are you fucking high?

Forever?  WTF?  It's a finite planet.  That is NOT possible.

Someone needs to put you out of your misery, or keep you from spreading some awful disease...

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:53 | 4688936 mccvilb
mccvilb's picture

"Forever?  WTF?  It's a finite planet.  That is NOT possible."

Check your premises. There is a contradiction. John Galt


Thu, 04/24/2014 - 09:32 | 4690240 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

So you are all for massive state subsidies for the Thorium Reactors? How quaint...

Do you have any idea how many such reactors you would have to build to offset coal use and how that compares to the number of Uranium Fuel Cycle reactors in operation?

Could you point us to a functioning commerical design?

Sorry, you are Johnny come lately blowhard that has no idea of just how little they know.,...

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 20:21 | 4693269 MeelionDollerBogus
MeelionDollerBogus's picture

The state needs only step out of the way: no restrictions on making nuclear technologies, only on harms done to people by mistakes, and no more demand for uranium & plutonium warheads.
If the state steps out of the way we can have enough thorium reactors to power us for thousands of years with zero use of coal.

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 05:41 | 4689552 SAT 800
SAT 800's picture

It's not acceptable to resort to ad hominem attacks; and referring to a poster's length of "membership" as part of an ad hominem attack is pitiful. It exposes you as an empty barrel that makes noises.

Sun, 04/27/2014 - 00:26 | 4700413 Seer
Seer's picture

I'll post whatever I wish.  Whether you fucking find it acceptable or not I could care less.

Lots of folks start popping up out of the woodwork, likely employed by some cause of another and start fucking derailing meaninful debate.  So, yes, the fucker is an idiot and I'll call it how I see it.

Don't offer me lessons in courtesy, as it makes you look like you're a hallway monitor or such...

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 05:43 | 4689556 SAT 800
SAT 800's picture

Agreed; he acts exactly like a twelve year old. Now you know what you're going to be dealing with when you try to educate the masses. Vicious mindless ignorance that will refuse to be wrong; ever.

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 09:33 | 4690244 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Parroting old pie-in-the-sky bullshit doesn't cut it around here...

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 05:45 | 4689559 SAT 800
SAT 800's picture

You're an ignorant blow-hard that he's trying to gift with some information; but of course you can never admit that you don't know everything already; as if.

Fri, 04/25/2014 - 01:02 | 4693979 MeelionDollerBogus
MeelionDollerBogus's picture

Actually, no: we don't need to factor in usage. The reason: humans will use more or less depending on what they want but the total can't ever be expanded. By the time we increase human population to potentially use up thorium, all nuclear really, we'd have already run out of food & we can't farm using the electricity from thorium, nor make fertilizers from it as we make ammonia with natural gas. It's on the other side of a boundary line & we die when we get to the line. We don't get beyond that line.

Sun, 04/27/2014 - 00:28 | 4700417 Seer
Seer's picture

At least someone gets it that there are actually physical limits.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:13 | 4688811 Urban Roman
Urban Roman's picture

Just running an experimental reactor for a total of ?? hours uptime over a four or five years, 50 years ago, is far from a proven technology. After they shut it down, it is just high level radioactive waste, now with added fluorides for better groundwater mobility !!!1!

The problem with the thorium reactor block diagram is that it has too many blocks labeled "a miracle happens here". For example, where the description is "a sparge of fluorine". Yeah, what could possibly go wrong with that. You sparge it and I'll watch, on TV, from 50 miles away.

If the industry can't safely handle boiling water with nukes, it sure as shit won't know what to do with extra hydrofluoric acid / fluorine gas and nukes. It just adds a dimension of chemical hazard to the nuclear hazard we already know, whenever one of these things blows up. (the BWRs weren't supposed to blow up either, but we watched several of them and a SFP blow up at Fukushima)

And nuclear messes are forever.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:58 | 4688952 mccvilb
mccvilb's picture

26,000 continuous hours.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 22:25 | 4689052 mccvilb
mccvilb's picture

I wholeheartedly agree that the thorium reactor design needs to be thoroughly reviewed and vetted before we go around installing dedicated power plants, but it's a solution that has offered a real hope of solving our energy needs and it looks like the design is a legitimately safe one. You're right about the simplified diagrams too, but that was from a 40 minute presentation. The actual thorium reactor experiment ran for years without a hiccup.

On the other hand the Fukushima/TEPCO disaster set the nuclear industry back fifty years. Personally, I want us to go into Japan, take charge and direct them on cleaning it up. Their latest solution may be the most idiotic one yet - ice dams?

Our history with nuclear power hasn't been the greatest. Chatsworth comes to mind, which was our very first meltdown here in the US back in 1959. Most never heard about it. It sat just outside of LA on the San Andreas fault line. Now it's an industrial park.

Sun, 04/27/2014 - 00:29 | 4700418 Seer
Seer's picture

" Personally, I want us to go into Japan, take charge and direct them on cleaning it up."

Feel free to volunteer.

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 15:28 | 4692079 AGuy
AGuy's picture

Except that the reactor was severe damaged at . Thats why they stopped work on the project. Also only fueled half that time (~13K hours).  the other time was tested unfueled to test systems before it was contaminated.

"One unexpected finding was shallow, inter-granular cracking in all metal surfaces exposed to the fuel salt. The cause of the embrittlement was tellurium - a fission product generated in the fuel. "

[This issue forced the to scrap the reactor. Note that its probably still not completed decommissioned even though its been shutdown more than 45 years ago:

"The ensuing decontamination and decommissioning project was called "the most technically challenging" activity assigned to Bechtel Jacobs under its environmental management contract with the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge Operations organization. In 2003, the MSRE cleanup project was estimated at about $130 million, with decommissioning expected to be completed in 2009.[21] Removal of uranium from the salt was finally complete in March 2008, however still leaving the salt with the fission products in the tanks"

So they still have completed the decomm work yet! These things are nearly impossible to clean up.


Consider that we have 100+ Reactors in the US and still after 50+ years we still do not have any long term storage solutiion. Even at the reactors that have been shutdown for decades (TMI for example) they still maintain Spent Fuel pools. MSR would present even a bigger storage problem since the Salt remains contaiminated after its removed from the reactor. The Salt would have to be periodically replaced. Before any new work on Nuclear power, money should be invested to clean up the existing sites and put in a long term store for all the spent fuel. The failure of just one spent fuel pool can render a 1000 mile radius uninhabitable for thousands of years. Japan nearly bought the big one in March 2011. And it still not safe from a SFP disaster. They haven't even begun clean up at the other two reactors that exploded.



Fri, 04/25/2014 - 00:47 | 4693918 mccvilb
mccvilb's picture

Thanks for the link. The embrittlement problem's similar to one the oil companies have had to deal with - hydrogen sulfides - very small molecules which migrate through stainless steel tubing and parts at will. Certain SS alloys using molybdenum and titanium have been successful in reducing embrittlement.

I found this link at the bottom of yours, which got into all of the problems with LFTRs and sequestration and disposal in some depth, pretty much echoing what you stated. The only failures of significance other than the embrittlement were in a cooling pump and the graphite corrosion. I suspect with today's graphene and ceramics products there are better alternatives available

Several groups worldwide are going ahead with building high temp low pressure reactors. These companies are also listed at the bottom along with Sorensen's. As for disposing of the waste you're right, this is the most critical piece that needs to be addressed. I think the only logical long term solution will involve converting it to a solid form and transporting it via shuttle into space then possibly shooting it into the sun. Hopefully some new waste removal company/industry will be created around the need for it as it arises. If its true what they say about the fuel not being scalable to the reactors size the cost to do this shouldn't be prohibitive.

Fri, 04/25/2014 - 18:20 | 4697436 MeelionDollerBogus
MeelionDollerBogus's picture

Actually a very big deal with waste from a thorium reactor is #1 there's very little mass compared to uranium/plutonium reactors and #2 that in just 330 years most of that can be re-used as medical isotopes. Sure, we may not do that, may not be around for then at all at this rate, but that means over a good time window the actual waste is near-zero.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 23:11 | 4689171 MEAN BUSINESS

"And nuclear messes are forever." well a very very long time ya but....

So is the sixth mass extinction (h/t to the hydrogen sulphide belching bacteria out there tonight!)

Are we going to mitigate emissions or are emissions going to mitigate us? How much nuclear are we going to employ in our mitigation strategies?

Captain! Greenie, Stewart Brand, who started 'The Whole Earth Catalog' 50 years ago wrote 'Whole Earth Discipline' in 2008/9 . He argues for the need for nuclear and how to deal with the waste... (TEDtalk here )

We need to have disciplined adult discussions at the national and international levels (*holds breath*) on nuclear energy, transgenic crops, dense cities, etc

Suggested reading on the road to Paris.

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 03:04 | 4689455 El Vaquero
El Vaquero's picture

Dense cities you say?  I heard this idea of city-country fingers.  I could care less of if the "the city fingers should be a mile or less, and the county fingers should be a mile or more" is optimum, but the idea is a good one.  FYI, the "fingers" bit means mixing the country with the city in kind of the way that fingers intertwine.  Overall, I think it's a good idea. 

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 05:48 | 4689560 SAT 800
SAT 800's picture

You have no idea what you watched at Fukushima; you're an ignorant member of the public. It's an engineering issue; it's well understood. The only problem is the stupidity of the Government, and frankly people like you.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:23 | 4688441 VyseLegendaire
VyseLegendaire's picture

Gail doesn't hold back her punches.  She even demolishes much of the overarching narrative often portrayed on this site.  kinda ironic...

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:33 | 4688470 Seer
Seer's picture

She's one of the best that I've run across.  Chris Martenson is really good too, but Gail has a better math background.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:12 | 4688596 magnetosphere
magnetosphere's picture

tom murphy and david mackay are better.  she makes too many groundless predictions about the future and completely discounts the advances in physics, chemistry, engineering, and industrial organization over the past century, which have been enormous.  and e.g., excluding hydro is kind of crazy.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:21 | 4688618 Seer
Seer's picture



You see, all that you're pumping there, and I don't dispute the value of science in understanding things, is NOT "PHYSICAL."  Gail speaks on the level of the PHYSICAL.  You're talking about things on the "process" level.  Takes PHYSICAL feedstock to make processes produce something, no matter how great the process is.

"excluding hydro is kind of crazy"

Not sure the reference, but I KNOW a little about hydro...  Depending on the source, the average life of a dam is 50 to 150 years.   And dams come to be at quite a huge cost: concrete ain't getting cheaper.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:54 | 4688730 falconflight
falconflight's picture

Please don't forget that hundreds of dams have been and are being dismantled in the US over the past 30 years. Why?  You guessed it, NeoCommunist/Greens protecting Mother Earth.

Sun, 04/27/2014 - 00:33 | 4700428 Seer
Seer's picture

FUCK!  Will you people stop your insane PARANOIA!

Dams wear out.  Better to proactively end their lives than them practively ending the lives of those living downstream.

It's just so fucking easy to sit back and blame everyone for everything that's an ANNOYANCE without you doing a fucking thing.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:31 | 4688650 Seer
Seer's picture

"magnetosphere," like you wouldn't be anything other than a proponent of technology-as-god..  Oh, and a member for only 9 weeks.

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 05:50 | 4689565 SAT 800
SAT 800's picture

What's wrong with you? Don't you understand that a person could have lived for 50 years and educated themselves dutifully before they, gasp, golly, joined Zero Hedge? Are you a complete moron, or do you just argue like one?

Sun, 04/27/2014 - 00:36 | 4700433 Seer
Seer's picture

Get off my ass.  I didn't invite you on it.  You are adding not a fucking thing, only distracting...

No, these are fucking IDIOTS coming here, likely paid by some fucking who knows what group, to spout rediculous shit.

For the last fucking time.  Get over it.  And if you call me moron one more time I'll fucking stick my fist right through your PUSS-ASS face.  Well, if you were in front of me.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:26 | 4688448 jomama
jomama's picture

who knew there was so much biofuel available in the 1820s?

this is the first i've heard of algal-diesel powered lamps during that era.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:34 | 4688477 Seer
Seer's picture

Yes, we humans have been messing around with "alternative energy" for a LONG time...  maybe in another couple of hundred years we can...

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:40 | 4688494 Fedaykinx
Fedaykinx's picture

learn how to farm raise whales?

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:56 | 4688543 Goldilocks
Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:58 | 4688741 teslaberry
teslaberry's picture

what happened when the elephant fucked the 800 pound gorilla? 


they had a gorelephant. get it?


no soap radio....

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:44 | 4688515 magnetosphere
magnetosphere's picture

wood was the main biofuel, but alcohol has been used as a fuel for a very long time

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:13 | 4688581 chistletoe
chistletoe's picture

In the 1820's the mian source of lighting was from whale oil, jomama ....


today, one of the major uses of natural gas is the production of ammonia for fertilizer ... without it the world food production would be cut in half ... so now in addition to worrying about peak oil we might also want to begin to worry about peak natural gas, which is not so far away as some pundits wish us to believe ....

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:34 | 4688655 Seer
Seer's picture

"we might also want to begin to worry about peak natural gas"  No way!  We had enough for thousands of years!  We're drilling more, so there has to be more and more! </sarc>

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:08 | 4688784 teslaberry
teslaberry's picture

the great irony is that the german chemist considered the father of gas warfare, for investing chlorine gas, was actually also the inventor of the nitrogen fixing process used to create commercial fertilizer---------so in reality---he is responsible for the largest explosion in food production, and procreation, of any man in history.............


chemistry for the win!

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:28 | 4688861 Seer
Seer's picture

I suppose you might have something there.

Like I always say, ANYTHING can be seen as a success given a short enough timeframe.

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 05:54 | 4689570 SAT 800
SAT 800's picture

And he won the Nobel Prize; just after the War, and even though he was clearly a war criminal. There's no "considered" about it; he not only produced the poison gas he went to the front lines himself to enjoy the spplication to Allied Troops.

Sun, 04/27/2014 - 00:15 | 4693253 MeelionDollerBogus
MeelionDollerBogus's picture

And yet this is completely unnecessary: you could take 200 chickens across 10 medium-sized crop-fields, a few hundred square feet a day, and that would provide enough ammonia from their poop for an entire year. Joel Salatin actually demonstrates this on Youtube. If you can't find it just by searching his name also try Verge permaculture.

The video in question is on this link, time offset 26 min 40 seconds.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:23 | 4688621 Seer
Seer's picture

I use biofuel to heat my home.  I suspect many did.  It's called wood...  And, as Gail noted, lots of metalcraft once used wood for the energy in furnaces: those things could really make wood disappear fast!

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 00:17 | 4689281 NaN
NaN's picture

Surprisingly, photosynthesis is much less efficient than low grade solar cells.

I would like to see a credible reference about insufficient rare earths to use solar power for non-transportation needs in sunny climates during the day.

The surface of Earth receives many orders of magnitude more solar energy than is consumed worldwide (contrary to myths from the nuclear energy industry.)

Another myth: there must be a single solution to all energy needs.

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 02:26 | 4689424 magnetosphere
magnetosphere's picture

i think the reason nature does not use solar cells as an energy source is because of the storage problem.  nature definitely knows how to construct batteries (e.g. in electric eels), so this begs the question why hasn't nature constructed better batteries?  tho there are some artificial constraints on living matter such as the operating temperature can't be too high.

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 20:17 | 4693254 MeelionDollerBogus
MeelionDollerBogus's picture

Nature did: it's called sugar. Plants store the energy chemically. That's why oil has energy too because that energy has  been retained, compressed into a tighter package once the plants are already dead.
Plants turn photons into chemical fuel.

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 20:18 | 4693255 MeelionDollerBogus
MeelionDollerBogus's picture

That's not surprising, it's fiction. Photosynthesis is the most efficient use of solar influx in history, including all our inventions, for any purpose other than making purely heat.
For that you can just have a very dark surface.
Any given leaf anywhere in nature can easily uptake more than 10x the energy you'll get from low-grade solar-cells. Much is lost to heat because the solar cells flat out can't convert enough photons to electrons and when they do produce heat they can't do anything with it.
Plants, on the other hand, are helped by a moderate amount of heat & can distribute that heat because they have flowing liquid inside them, not just the ability to convert photons to electrons that are then bound to make sugars. PLUS, solar cells need to be thrown out when they wear down & they do wear down.
Plants are mortal too but some can live hundreds of years and they are self-repairing (healing) while alive. They build themselves so we don't have to expend our energy on that either. Your statement is one of monumental ignorance.

Sun, 04/27/2014 - 00:38 | 4700435 Seer
Seer's picture

So, once again down-arrowed by people that can't even make the connection that wood is biomass.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:34 | 4688473 withglee
withglee's picture

Looks like our only hope is to make everyone on earth as wealthy as possible. Birthrate is lower for wealthy people than poor people.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:24 | 4688626 Seer
Seer's picture

Glad I wasn't drinking anything! :-)

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 08:41 | 4689981 MEAN BUSINESS

withglee, Stewart Brand makes the case that a lower birth rate is what we get when subsistence farmers move to "the slums" of big/mega cities. Shaking off old western values enables viewing of "slums" in greater light. See the TEDTalk in my above comment.

Regardless, we're still on course to add a few billion...

The wealth gap will shrink, one way or the other, sooner rather than later : )

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:34 | 4688475 Stuck on Zero
Stuck on Zero's picture

Lets see, the percentage of the worlds GDP devoted to developing renewable energy sources is perhaps 0.1% or less.  And at that rate we are adding the equivalent of about 10 nuclear power plants per year in installed capacity.  Imagine what would happen if we devoted 2% of the world's GDP to renewables.  That would still be less than what we spend on footwear.  Upshot: I don't see any gloom and doom scenarios.


Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:24 | 4688630 Seer
Seer's picture

So, if we just throw enough money at a problem...

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:38 | 4688674 El Vaquero
El Vaquero's picture

I do.  Everything depends on oil, and even if we were to develop a viable alternative, which I do believe is possible, we should have started on the infrastructure to use it a decade or more ago.  We are waiting until there is a literal crisis before we do anything to change our ways.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:36 | 4688483 NESD
NESD's picture

It makes no difference what is fact and what is fiction regarding energy issues in this country.  Special interest group agendas in Congress and the Administration will determine energy policy. Washington fools who know 1/100th of what Gail does will make the central planning decisions that will make it tough on us all.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:28 | 4688641 Seer
Seer's picture

"Washington fools who know 1/100th of what Gail does will make the central planning decisions that will make it tough on us all."

I believe that they DO know.  Having them tell us so will mean that they would no longer hold their positions of power.  We are to keep doing what we are doing until we can no longer.  It's the way that humanity has ALWAYS performed.

Best is to recognize this and to adjust as well as you can.  Wasting one's precious energy on trying to get TPTB (or your neighbor) to "understand" it all is likely the worst thing that you can do that you have any control over.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:00 | 4688553 JuliaS
JuliaS's picture

The internet is our biggest hope - eilminating the need for pointless transportation, enabling delivery of non-material services globally - making it possible for us to be present remotely anywhere human supervision is required.

We are making good progress when it comes to increasing efficiency, the problem is that we use it to boost consumption even more. It's like the processor development cycle where every new generation of "cores" consumes half as much current, but the number of cores quadruples, doubling intake.

Then again, it's not something we have to deal with consciously. The economy is good at sorting out inefficiencies and finding the path of least resistance... normal economy that is.

The part of the solution that is bigger than the energy dilema itself involves stripping parasites and rulers of the old paradigm of their power - returning to true supply/demand representation through sound money. A "normal" economy would only reward efficiency and therefore make us less wasteful. Overproduction and overconsumption (according to Von Mises) are pure credit phenomenon. The inability to judge supply and demand and plan accordingly only exists in fiat regimes where social planners chase price stability instead of welcoming deflation.

What we have rewards waste. It's burned into the psyche - the idea of fashion and frequent replacement over longevity...

... and as long as I'm ranting, bring back the goddamn hemp textile instead of cotton and synthetics. I have a shirt that's 100 years old. 100% hemp fiber and looks like it was made yesterday.

Instead of creating government cartels to break up semi-private cartels (such as DuPont), fix the monetary system and all the parasites will vanish overnight. When the foundation is rotten, there's no point fixing holes in the roof.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:11 | 4688591 Goldilocks
Goldilocks's picture

Energy. What the problem is.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:29 | 4688643 Seer
Seer's picture


Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:06 | 4688767 teslaberry
teslaberry's picture

julias,.....when you relaize the fundamental truth about what you're talking about--------you realize the technologically advanced countries are destined to control and dominate the less advanced one. 


technology is dominion and thus, inherently the target of those who are power hungry and seek dominion. 


which is why inQtel and the wall street nexus shovels money into their mouths like obese unquenchable money holes. 


oh yea, and DRONES can save us fuel costs of projecting extroadinary violence as well. so while the dumbass 2nd world buys our second rate gas wasteful platforms. we'll drones their asses. with 5 times more drones per barrel of oil than they can field manned jets. 

TECHNOLOGY. aint it sweet?:)



Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:31 | 4688868 Seer
Seer's picture

But... technology is a PROCESS.  PHYSICAL stuff is what allows technology to work.  To better understand the concpets here one just needs to take a look at Japan: resource poor, and without cheap resources (imports) their technology (as great as it's been) is becoming more and more worthless.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:06 | 4688573 John Bull
John Bull's picture

Gimme some nasty comments on Andrea Rossi's E-Cat again;


He will save this goddamned species!

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:36 | 4688665 Seer
Seer's picture

Yeah, we can live on nothing but pure energy!

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 20:39 | 4688672 CrazyCooter
CrazyCooter's picture


Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!