# Peak fossil fuels by 2017

by apeiron
Tags: 2017, fossil, fuels, peak
PF Gold
P: 2,432
 Quote by mheslep To avoid double counting let's simplify: In 2050 EIA predicted demand is ~940 EJ/yr.* Then, Mohr's 2050 fossil production is ~480 EJ/yr (case 3), so the 2050 demand deficit from fossil decline is 460 EJ/yr. If nuclear is tasked to cover half of that as you propose, then we have 230 EJ/yr * (30 reactors/EJ/yr) over 40 yrs is 173 reactors per year world wide, plus 10 replacements per year.
OK, BAU = business as usual. ie: continued GDP growth and energy demands basically unchanged apart from significant efficiency moves (by 2050, consumption merely doubles rather than quadrupples).

And it seems you will settle for 183 new reactors a year to cover half the peak fossil fuel gap (which is still a low side case 3 estimate based on Mohr's study).

So that is 183 reactors a year building programme compared to the 21 a year achieved during the 1980s. Almost an order of magnitude increase in building maintained over four decades (if it started this year).

This would be a reactor every two days.

The rosiest projections of the industry lobbiest is "a realistic estimate of what is possible might be the equivalent of one 1000 MWe unit worldwide every 5 days."

http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf104.html
P: 200
 Quote by apeiron Easy to say. But I guess many decades of close exposure to the gap between the hype and the reality makes me less confident. AI, fusion, nano-technology, SDI, space travel, neutropics. So many sci fi claims with rather pedestrian outcomes. A fossil fuel replacement strategy has to match the EROEI and also the projected consumption curve of the world for it to be business as usual. If the EROEI is markedly worse (and you have to factor in things like conversion costs of everyone going electric cars or whatever), or the consumption curve (GDP burn) is flatter or declining, then you will have to have a strategy for "socio-political" redesign as well.

Ah yes, the grand old EROEI misconception. Fortunately, we have things like electric cars (which are coming out this year and next year) which will allow us to still go to work while avoiding taking the bus. And to make that electricity, we have the most efficient and abundant source of energy ever discovered: nuclear fission. Doomed? Hardly.

I find it interesting you can come onto a science and technology forum and say technology wont find a way around things. Peak oil is very much a problem of technology, and so therefore it has technological solutions.
PF Gold
P: 2,432
 Quote by aquitaine I find it interesting you can come onto a science and technology forum and say technology wont find a way around things. Peak oil is very much a problem of technology, and so therefore it has technological solutions.
Thanks for the link to the blog "debunking EROEI". It really is very funny. A top source.

 Screw the earth. It's like the egg we hatched out of. We suck its resources dry, and then we step out of the nest and fly into the wild black yonder
 We will never run out of hydrocarbons or energy, because they are the basic building blocks of the universe, and the universe is infinite.
 Who says a world production peak means US consumption has to go down? That's not necessarily true. Maybe world production starts declining, and US consumption doesn't, or even goes up. After all, the US is rich, and the schoolyard bully. Obviously this situation can't go on forever, but it's certainly a good stopgap, and I don't see anything to really prevent it from happening.
The guy is clearly an economic genius .

 Even when using oil to recover oil, money can still be made with an EROEI of 1 if inflation is high enough. Oil projects take a long time. You make all the oil investments when oil is at, say, $40, and sell the product when oil is at$80. The net energy gain is 0. The net monetary gain is %100, minus the rate of inflation. Depending on the economic climate, this could even work with an EROEI<1.
 how would you even *know* if you had crossed into an EROEI<1 ? No one is doing the energy acccounting, and due to the entrenched resistance of traditional economists, no one will be. So why would production stop due to a variable that no one is calculating?
 Now suppose you have a reserve of oil, and using it, you can produce another reservoir of the same size, would you do it? Hubbert would say no, it's irrational. You might as well just consume the oil, or hold and sell it later because it amounts to the same thing. But that is incorrect because there are beneficial side effects to producing, even though the EROEI=1. If you produce, lots of people can remain employed in the production effort, and get paid and eat, while you use up the first reservoir. And when it's exhausted, you have a whole new reservoir to use or consume, so you haven't lost anything.
Your "source" just gets better and better.....

 Production with an EROEI of 1 or less can also be rationalized through accounting chicanery. Subsidies and tax breaks are good examples. You socialize the input energy costs, and privatize the output energy profits. Here's a more extreme example: You live in a last-dregs world where oil is virtually non-existent, and worth an astronomical sum. So you capture some people, and work them to death pumping out a barrel of oil from an old well. You don't feed or care for them in any way, so you have minimal costs, and in the end you get a priceless barrel of oil. In short, it's rational to produce oil even with an EROEI of 0.001 if you can force or trick someone else into paying the costs.
Gosh Aquitaine, I just hope you were in on the joke.....
 P: 200 Unlike you, he knows what he's talking about.
PF Gold
P: 2,432
 Quote by aquitaine Unlike you, he knows what he's talking about.
No, no. If you want to question my conception of EROEI issues, then you need to link to some credible research and not this satirical nonsense.
 P: 1,117 I have been trying to compare the cost of expanding solar to rising fossil-fuel costs. Assuming oil and coal prices keep rising, the cost of solar should decline relative to non-renewables. However, solar users who feed-in to their grid are wanting to receive the retail rate in exchange for fed-in energy. This means that there is no allowance for the utility company itself. The question is will utility companies charge more for oil/coal-based power in order to buy-in excess solar for the grid, or will the high costs and declining demand for non-solar drive the utility companies to bankruptcy?
PF Gold
P: 2,432
 Quote by brainstorm I have been trying to compare the cost of expanding solar to rising fossil-fuel costs. Assuming oil and coal prices keep rising, the cost of solar should decline relative to non-renewables. However, solar users who feed-in to their grid are wanting to receive the retail rate in exchange for fed-in energy. This means that there is no allowance for the utility company itself. The question is will utility companies charge more for oil/coal-based power in order to buy-in excess solar for the grid, or will the high costs and declining demand for non-solar drive the utility companies to bankruptcy?
I think the point at the heart of your question is about the big possible efficiency gain that would be possible with relocalised energy production. Power has been about big companies/big government building the infrastructure. Now we need a scalefree model of production which would maximise efficiency. It would be good for homescale production to be able to use the national grid as its battery, as actual batteries are a bad idea.

In countries like Germany, farmers have been paid a premium for electricity generated by wind turbines on their land. Hence wind is flourishing in Germany. A subsidised start quickly overcame the NIMBY factor.

In my own country (New Zealand), you can feed power into the national grid. But you get less for it when you later buy it back. So effectively you are penalised.

So I would say there is a natural future in national power grids becoming the storage battery for homescale energy production. But you have two key problems with this happening.

The first is that the existing monopolies have to be made to open up (which is possible where the state is in charge, much harder in privatised systems).

The second is the issue of fossil fuel pricing. Unless there is some imposed pricing mechanism that pushes up the cost of fossil fuel to what it should be (pricing in its scarcity, its carbon footprint, etc) then it will continue to be under-priced and so undercut renewable alternatives.

This is the problem for people who say "technology solutions will save us". The technology may exist, but getting it in place requires some rather serious socio-political-economic engineering. Those of us following progress are alarmed at how little progress there is on behaviour change.

We know that denial is the first stage of grief. Denial is what we mostly still hear from people.
 P: 1,117 Solar energy is wonderful, but the point I was trying to raise is that for people to sell their excess power onto the grid at the same price they pay for it requires that someone else pay them at that rate PLUS the costs of maintaining the grid, as well as administration costs, etc. So, ultimately I think it's going to come down to a question of competing labor costs. 1) How much do solar producers expect per kwh and 2) how much are fossil fuel producers willing to take per kwh generated? Solar may end up costing more than fossil fuel only because the people supplying it are indexing their price against what they pay for electricity, whereas the fossil fuel prices are based on supply and demand. Eventually, if enough people invest in solar panels to make feed-in competitive, there will be supply-side competition and the cost paid to solar-cell owners will go down. However, the question is whether this low price will be sufficient to motivate private individuals to buy and maintain solar systems. It may turn out that big companies undercut private individuals eliminating home-based solar collectors. At that point, my question would be what was gained economically by switching to solar, if it just becomes another profit industry the same as fossil fuels. Granted the ecological benefits are great, but it's not like people are going to be any more free economically than they are now, even though sunlight is 100% free. See the problem?
PF Gold
P: 2,432
 Quote by brainstorm At that point, my question would be what was gained economically by switching to solar, if it just becomes another profit industry the same as fossil fuels. Granted the ecological benefits are great, but it's not like people are going to be any more free economically than they are now, even though sunlight is 100% free. See the problem?
Afraid that I don't really understand the point you are trying to make.

What I was saying is that a key issue with alternatives is that if the power source is "everywhere" as it is with wind and sun, then it makes sense to create a system that can tap into it over all available scales. With electricity grids, this would not actually be that hard to do, although established interests might resist the change.

The "economic freedom" of people boils down to then getting the cheapest power for the longest time. Whether this is achieved by big monopolies or turbines and PV panels on every roof is not really a big deal is it?
P: 1,117
 Quote by apeiron The "economic freedom" of people boils down to then getting the cheapest power for the longest time. Whether this is achieved by big monopolies or turbines and PV panels on every roof is not really a big deal is it?
If economics was sane, I would say you're right. Unfortunately, though, I was trying to explain that people with solar cells are trying to feed-in power for a high kwh fee. This means those who buy from the grid will have to pay even more to fund the high solar costs PLUS the costs of infrastructure and administration.

Another way to put it is that people will have to pay the same amount of money to the utility companies to cover their infrastructure and administration costs AFTER investing in their solar system. PLUS, the price per kwh will go up as a result of how many less kwh are being bought by people living off their solar systems during the day.

So you're going to ultimately end up paying more for solar energy because the people working for the utility companies are going to want to keep making the same amount of money, along with the people who produce infrastructure, build buildings, etc. Either that or the economy has to be radically restructured to make life sustainable with significantly lower amounts of income.
P: 113
 If economics was sane, I would say you're right. Unfortunately, though, I was trying to explain that people with solar cells are trying to feed-in power for a high kwh fee. This means those who buy from the grid will have to pay even more to fund the high solar costs PLUS the costs of infrastructure and administration.
This is a legitimate problem with net-metering generally, but is a policy, rather than market problem.

Power companies are required by federal law to buy back excess eletricity, at some rate. Exact policy varies state-by-state. At the market-end of the spectrum, states either allow the utility to contract with homeowners directly (setting a contract rate), or provide a legal wholesale rate (which is significantly lower than the market rate for the electricity, reflecting the fact that the utility maintains the grid).

Other states, however, require that homeowners be compensated at the utilities own market rate (the same rate the utility charges its customers for electricity draw). These policies make little economic sense; the homeowner does not have to pay for his share of the infrastructure, as you point out, and he does not have the overhead of grid maintenance. His only infrastructure costs are the initial PV installation, which was itself already heavily subsidized by the public utilities and the state. This means rates generally must go up to offset the added costs of paying the owners of solar setups at greater than market rates (if the power company and homeowner negotiated, the agreed upon price for the homeowners energy return would be significantly less than that charged by the power company itself), and effectively non-solar households are subsidizing solar households, a market distortion.

While unfortunate, it is not unique to electricity return. Even without these kinds of net metering policies, taxpayers generally are already subsidizing the installation of solar cells on homes, through federal and local programs.
PF Gold
P: 2,432
 Quote by talk2glenn While unfortunate, it is not unique to electricity return. Even without these kinds of net metering policies, taxpayers generally are already subsidizing the installation of solar cells on homes, through federal and local programs.
Market mechanism are maximally efficient in theoru, but usually suffer from extreme short-sightedness in practice as only the immediate future is easy to see.

So it would be normal to subsidise behaviour that we want to encourage long-term. This is why public transport is subsidised.

Alternative energy needs subsidising for the same reason. Indeed, the situation is worse. Fossil fuels are priced too cheaply (in the longterm view). Yet the response to a price rise is economic contraction - which then reduces the demand and thus price. This is because production is based on longterm infrastructure investment. So the system is locked into an attractor that keeps fossil fuel prices artificially low and prevents a move to more expensive alternative energy infrastructure.

The relationship is well understood. And countries can make choices about how to break-out of the feedback loop.
 P: 1,117 Subsidizing solar systems, either though formal subsidies or buying excess energy they produce at retail rates, is a double-edged sword. Yes it promotes the installation of solar systems, but it also spoils the supply-market of solar-cell producers by making them accustomed to subsidized profit-levels. The question becomes whether the solar-cell industry will remain in business once subsidies are reduced or eliminated. Ironically, if solar growth is very successful, it will contribute to oil conservation, which will extend the life of oil as an available fuel. This in turn lowers demand and therefore the price of oil, which in turn makes it harder for solar to compete. Ultimately the question is whether solar cells will become so simplified and/or plentiful that they will be as easy to cultivate as, say, a lawn sprinkler system. Will people be able to go to a local hardware store and pick up the parts to set up or fix a solar system and, as such, will the industrial production of these parts become so massified as to render the parts as cheap as any other relatively meaningless mass-produced commodity, such as pvc and pvc fittings?
P: 113
 Market mechanism are maximally efficient in theoru, but usually suffer from extreme short-sightedness in practice as only the immediate future is easy to see.
If this is true, why does it follow that the government would be more able to anticipate long term needs than the market? Is the future more easily foreseen by public than market forces? I would argue that the evidence strongly suggests the latter outdoes the former; the centrally planned Soviet Union could not anticipate long term needs for winter clothing in one of the most consistently cold regions on earth, while we take it for granted that there will always be enough milk on store shelves to go around, with little to no waste, despite dramatic fluctuations over both the short and long terms. Markets in fact have a harder time anticipating short-term demand than long-term, due to unforeseeable events (disasters, for example, but also apparently random fluctuations in short-term consumer preferences that are relatively stable over longer periods).

 This is why public transport is subsidised.
Public transportation isn't subsidized because of an anticipated long-term growth in demand, but for precisely the opposite reason: the long-term demand trend has been negative.

As demand for public transport has gone down, it has become increasingly dependent on public subsidy to survive, because there is an excess in supply (which would tend to push prices down and eliminate weaker competitors, in a competitive marketplace, reducing supply and increasing demand until a new equilibrium is met).

 So the system is locked into an attractor that keeps fossil fuel prices artificially low and prevents a move to more expensive alternative energy infrastructure.
Fuel prices are not kept artificially low; the market rate is a product of supply and demand. If it is the case that supply of cheap fuels is decreasing irrecoverably, while demand for energy is increasing, then these prices will rise until alternative sources become viable.

 The question becomes whether the solar-cell industry will remain in business once subsidies are reduced or eliminated.
Clearly, if subsidies were not offered, demand for solar cells would decline, which would lead to short-term price falls. This would have the effect of eliminating the weakest competitors in the industry. The industry would survive, but it would be composed of a smaller number of companies.

 This in turn lowers demand and therefore the price of oil, which in turn makes it harder for solar to compete.
This is only true for the short-term. In the long term, oil companies will respond by reducing supply, and price levels will rise again. The new equilibrium level in the long-term may or may not be lower than the initial price.
P: 200
 Quote by brainstorm Subsidizing solar systems, either though formal subsidies or buying excess energy they produce at retail rates, is a double-edged sword. Yes it promotes the installation of solar systems, but it also spoils the supply-market of solar-cell producers by making them accustomed to subsidized profit-levels. The question becomes whether the solar-cell industry will remain in business once subsidies are reduced or eliminated. Ironically, if solar growth is very successful, it will contribute to oil conservation, which will extend the life of oil as an available fuel. This in turn lowers demand and therefore the price of oil, which in turn makes it harder for solar to compete. Ultimately the question is whether solar cells will become so simplified and/or plentiful that they will be as easy to cultivate as, say, a lawn sprinkler system. Will people be able to go to a local hardware store and pick up the parts to set up or fix a solar system and, as such, will the industrial production of these parts become so massified as to render the parts as cheap as any other relatively meaningless mass-produced commodity, such as pvc and pvc fittings?

Solar has other more fundemental problems that prevent it from becoming a primary source of baseline power. For example, it doesn't work at night.
P: 289
 Quote by brainstorm Subsidizing solar systems, either though formal subsidies or buying excess energy they produce at retail rates, is a double-edged sword. Yes it promotes the installation of solar systems, but it also spoils the supply-market of solar-cell producers by making them accustomed to subsidized profit-levels. The question becomes whether the solar-cell industry will remain in business once subsidies are reduced or eliminated. Ironically, if solar growth is very successful, it will contribute to oil conservation, which will extend the life of oil as an available fuel. This in turn lowers demand and therefore the price of oil, which in turn makes it harder for solar to compete. Ultimately the question is whether solar cells will become so simplified and/or plentiful that they will be as easy to cultivate as, say, a lawn sprinkler system. Will people be able to go to a local hardware store and pick up the parts to set up or fix a solar system and, as such, will the industrial production of these parts become so massified as to render the parts as cheap as any other relatively meaningless mass-produced commodity, such as pvc and pvc fittings?
Why should the subsidies be reduced or eliminated? Subsidies for fossil fuels are still around.
P: 289
 Quote by aquitaine Solar has other more fundemental problems that prevent it from becoming a primary source of baseline power. For example, it doesn't work at night.
Which is why people are looking into energy storage solutions like hydrogen. It isn't an insurmountable problem
 P: 1,117 I was in the middle of a detailed response message when the power went out and I lost my work. Ironic that it happened while I was posting about energy developments! Anyway, the main issue, imo, is that people can't expect that current consumption patterns are going to magically cause solar power, fossil fuel supply, or any other aspect of energy resourcing to behave in ways they expect it to. People act as if the energy sources have to meet their cultural expectations instead of the other way around. If solar doesn't work it night, it may be that people are going to have to adapt their cultural patterns to go without electricity at night. It may not be necessary to do this right away or all at once, but it makes more sense to me that if you estimate that eventually it will be inevitable that you would rather transition slowly than wait for the sh*t to hit the fan, so to speak. Currently, I believe the political-mechanical issue is whether free-markets are suited to adapt to energy production and consumption needs for the future. Presumable with valid knowledge about the future they would be, but the problem is that market interests themselves exert influence on future-knowledge in a way that suits short-term profit-motives and consumer-habits. In short, consumers are willing to pay to be told what they want to believe, even if that means making the disaster worse in the long run. Many people simply don't believe there's any disaster even coming - that it is just a trick on the part of people who want to generate cultural change. The biggest question is whether government should allow solar developments to get priced out of the market, or whether some combination of subsidies and business-model intervention could push the solar-energy industry in the direction of making technologies more accessible, affordable, and therefore widespread. Of course, if existing energy-interests decide that growth of solar is going to interfere with their ability to maintain infrastructure with a narrower customer base, they will probably focus on preventing solar from gaining market share, just because they need the money to continue funding their operations, which they have a stake in maintaining.

 Related Discussions Earth 7 General Physics 8 General Physics 9 Earth 66 Chemistry 2