peak fossil fuels by 2017

by apeiron
Tags: 2017, fossil, fuels, peak
P: 113
 Quote by brainstorm 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.
There is no "disaster". This is a political myth promoted by interested parties who regard petroleum and other carbon fuels as "bad", and so-called alternatves as "good". If there were any impending threat of a collapse in global oil supplies, the price of oil (which reflects both current supply/demand and anticipated future supply/demand, through the futures markets) would be significantly higher than it is currently. Even with recent inflation, which is a product of market distortion through public policy (war, energy subsidy, etcetera) and not fundamental changes in supply/demand (the increased demand from China is more than offset by increased production), refined oil remains extremely cheap, relatively speaking. This is because it is extremely plentiful.

Global proved oil reserves have grown every year since they began collecting the data using current methodology at the turn of the century. This means that we are finding new, economically exploitable oil (at current price and technology levels) faster than we are drilling it up. Or, another way of putting it is to say that the amount of oil we know of in the earth TODAY is NO LESS THAN it was at the BEGINNING of the industrial cycle in the late 1800's.

Despite arguments to its "unsustainability", the engineering trends suggest that the rate of technology and productivity growth is more than enough to offset the drainage of known fields, with the effect being that oil is practically an inexhaustible resource, even if that is not theoretically accurate.

 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.

It is never the case that public subsidy causes an industry, any industry, to become more "affordable". It may be true that public subsidy increases accessibility in the short term, but this is at the expense of the long term (the short term increase in demand must ultimately be met by a long term reduction in that demand, to achieve balance of payments equilibrium - the debt government accrused today through subsidy must be paid tomorrow through tax, if you will, though this is a crude and not always accurate metaphorical explanation). To exercise this point, consider the recent cash for clunkers program. The program subsidized the purchase of cars in the short term, but everyone acknowledge that this would mean a later-term decline in car sales, once the subsidies were eliminated (in effect, people who would have otherwise purchased their vehicle in a month purchased it today; net sales were unaffected, just the rate of sales). Subsidy advocates argue that, due to unforeseen market conditions, it is worth moving future demand to present demand, for political reasons.

As to affordability, a subsidy has the effect of maintaining an immediate market price level that is below the clearing, equilibrium price (through cash rebates to consumers or producers; the price paid by the consumer is less than the actual price, which includes the subsidy). This means that consumer demand will exceed producer supply, in the short, subsidized term. In response, producers will ALWAYS raise prices. In effect, subsidies have the effect of RAISING the short term price. This is economic reality. Again, subsidy advocates will argue this is a politically desirable outcome; they cannot argue that this will not happen. Again to exercise this point, consider college tuition rates. Do to heavy subsidy through the DOE guaranteed loans programs, demand for a college education outpaces supply, and the price of tuition increases much more rapidly than inflation.
PF Gold
P: 2,432
 Quote by talk2glenn Despite arguments to its "unsustainability", the engineering trends suggest that the rate of technology and productivity growth is more than enough to offset the drainage of known fields, with the effect being that oil is practically an inexhaustible resource, even if that is not theoretically accurate.
Have you read the study that is the subject of this thread and can you please explain how it is an inaccurate summary of actual known reserves and consumption trends?

You say:

 Global proved oil reserves have grown every year since they began collecting the data using current methodology at the turn of the century. This means that we are finding new, economically exploitable oil (at current price and technology levels) faster than we are drilling it up.
Can you please supply the references for that statement?
 P: 1,070 there is a huge amount of methane hydrate ice at the bottom of the sea. i find it hard to believe that we won't find a way to harvest it as soon as that becomes profitable. of course, that is not infinite, either (despite being continually produced biologically), but it would certainly buy more time.
PF Gold
P: 2,432
 Quote by talk2glenn 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.
If you want to talk about subsidies and free markets, you might want to consider this first...

 IEA analysis that will be presented in the World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2010 -- to be released in November -- reveals that fossil fuel subsidies are much higher than previously thought. In 2008, fossil fuel consumption subsidies rose to USD 557 billion, up from USD 342 billion the previous year. Phasing out such subsidies would send a price signal to create incentive for more efficient use. http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/subsidies.asp
PF Gold
P: 3,021
 Quote by talk2glenn ... 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.
Also, unless the residential solar is heavily cleaned up by batteries, the power quality is lousy (large variation on a time scale of seconds). As more and more solar comes online, this is likely to become a problem for the utilities.
PF Gold
P: 3,021
 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.
Clearly approaches like solar thermal 'work' technically at night. The economics of the storage are the question.
 P: 83 Solar Thermal is one possibility for night time power, hydrogen is another way to store excess power from solar power production for night time usage. The big problem that I see with that line of thought or any other "we need to develop technology" cures to make solar more in line with the western worlds expectations with the current power system is there is a tonn of "if" coming off of these plans. Also solar panels require rare earth materials to do their thing, so do all semi conductors in consumer electronics. China is the worlds suppler of these materials and they have announced a cut back in global exports, due to rising internal needs. Because of laws of supply and demand the cost of these panels will rise, and so will other consumer electronics. Solar if brought to large scale will not drop in price but rise, and so will anything else with a semi conductor. It is incredibly disappointing that so many people on this thread have discounted Nuclear power as the solution to the problem. It all but displaced oil as a power source in the USA (approximately 20% of current grid power). It replaced oil/diesel on subs and aircraft carriers in the USA navy, and replaced oil in the Russian ice breaker fleet. All cases where nuclear power has clearly demonstrated a clear path for displacing fossil fuel sources. As for having a plan that has some "if" coming off of it, that will succeed. Replace coal boilers with nuclear tea kettles, and use the excessive heat to run a coal to liquid plant. Looking at USA reserves of coal that gives approximately 344 billion barrels of oil just inside of the USA borders. Sounds like a good reserve to me, and no one will loose their job, heck might even create some more.
P: 201
 Quote by JaWiB Which is why people are looking into energy storage solutions like hydrogen. It isn't an insurmountable problem
Adding extra expense. Even with a storage solution you'd need to build over projected demand to compensate for the extra load, which feeds the other problem: fundemental inefficiency. The fundemental efficiency limit is the amount of solar energy per square meter, 27 watts if I recall correctly (though feel free to correct me). Now, in order to generate the gigawatts needed to power a city, you'd need huge amounts of land turned into solar farms, many may hectares worth. Instead of doing that, why not just go with the sensible solution and use nuclear? After all, many power plants have several reactors allowing them to get 3+ GW at just one site or more. Or do we really want to use MORE land, destroy more habitat than we already are? Land usage matters.
PF Gold
P: 3,021
 Quote by Argentum Vulpes Also solar panels require rare earth materials to do their thing, so do all semi conductors in consumer electronics.
No, rare earth elements are not required in traditional PV crystal panels. Chemically they are simple P-N junctions, and the typical dopants for silicon are listed here.

 Solar if brought to large scale will not drop in price but rise
Solar PV panels are now produced at a rate of several gigawatts worth of panels per year, the price has continually dropped over time, dramatically so in the last two years. See, e.g.

http://www.1366tech.com/v2/
The main cost in crystalline panels is the highly purified silicon required; methods of producing the silicon wafers have become increasingly efficient over time.
P: 83
 Quote by mheslep No, rare earth elements are not required in traditional PV crystal panels. Chemically they are simple P-N junctions, and the typical dopants for silicon are listed here.
Now lets stop being disingenuous here. Yes the old generation one PV moncrystalline panels require no rare earth elements. However those panels are lucky to get 20% efficiency. Have to be in large heavy sheet configurations. Have to track the sun, and the hotter they get the efficacy of the panels drop off. There is a reason they are generation one panels, and labs are barking up the generation four tree.

 Quote by mheslep Solar PV panels are now produced at a rate of several gigawatts worth of panels per year, the price has continually dropped over time, dramatically so in the last two years. See, e.g. http://www.1366tech.com/v2/ The main cost in crystalline panels is the highly purified silicon required; methods of producing the silicon wafers have become increasingly efficient over time.
Of course the cost of the panels are going to go down if it is artificially brought down by government subsidies. Also per your graph for the line to remain true there must be a 35% growth in solar power generation, and only 18% of that growth go into new based technologies. Also the production facilities must have an 18% capacity factor (CF) and rely on a 7% government subsidy. Sounds like a lot of restrictions to keep that graph true.

And for kicks and giggles lets look at how efficiently the largest large scale solar project vs largest nuclear power uses land. DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center with a peak power output of 25 MW on 140 acres of land with a CF of 19.1%. So there is approximately 178 kW of electricity per acre 19.1% of the year. Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station has a peak power output of 3,875 MW on 4,000 acres of land with a CF of 86%. So there is 800 kW of electricity per acre 86% of the year. So nuclear uses land 4.5 times more efficiently and dose it 4.5 times as long.

Nuclear power is hands down the most efficient way to produce power with current technologies. Solar is a nice idea that needs a tonn more research. In its current form solar power can not provide base load power now or in the foreseeable future.
PF Gold
P: 3,021
 Quote by Argentum Vulpes Now lets stop being disingenuous here. Yes the old generation one PV moncrystalline panels require no rare earth elements.
Exactly, I'm attempting to stop you from continuing to do so. You made a claim about rare earth elements limiting the supply of PV panels:
 Quote by Argentum Vulpes Also solar panels require rare earth materials to do their thing, so do all semi conductors in consumer electronics. China is the worlds suppler of these materials and they have announced a cut back in global exports, due to rising internal needs. Because of laws of supply and demand the cost of these panels will rise, and so will other consumer electronics
Provide a valid reference showing how mass produced PV (i.e. panels) require rare earth elements in amounts sufficient to drive up PV panel costs or retract the claim and move on. Hint: You're confusing thin film solar, some of which does use rare earth, and polycrystalline silicon panels, which does not, even the modern ones.
 However those panels are lucky to get 20% efficiency.
No, panels prior to 2000 yielded ~10-15%. Now, most panels mass produced panels hit ~18%, with a few at 20-22%.
 Have to track the sun, and the hotter they get the efficacy of the panels drop off.
Sun angle and temperature still impact the output of 2010 PV mass produced crystalline cells; for that matter, temperature impacts the performance of any P-N junction semiconductor.

 Also the production facilities must have an 18% capacity factor (CF) and rely on a 7% government subsidy. Sounds like a lot of restrictions to keep that graph true.
Capacity factor is not germane to PV manufacturing, but refers to the percentage of online operation time of a power source; for solar power this refers to the amount of time the PV produces equivalent rated power which depends of course on sunlight received, typically 1/5 to 1/6 of a 24 hr day, ie. 18%. The 7% figure is not a government subsidy, but the assumed interest rate on borrowed money, i.e. the discounted rate of future cash flows.

Regarding nuclear power, I haven't seen anyone dismiss it in this thread. Instead there has been discussion of how much nuclear could be built in a given time.
P: 289
 Quote by aquitaine Adding extra expense. Even with a storage solution you'd need to build over projected demand to compensate for the extra load, which feeds the other problem: fundemental inefficiency.
You already have to build over projected demand, regardless of the energy source...
 The fundemental efficiency limit is the amount of solar energy per square meter, 27 watts if I recall correctly (though feel free to correct me).
I think average insolation is in the hundreds of W/m^2

 Now, in order to generate the gigawatts needed to power a city, you'd need huge amounts of land turned into solar farms, many may hectares worth. Instead of doing that, why not just go with the sensible solution and use nuclear? After all, many power plants have several reactors allowing them to get 3+ GW at just one site or more. Or do we really want to use MORE land, destroy more habitat than we already are? Land usage matters.
True, you would need a lot of surface area. But there also seems to be a lot of land available in various places. Solar farms aside, we also have plenty of parking lots and rooftops. It's hard to say how much infrastructure could cost, but I still think solar is one of the best options in the long-term.

As for nuclear, I'm not against it, but I've heard conflicting reports about the availability of fuel, overall costs (one speaker cited some project in France that went ridiculously over budget and wasn't completed on time), and it has the typical disadvantage that it uses up a lot of water.
PF Gold
P: 2,432
 Quote by Argentum Vulpes Nuclear power is hands down the most efficient way to produce power with current technologies. Solar is a nice idea that needs a tonn more research. In its current form solar power can not provide base load power now or in the foreseeable future.
A complete costing of nuclear is more complicated. For example, the waste has to go somewhere, which will do something to your land useage calculations.

But anyway, I think it is easily agreed that there needs to be a baseload system and other stuff slots in on top.

The major thing we are not yet set up to do is capture free energy at any scale which is most convenient. The public utility/private monopoly model distorts the market by favouring large scale energy projects. It is obviously better if, for example, the electricity grid was a two-way network that could function as a battery. So if I tiled my roof with PV panels, the excess would feed into the grid - where it might even be stored by pumping water back up into a hydrodam - and then I could take that electricity back at a later date at a similar rate.

Nuclear would have to be the big utility model of course. PV would be the consumer level probably. And wind could span the range.

The economic calculations are complex, but counting the cost of plugging new technology into old financial models of infrastructure is dumb. It is the new infrastructure that we are trying to imagine.

And the point of the OP is that we have less time than many imagine to get imagining and acting. If we wait for market forces, it will be too late as oil is not accurately priced as a commodity!

Scarce goods should have higher prices, but fossil fuels have been treated as a free lunch (where I would not automatically disagree that nuclear has been over-priced by the market in terms of its dangers and capital costs - I am just wary because the industry has been in large part justified by a desire for bombs).
PF Gold
P: 3,021
 Quote by aquitaine The fundemental efficiency limit is the amount of solar energy per square meter, 27 watts if I recall correctly (though feel free to correct me).
 Quote by JaWiB I think average insolation is in the hundreds of W/m^2

1366 W/m^2
is the mean power density striking the earth's upper atmosphere; 1000 to 1100 W/m^2 reaches the surface at sea level at mid day in lower latitudes. Then solar PV crystalline panels convert to electricity at ~20% in rated conditions, producing on the order of ~200 W(e)/m^2.
PF Gold
P: 3,021
 Quote by JaWiB .... and it has the typical disadvantage that it uses up a lot of water.
So do many solar thermal systems. So do biofuel technologies - all of them. Solar PV requires no water of course.
P: 113
 Quote by apeiron Can you please supply the references for that statement?
Much of the information is proprietary; it is difficult to find collectively published quantitative data over time in the public domain. However, see this link:

http://www.hubbertpeak.com/laherrere/supply.htm

Specifically, see figures 4 and 5, for US and World (minus) US proved reserves, respectively. Note that proved reserves are not linked to production per se; they are defined as "reserves which are practically harvestable given the current price of oil and current technology".

Beyond this, there are vast quantities of unproved reserves - hydrocarbons we are reasonably confident are out there, but are not reasonably attainable given current price and technology levels.

 Solar PV panels are now produced at a rate of several gigawatts worth of panels per year, the price has continually dropped over time, dramatically so in the last two years. See, e.g.
I do not know what methodology the architects of your graph used, because it is more certainly not the case that solar electricity production is anywhere near the level of $0.20/kWh. Current US aggregate production cost is ~$0.32/kWh. This is a customer-cost rate for residential, roof-mounted solar panels in optimal conditions. Because it is a customer-cost rate, it does not include subsidy-added costs, which can be upwards of 50% of net. This implies an unsubsidized rate of ~\$0.48/kWh; this is many times higher than the average electricity rates paid by most American utility customers (for reference, average rate was 12 cents in 2009 in the United States, not including demand charges).

http://www.solarbuzz.com/solarindices.htm

For commercial/industrial electricity generation, costs are lower - between 15 and 30 cents/kWh. Note that this is still significantly higher than the costs of conventional and other alternative fuels. Further, solar has one critical disadvantage (shared by other renewables) - geography. Unlike conventional plant technologies (nuclear, gas, coal), in order to achieve these rates the solar plants must be built in "optimal conditions". In the US, this means parts of the contiguous southwest (Arizona and Southern California). Efficiencies drop dramatically as one moves east and/or north (for perspective, efficiency drops by about 50% when conditions go from clear to partly cloudy in Phoenix, AZ).

The typical response from solar-advocates is that efficiency will improve with time. Clearly, this is true. But it is also true that efficiency ratings for competing technologies will also improve with time. This implies two things:

1) You'd be foolish to install rooftop solar today, when it is both cost ineffective and will be less cost ineffective tomorrow.

2) We are foolish to subsidize solar technology development to the extent that such subsidies disfavor other, potentially more efficient alternatives. There is no reason the promise of "improved efficiency" should be uniquely solar. Any technology, lavishly subsidized by public funds as solar has been, will improve. Policy makers should be asking, is the gain in efficiency/dollar equal to or greater than the gains that could be had by spending the same amount on an alternative fuel source?

These points are addressed by markets. They are not addressed by policy makers. This is why solar subsidies (like all subsidies) are generally a bad thing, from an economic perspective.

In a free market, nobody would install solar, because it makes no economic sense. So the state heavily subsidizes both solar producers and solar consumers for residential PV installations. And, in a free market, investors would consider competing technologies and investment return before lending their money. The government is interested in neither the competition nor in earning a return, so it allocates its subsidy dollars inefficiently compared to the market. Since those government dollars are removed from the private, investably money supply, the economy in aggregate will be less efficient (less growth over time). From the policy-makers perspective, this is acceptable, because the long term goal for politicians is politically desirable outcomes (namely, the success of solar), NOT return on investment (aka profit or economic growth).
P: 289
 Quote by talk2glenn 1) You'd be foolish to install rooftop solar today, when it is both cost ineffective and will be less cost ineffective tomorrow.
"You" as in the consumer might benefit from rooftop solar if you state happens to have good incentives

 2) We are foolish to subsidize solar technology development to the extent that such subsidies disfavor other, potentially more efficient alternatives. There is no reason the promise of "improved efficiency" should be uniquely solar. Any technology, lavishly subsidized by public funds as solar has been, will improve. Policy makers should be asking, is the gain in efficiency/dollar equal to or greater than the gains that could be had by spending the same amount on an alternative fuel source? These points are addressed by markets. They are not addressed by policy makers. This is why solar subsidies (like all subsidies) are generally a bad thing, from an economic perspective.
As I've stated, fossil fuels are awarded more federal subsidies than renewables, and most of the federal subsidies for renewables aren't even for solar (though I guess it might not be the same at the state level?) I also believe that you have to consider the environmental cost of fossil fuels because at some point it will translate into an economic cost.

 In a free market, nobody would install solar, because it makes no economic sense. So the state heavily subsidizes both solar producers and solar consumers for residential PV installations. And, in a free market, investors would consider competing technologies and investment return before lending their money. The government is interested in neither the competition nor in earning a return, so it allocates its subsidy dollars inefficiently compared to the market. Since those government dollars are removed from the private, investably money supply, the economy in aggregate will be less efficient (less growth over time). From the policy-makers perspective, this is acceptable, because the long term goal for politicians is politically desirable outcomes (namely, the success of solar), NOT return on investment (aka profit or economic growth).
Huh? Last I checked a lot of the government money in solar is going into private industry and manufacturing. I guess I'm not understanding your point
PF Gold
P: 2,432
 Quote by talk2glenn Much of the information is proprietary; it is difficult to find collectively published quantitative data over time in the public domain. However, see this link: http://www.hubbertpeak.com/laherrere/supply.htm Specifically, see figures 4 and 5, for US and World (minus) US proved reserves, respectively. Note that proved reserves are not linked to production per se; they are defined as "reserves which are practically harvestable given the current price of oil and current technology".
Epic fail Glenn .

You somehow seem to have cited a leading peak oiler. (Remember this? http://dieoff.org/page140.pdf)

Perhaps you did not read down to the conclusion (you certainly misread the graphs)....

 Today we consume three times more than we discover. No technological breakthrough is foreseen! Technology helps to produce quicker and cheaper, but hardly increases the reported reserves which anticipate the technology. The Middle East has most of the yet-to-produce reserves, but needs a great deal of money to meet the future increase in demand, as the production of the rest of the world will decline soon. Bankers are reluctant to invest in M.E. fearing instability, lack of demand of M.E. supply and future low price. As far as petroleum is concerned, the World is moving in the wrong direction because of very poor data and erroneous interpretation. An oil crisis could be coming and nobody is prepared. Surplus or shortage?: the answer is surplus of oil resources (conventional and non-conventional), but shortage of oil reserves before 2010 In fact, as oil price will increase substantially, the demand will be less than anticipated. There are many fields for energy savings.

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