* To establish feasibility, it is necessary to include some items in the energy invested term that are normally not thought of as investments. For example, the cost of sequestering such carbon dioxide as will be produced by the energy technology under investigation should be added to the energy invested term because feasibility requires that our society be sustainable (until astronomical events intervene). In this thought experiment, the support of an alternative energy technology would be the sole concern of every citizen.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Fundamental Principle of Ecology

The fundamental principle of ecology ought to be "Leave it alone".  It is not necessary to solve a huge stiff system of differential delay equations to manage an eco-region; i. e., a connected area of the face of the earth all of which drains into a large body of water - usually an ocean - with no part of the drainage region omitted.  It's not necessary to read extensively in the QH and QL sections of the library. It is necessary only to let your eco-region manage itself by behaving as a well-mannered guest.  Don't do very much.  In fact, do as little as possible.  Cultivate sloth.  Be lazy.

Mankind has discovered that he may harvest energy, as well as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and berries, from Nature.  He presumes that he is entitled to exploit these resources with no thought of paying Nature, putting anything back, or cleaning up. Now, he is in a bind.  His life is filled with feverish activity.  He knows that he has way too great an impact on the environment.  But he can't stop.  He has credit card debt.  He just barely avoided the last big lay-off at his job.  His wife has been bugging him to earn more money, in keeping with the normal measure of worth in his society, usually referred to as status.  He has a brokerage account; but, he has been unable  to earn extra money by trading stocks, options, and other securities.  This man's troubles will be recognized as instances of the modes in which Capitalist economies achieve the economic growth they require.

But, all of this activity, from which Capitalism will not let up but demands more of the same is in violation of the Fundamental Principle of Ecology (now promoted to initial caps).  Thus, Capitalism's route to inevitable collapse is the  greatest evil in the world today.

[Note:  Besides venting a little frustration with conservatives (I almost said "frustration with the stupidity of conservatives"), this post constitutes an experiment in writing short choppy sentences.]

Saturday, December 15, 2012

ERoEI* Redux

I just wrote the following to a detractor on the Energy Resources Yahoo! group who imagined that I must be just like every other advocate of left-wing politics he has encountered.  I am not like that at all.  In fact, the idea of a dictatorship of the proletariat makes me rather uncomfortable.  Perhaps, a dictatorship of the precariat ... http://www.huffingtonpost.com/noam-chomsky/plutonomy-and-the-precari_b_1499246.html.

Hey, Howard, don't shoot the messenger.  I shall suffer as much as you if market economics is abandoned.  Markets have been very, very good to me.  That said, I believe you are missing the principal point.  

The Autonomous Alternative Energy District (AAED) is obviously a very good concept to employ in a thought experiment. The society we live in can be very readily analyzed changing whatever needs to be changed in the AAED; but, the AAED is much simpler.  So, to be definite, let's imagine a USA completely dependent upon shale oil and gas with no other energy technology employed whatever.  Moreover, it is recognized that the nation can barely produce enough to support itself with nothing left to export except, possibly, energy in the form of shale oil and gas itself or electrical energy over power lines to our near neighbors.  Immigration is banned and the population is otherwise stable with no imported goods affecting our standards of living. The nation is isolated, then, except for the export of energy, if there is any.

The nation then either continues with things pretty much as they were during the conventional petroleum era or not. If the standard of living declines year after year until famine begins, it must be because the ERoEI* of shale oil and gas is less than 1.0 FOR THAT TYPE OF POLITICAL ECONOMY even without an attempt to achieve sustainability.   If society manages to run on an even keel but is not quite able to achieve sustainability, again it is because ERoEI* < 1.0 for that type of political economy.  Clearly, each type of political economy will have certain activities that must be carried out, each with its associated energy costs.  If society manages to run sustainably at  steady state and exports some electrical power to Canada, say, then ERoEI* is greater than 1.0 for that type of political economy, which society is free to accept or reject purely on moral grounds.

[Clearly, I am assuming that conservation has been carried out as far as can be expected and that the citizens cooperate voluntarily with the possible exception of a very few sociopaths. We might say that whatever society is doing to enhance ERoEI* is normal; and, therefore, it may be incorporated into the definition of ERoEI* just as the efficiency of the manufacturing process was incorporated into the definition of emergy.]

I hope that is helpful.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Capitalism, Marxism, and Dematerialism

Let us review the steps whereby capitalism was defeated by communism in logical argument:

I don’t know if any of the latest statements about deaths and ruined lives under so-called communist rule are true or merely another salvo in an endless war against communism waged by both branches of the American Capitalist Party; but, this much is certain: communism is sustainable and capitalism, because it requires perpetual economic growth in a finite world, is not.  Capitalism requires growth to retire debt incurred by fractional reserve banking, to justify economic inequality by telling the poor they will not grow poorer as the rich grow richer, to provide new jobs for workers displaced by improvements in productivity due to technological progress, and to finance industry in a stock market that would collapse if it did not grow.  None of these is necessary in a communist economy despite the undeniable fact that many regimes that call themselves communist whether they are or not have encouraged economic growth.  (Of course, many (undeveloped) nations should grow economically, but new growth in the poor nations must be accompanied by even greater shrinkage in the rich nations to more than compensate for it.)

It is necessary to divide the community dividend equally among the members of the community for a number of reasons: 

1.         Whatever advantages of intelligence, strength, ability, character, appearance, breeding, or connections one is able to exploit to acquire wealth, they are accidents of birth that are normally disallowed as justifications for worldly success. 

2.         It is impossible to evaluate a person’s contribution to the community until hundreds of years after that person’s death, if then.

3.         Suppose that one potato in the Mark I Economy  represents the amount of emergy that is required to keep one person alive for one day.  The ability of the earth to provide emergy for consumption is already so limited that people are starving to death because we do not share wealth. 

Thus, wealth sharing is reasonable, beautiful, and practical.  However, without wealth sharing, society is vulnerable to very serious problems:

1.         Differences in wealth spawn covetousness, envy, resentment, anger, and, finally, revolution if they grow sufficiently steep or if they are perceived as patently unfair.

2.         If there are differences in wealth, we have materialism with all of the horrible things people do to acquire greater wealth because of greed, because of fear of losing what they have, or to remedy personal poverty.  In Chapter 9 of On thePreservation of Species, I showed that materialism is Pandora’s Box.

Materialism is the perfect transition from the debate between communism and capitalism to the debate between Dematerialism and Marxism:

Let us examine the reasons why Dematerialism has supplanted Marxism:

Marxism was supposed to have remedied the problems caused by differences in wealth; but, inasmuch as it requires people to work to earn a living, it still permits competition for wealth.  Also, it does not address competition for power except by preventing huge concentrations of wealth that make fair competition unnecessary for many aspirants to political power.  Even supposing a meritocracy in the distribution of jobs, political positions, and incomes, almost all of the problems of materialism will arise. 

1.         Dematerialism requires each person to have an equal share of the community dividend regardless of what he does or doesn’t do, which prevents all of the evils of materialism discussed in Appendix II of On the Preservation of Species.

2.         It is important that people who do not work be compensated the same as those who do (except that the portion of their energy budget that was expended solely because of their employment) because most of the workforce will have to be furloughed to reduce the energy budget to that which can be supplied by renewable energy technologies only.  Please see the three energy papers hyperlinked to http://dematerialism.net/ where this is explained and proved. 

3.         Dematerialism avoids punishment of misbehavior as well as punishment of sloth.  People will do something interesting and/or useful because they need to be effective to be happy.  Since Dostoevsky wrote Crime and Punishment 150 years ago, we have suspected that punishment exacerbates anti-social behavior.  Dematerialism lets go of punishment and revenge as well as other irrational and maladaptive behavior peculiar to Western culture or learned during out Era of Evolutionary Adaptedness.
Indeed, Marx, apparently, was not familiar with the Sermon on the Mount and the many fine sentiments expressed there by Jesus.  We could say that Dematerialism is the New Testament of Communism and Marxism is the Old Testament. 

Houston, Texas
July 26, 2007

* In this paper,  the word “communism” refers to any system of wealth distribution that does not depend  upon (i) dog-eat-dog competition or (ii) the hazards of a marketplace in labor , or (iii) any system that favors economic inequality whether dynamic or static and, if dynamic, whether unbounded or not.  By “communism” I mean some system of sharing the community dividend.  I could replace the term “communism” by “wealth sharing” without the loss of very much except the opportunity to show respect for the great communist writers, thinkers, and leaders of the past.  Normally, I think of “communism” as referring to equal or nearly equal wealth sharing.  Varieties of communism are sometimes termed “socialism”, “syndicalism”, “dematerialism”, etc.

Renewable Energy

Here is a letter to Energy Resources and Denis Frith's Google group too:
To everyone except Denis Frith,

Denis doesn’t want to admit that solar and wind energy either are renewable or would be if it were not for the ridiculous energy cost of supporting a market economy*.  As it turns out, in a debate with another of Denis’s critics, Dave Kimble of Running on Empty Oz, who argued that the front-loaded investment costs of photovoltaic solar installations disqualify PV solar as a way to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil even in Australia, I conceived of a plan to bootstrap solar by purchasing abroad solar energy equipment to start up with.  Now, renewable energy technologies came into a world dominated by coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear fission; so, it is understandable that the first front-loaded energy invested in “renewables” probably came from fossil fuel and nuclear, but possibly hydroelectric.  Let us assume, though, that the solar installations purchased abroad to get started in a solar economy were produced without the application of any energy that could not be termed “renewable”.  Then, the first wave of solar energy installations slated for Australia would be completely renewable.  That is, they would produce enough stored energy such that no fossil fuel at all need be used to maintain the infrastructure and build replacements for it when they were needed – and, for that matter, to restore such portions of the earth as were occupied by solar installations to Earth-as-a-garden ideality.  If the ratio ERoEI*, as defined at http://dematerialism.net/eroeistar.htm and, in greater detail, on my new blog at http://eroei.blogspot.com/, is greater than 1.0, this can be done, although ERoEIs very close to 1.0 will be poor investment risks because of long payback times and because a very slight change in circumstances could render them infeasible or because ERoEI* is actually less than 1.0 except for minor computational inaccuracies.  In the spreadsheet analysis done by Dave Kimble and me, we used an ERoEI equal to 3.0.  I assumed that ERoEI*PV = 3.0.  Both Dave and I included construction, maintenance, and eventual replacement energy costs in perpetuity in EI.  In any case, if solar and wind are not strictly renewable, a competent energy analyst would compute ERoEI* < 1.0 and be fore-warned.  See http://dematerialism.net/pv.htm.

The reason investors are bailing out of renewables is that they have become convinced by investment bankers that the ERoEI for shale plays is greater than 1.0 if, in fact, they know what ERoEI is or should be.  To their sorrow, they are about to find out that ERoEI for shale is less than 1.0 even if operators neglect their responsibilities toward Earth.  When the shale bubble bursts, there will be much gnashing of teeth here in Texas. I feel sorry for all the new Houston citizens who are about to be left high and dry except for submergence in unmanageable credit card debt based upon false hopes for a prosperous future.  It’s too bad that they didn’t invest their futures in solar and wind and political change.

By the way, Denis Frith has been most helpful by suggesting various concrete problem areas in energy production that have to be addressed to calculate ERoEI*.  The difficulty of finding a new recycling methodology or a substitute material resource in case a material is encountered with no known substitute for which recycling is impractical remains a tough nut to crack; however, we shall cross that bridge when we come to it – and perhaps we never will.  I am certain he will continue to be of service by suggesting problem areas in establishing renewable energy technology.  It is, of course, the component of energy input that comes from the sun that suggested the term “renewable” to earlier workers.  Although we intend to “pay” Mother Earth, we have no such intention to “pay” Papa Sun.

Thomas Wayburn, Houston, Texas

http://modrr.net/ (model railroading)

From: senescence-of-civilization@googlegroups.com [mailto:senescence-of-civilization@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Denis Frith
Sent: Monday, December 10, 2012 9:30 PM
To: Google IPP Group
Cc: Robert Gregory; energyresources@yahoogroups.com
Subject: {senescence-of-civilization:1833] Fw: alternative energy and the rise and fall . . . .

The article below provides insight into misguided decisions stemming from the misperception arising from the misuse of terminology. The issue considered relates to systems providing energy. Investors with little understanding of physics are only slowly learning that the term 'clean energy' relates to systems that supply electrical energy with less use of the emission producing fossil fuels for their construction, operation and maintenance. There is no such commodity as 'clean energy'.The decline in the stock reflects the realization by many investors that they have been conned by the spurious rhetoric. If realistic terminology had been employed in describing these projects, investors would have been in a much better position to assess the worth of the proposed system, bearing in mind that it would have a limited life.

Denis Frith

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Robert Gregory <bobbygreg@gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, 11 December 2012 10:10 AM
Subject: alternative energy and the rise and fall . . . .

So, how's your green energy stock doing?

The RENIXX index of the world's largest renewable
 energy companies hit a new low last month. Has the green energy fad run its course?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

What Is the Energy Cost of Pollution?

This is an easy question to answer:  The energy cost of pollution is the energy cost of whatever has to be done to prevent pollution whether it be (i) the alteration of the process to avoid the pollution step, (ii) the decontamination and temperature normalization of process water for recycle or discharge, where the discharge of fresh water effluent to the  environment must be accompanied by the transport and desalination of sea water, (iii) the treatment of gas phase effluent to remove all contaminants such that only air and water at normal temperature is discharged.  The discharged air may be oxygen-rich provided it does NOT contain ozone, and (iv) whatever else must be done to prevent air, earth, and water pollution.

In cases where the process pollutes, the fine shall be sufficiently great that it is cheaper to prevent pollution than to pay the fine.  The fine shall be used to further the agenda of the most sincere environmentalists and to partly compensate the victims. Someone should implement some sort of plan to make it uneconomical to cheat.  Photovoltaic cells do not pollute, but the factory that makes them does.  It  is the responsibility of the purveyors of solar energy installations to make certain that their vendors and suppliers do not pollute and/or add the cost of the appropriate process equipment or the principal of the fine to the energy-invested term.

Additional Concerns about Recycling


In Item 2 of "Some Important Components of the Energy-Invested Term that Are Generally Neglected" (Dec. 6), I imply without proof or explanation that the repositories of materials needed for the main process under investigation and the essential ancillary processes can be maintained at their original levels. I wrote as though the recycle problem had been solved and a steady state could be achieved without further ado. That is not the case. Recycling the material in the infrastructure is a tricky business. More research is needed. Here is what I wrote to the critic who raised that point and, in addition, was concerned about the effects of friction:

Friction is not a problem. In general, the principal effect of friction is overcome by pushing harder. Let us weigh an engine with serious friction, like the gas turbine on a 747, when it’s brand new and after it is ready to be replaced. I would be surprised if the difference were appreciable.  I am under the impression that the slight loss of material will not affect sustainability.

In other cases, the problem should be categorized as follows: (a) Separate the materials that we require to carry out the activities we consider important to our civilization, i. e., the materials we need to produce food and clothing, maintain shelter, provide health care to a stable or shrinking population, and provide art, music, literature and a few luxuries to take the drudgery out of life, e. g., computers; (b) divide the useful materials into two categories: (b1) the materials that can be recycled and devise the most energy efficient techniques to recycle them; (b2) find substitutes for the materials that cannot be recycled in any way, shape, or manner. (Remember that, even if only the elemental species can be recovered, the original substance can be synthesized at the expense of our supply of available energy (enthalpy minus the lowest temperature reservoir to which waste heat can be rejected times the entropy).)

I expected that a critic might nail me on recycling pharmaceuticals. I gave it a lot of thought. For now, I am satisfied that urinating on the ground might have to be forbidden. This was done by the Freemen on Frank Herbert’s Dune, a Desert Planet. Useful chemicals can be extracted from sewage by chromatography, for example. Materials that are deemed essential and for which no practical method of recycling has yet been found will remain a challenge for the time being. But, isn’t it a shame that I can’t write the University of Michigan and explain why this would make a relevant research topic. Since I am an alumnus, they should listen. But, not even a million dollar gift would be an incentive to deviate from the corporate agenda or violate the received wisdom from the ruling class.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Five Ways to Compute ERoEI

(from http://dematerialism.net/Mark-II-Economy.html)

On Sheet 4 of both spreadsheets* five different ERoEIs for each political economy and for two levels of conservation are tabulated below and to the right of DN68:

The five types of ERoEI are as follows:

1.     The energy invested (EIo) is the direct energy overhead of the energy sector.

2.     EI1 includes, in addition to the direct energy overhead, the indirect energy costs associated with the energy overhead of the manufacturing and transportation portions of the overhead of the energy sector but not the overhead due to commerce.
3.     EI2 includes, in addition, the overhead due to the activities of commerce in connection with the sale of energy.

4.     EI3 includes, in addition, the consumption of energy associated with that portion of the salaries paid to the energy sector in excess of what they would have been if no one earned more than the workers do.  This is thought to account for over-consumption associated with profit taking in connection with the sale of energy.

5.     EI4 includes, in addition, the consumption of energy by the workers in the energy sector and the pro-rata shares of the energy expenses of the workers and managers in other sectors insofar as they support the energy sector.

The four political economies are as follows:

1.     The Base Case (BC) is a steady-state idealization of an American-style market economy.

2.     The No-Managers Case (NM) is a steady-state idealization of an American-style market economy with managers, presumably chosen by the workers from among themselves, who get paid the same as workers, which reduces energy consumption.  The expression No-Managers, then, is not particularly well-chosen.  I suppose this is an idealization of market communism.

3.     The No-Commerce Case (NC) is a planned economy that has a negligible energy  overhead but that has a commissar class which enjoys the same privileges as managers do in a market economy.  Perhaps it is an idealized Soviet economy.

4.     The No-Commerce-No-Managers Case (NCNM) has a give-away economy with no energy overhead and with the same income for everyone whether they work or not.  It is most like the natural economy advocated in On the Preservation of Species, “Energy in a Natural Economy”, “On the Conservation-within-Capitalism Scenario”, and “The Demise of Business as Usual all of which are hyperlinked to http://www.dematerialism.net/.

The two levels of conservation are as follows with the second level split:

1.     Conservation Level 1 is no conservation at all or rather only such conservation measures as have been implemented in the US American economy at the present time.

2.     Conservation Level 2 is any conservation factor, ψ, less than 1.0 in the linear relations that adjust the levels of consumption of the four commodities between their values in the Base Case, which represents the US economy at the present time, and a fraction φi of the present value where φA = 0.2, φR = 0.3, φM = 0.1, and φT = 0.1; and that adjusts the energy overhead for each of the four sectors C, A, M, and, T between their values for the Base Case and a fraction ξi of the present value where ξC = 0.5, ξA = 0.1, ξM = 0.5, ξT = 0.1.

2a.     With an ERoEIo = 21 for a fossil-fuel economy, the conservation factor ψ is reduced until the energy budget in the Base Case has been reduced to Pimentel’s value for Maximum Renewables.

2b.     With an ERoEIo = 3 for a renewable-energy economy, the conservation factor has been reduced until the energy budget for the No-Commerce-No-Managers (NCNM) Case corresponding to the Natural Economy has been reduced to Maximum Renewables.

The final ERoEI calculations are done on Sheet 4 in the block spanned by DN48 and DR66.  The principal computations are in Columns GM through IV, the end of the spreadsheet.

http://dematerialism.net/Mark-II-Economy.xls  The fractions of gross income to each sector retained for salaries are equal.
http://dematerialism.net/Mark-II-Economy-CSP.xls   Constant sector population:  The percentage of the population associated with each sector remains constant throughout all computations.

Missing Components of ERoEI

Let us recall once more that, in a sustainable society, the store houses of natural resources with which the earth and our species are blessed must be retained at more or less steady-state accumulations.  The atmosphere and the land are natural resources as well as the repositories of iron and other metals, the nutrients in the soil, and the atmosphere itself.  This means air and water quality and the infrastructure of primary and recycle processes must be maintained.  Therefore, let us add to the list of energy expenses that must be met to achieve sustainability.  (In this work, feasibility and sustainability mean the same thing.)

1) Sequester carbon, in case fossil fuels are involved in the process - even if only in the start-up phase.  But, in the case of shale oil and gas, the energy costs of carbon sequestration that must be borne by the consumer should be added to the energy-invested term to calculate ERoEI.  Probably, under present-day economic conditions, this can be thought of as a tax, which should be levied.

2) Maintain storehouses of materials that are used to build and maintain the principal process and the secondary processes such a tax preparation, healthcare, etc.

3) Mothball process equipment at the end of its life and restore the plant site to the pristine conditions in which we found it.  Let us maintain Earth as a garden.

4) Desalinate sea water to replace the fresh water used and decontaminate such water as the process renders unfit to drink.

5) To the energy costs of 1 - 4, add the energy budgets of the employees and the appropriate pro-rata portions of those whose services must be charged to the process such as the  health services that keep the workers healthy.  If there are stockholders or venture capitalists who take profits from the process, an appropriate portion of their energy budgets must be charged to the energy-invested term (EI).  Recall that every item that adds to the (monetary) price the consumer must pay for the product has an associated energy cost.  Clearly, salaries, fees, profits, and taxes add to the price.  All computations of ERoEI and/or emergy must be carried out just as they would have been carried out if government subsidies had not existed.  Quite frankly government subsidies are not the best way to defeat market intransigence and they make  our job as analysts harder. Quite possibly there is an energy cost associated with subsidies that should be added to EI.

6) If there is an energy cost due to withdrawal of the land from other uses, it should be added to EI.  I am not quite certain how to calculate this term.  Perhaps the reader has some ideas.  If you do, please leave a comment.

Undoubtedly, additional energy costs that should be charged to the process will come up. Denis Frith renders a valuable service with his extreme skepticism inasmuch as most of his objections to the use of ERoEI suggest a new energy cost for which a methodology must be chosen or invented to meet.  Denis is never quite right; but, the ways in which he errs are not likely to play a role in a world that seems to be hell bent on destruction.  Most people are not interested in being absolutely correct theoretically when the bottom line (survival) is not affected.  Therefore, Denis may do a lot of good and only a little harm.

Here is Denis's latest round of objections to the general utility of ERoEI.  (If there is any repetition, well, Denis does tend to repeat himself.)

ERoEI in even the sound form that Tom has promoted does no more that provide a measure of the effectiveness of an energy supply process. It does not take into account

  1. whether the energy supplied is used for a useful purpose or otherwise. Is all the fuel used by cars serving a useful purpose?
  2. that the supply process produces waste material that has caused such deleterious consequences as climate change and the accumulation of stores of radioactive materials
  3. that the supply process irreversibly divests limited natural material resources, including fossil fuels and uranium

Denis Frith

Here are my comments on Denis’s three points listed below:

  1. This is not the business of the analyst and it should not be.  Can you imagine what most people would say if I told them that the energy they use to conduct their lives or businesses is wasted because I do not approve of what they are doing?
  2. This is included in the energy-invested term by including the cost of sequestration.  Even the loss of space to sequestration can be given an energy value by counting the insolation that might have been harvested but could not be because the space was otherwise occupied.
  3. If the process does consume material resources, the energy-invested term can be increased by the energy cost to recycle not consume, which is always possible except for an insignificant trace amount.  In some cases, this expense is unbearable and must be avoided by choosing different technology.
Tom Wayburn, HoustonTexas


Not all planned economies are the same.

We need to discuss central versus distributed planning - and fractal planning, whatever that is. Also, there is syndicalism and the out-sourcing of the fractal government's responsibilities to a  private collective of professional planners who can be fired and/or replaced.  Planned economies do not preclude private enterprise; that is, your collective of planners is completely independent of my collective of planners and each of us is free to bid for the honor of activation.  The point is that there are many ways to skin that cat and we should continue to imagine more ways. Just because something has never been done correctly in the past should not deter us from doing better.  

Also, I need to convince myself that distributed economic planning (or economic planning by consumer) can be done without corruption and without the expenditure of appreciable energy*.  Suppose, for example, that the economic planning for an eco-region could be accomplished by 20 scientific planners with a rather large computer.  I wonder how many employees the Bureau of Economic Analysis in Washington has.  That would be a tip-off because, in reality, an economic plan is always in place.  Read the description of consumer planning in http://dematerialism.net/wiki.htm#consumer_planning .

* The Bureau of Economic Analysis has 606 full-time employees, 565 full-time equivalent employees, and a budget of about $100 million.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Time Delay and Spatial Separation for ERoEI

I think I know how to treat time delays now. It strikes me as too arbitrary to piggy-back the time value of energy on the current time value of money. We would much rather use something with a physical basis that
would remain constant throughout most periods of interest. Suppose that the consumer of the Energy Returned has to wait 24 hours for the delivery even though he is obliged to consume energy constantly at the rate contracted for. The value of the Energy Invested over the life of the project should be increased by the value of the energy from the best available replacement technology adjusted by the appropriate transformity as discussed at http://www.dematerialism.net/ops.htm#_Toc173388355; however, the life of the project must be increased by one day. Suppose that a crucial part in an energy installation like an electric turbine generator is not available until one year after the time it was needed by the builder of a wind power
installation. The Energy Invested should be increased by the value of the substitute energy just as in the previous example with the life of the project extended by one year. Presumably, the energy cost per unit of energy recovered of the substitute technology exceeds the energy cost for the planned technology, which is why the new technology is contemplated provided they are both renewable. Other similar cases require similar consideration; however, nothing relieves the analyst from the intelligent and judicious application of the principles of his craft. The fundamental principle of dealing with all departures from ideality, such as intervals in space separating the locations where the energy is produced and consumed or emission of greenhouse gases, is adding all energy costs of such additional equipment as would restore ideality. It is clear that the energy embedded in any material that must be considered in any analysis can be computed properly by making as many adjustments as are required to the straightforward cost of production by the method of judicious substitutions.

Perhaps it is worth mentioning, especially to a person like yourself (Tom Robertson of Energy Resources) who is interested in treating the spatial domain of a given problem as an ecological system, that a numerical analyst lecturing at Rice University earlier this year had solved linear systems of equations from quantum
electrodynamics (QED) in an ordinary vector space (as opposed to a Hilbert Space) to the extent of 25 million equations in 25 million unknowns. So, we need not be especially daunted by systems ecology or the energy cost accounting of an alternative technology. However, it should be realized that these require lots of work by a large number of  energetic dedicated people. The corporate, mainstream academic, and big (centralized) government worlds don't seem terribly interested to help. If you know of any small decentralized government, you might ask them if they are interested. Probably, they have already transcended the impenetrable obstacles represented by market and growth economies. Try North Korea and

Monday, December 3, 2012

Why We Need a Planned Economy


The notion that a market economy is the only basis for human economy has been supported by a massive propaganda campaign of unprecedented scope.  It is taken as an article of faith by nearly every American that every planned economy must be accompanied by merciless tyranny with the Soviet Union cited normally as the principal example and proof.  Before I prove that market economies are unsustainable if not positively harmful and immoral, it might be worth mentioning that (i) no proof of the principal claims of market apologists has ever been offered and (ii) not every form of economic planning has been considered.  When the argument presented here has been assimilated, it is safe to say that it is incumbent upon those of us who understand the finiteness of the earth and the limits to growth to give serious thought to the problem of crafting a planned economy that does not suffer from the defects of past attempts to replace market economies.  

What I found instead at the Austin meeting of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) was religious faith in market economies and, in fact, widespread intention to profit in the marketplace because of a better understanding of fundamentals than most traders.  Whatever I said in support of ERoEI* as a tool to determine feasibility was studiously ignored, presumably because it showed that every energy technology considered by the ASPO is infeasible (unsustainable) in a market economy – but possibly because my personal attributes do not meet the requirements of the ASPO for speakers, namely, youth, physical attractiveness, imposing stature, and a large public presence.  It seems that my only (slim) hope to overcome the prescriptions for doom advocated by speakers at the Austin meeting is the internet.  I plan to enter this document in my new blog at http://eroei.blogspot.com/.

The late David Delaney gave the best explanation of why capitalism and, in turn, market economies in general require economic growth. “The Economic Growth Trap”, which can be found at http://www.dematerialism.net/economicgrowthtrap.htm, begins as follows:

Economic growth requires increasing the amount of high quality energy and materials degraded by the economy each year.  Economic growth on a finite planet will eventually stop.  If it does not exhaust the resources needed for its continuation, it will stop earlier for some other reason.  Allowing resource depletion and biosphere degradation to terminate economic growth will produce catastrophe.  Unfortunately, our dependence on economic growth makes it extremely unlikely that we will give it up voluntarily before the catastrophe.  Our dependence has at least four aspects: A) in the need to deal with adverse consequences of labor-reducing innovations, B) in commercial bank money, C) in the need to maintain tolerance of inequality, and D) in financial markets. more

Various manifestations of market economies can be contrived to avoid all of these except the need to maintain tolerance of inequality.  Indeed, any steady-state economy that permits any sort of resource dominance will eventually devolve to a class of rich people who have been adept at acquiring wealth and a much larger class of losers in the competition for wealth who are not much better off than feudal surfs.  In the wake of Peak Oil, it is not clear that the losers would not become victims of Die-Off.  Any attempt to mitigate this unstable situation will be perceived as economic planning.  If society waits until instabilities arise, most of us may not like the sort of economic planning that is forced upon them.  Serfs liberated by revolution might not treat their former masters charitably.

But, according to papers I have written in the past such as “Energy in a Natural Economy” furloughed managers and financiers might be accorded equal shares of the sustainable community dividend measured in energy units with perhaps the energy that they would have expended by virtue of their participation in the economy as employee, employer, investor, trader, or hustler subtracted from a useful worker’s share. Indeed, it is time for us to channel some of the considerable creativity we have demonstrated in market activities toward the design and implementation of sustainable planned economies in which democracy is retained, tyranny is avoided, population is maintained at or near the optimum, and the greatest happiness possible for nearly everyone is assured.  I continue to dream of Earth as a garden.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Comment on the Austin ASPO Conference


After yesterday's session, about which I will write a great deal later, I have only the following comment at this time, which is meant to be taken with a grain of salt; namely, at the next conference of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil USA, the leadership would do well to ban the use of the word "money", or  the terms "dollar", "yen", "Euro", "pound", "franc", "mark", "RMB", etc.  Let us discuss energy in terms of energy for a change. Let us abandon totally man-made fictions and deal exclusively with physical realities. I shall have a great deal more to say about the religious faith in market economies because given Peak Oil or the finiteness of natural resources, it is easy to see that market economies are a prescription for doom, but I didn't say that in this brief note.

Definition of Emergy


I have been asked to give a definition of the emergy unit.  I would like to do a little more and define emergy itself as well as emergy efficiency.  Further, I will give some examples as they apply to special cases.

Definition (Availability).  Availability (or available energy) is energy [enthalpy, H, or internal energy, U] corrected for entropy, S.  Rigorous definitions of the Gibbs availability function [H – ToS], the Helmholtz availability function [U - ToS], and entropy are given in Appendix I, Fundamentals of Thermodynamics, where the symbols and technical terms employed in this paragraph are explained.  [To is  the  temperature of the environment, usually taken to be the temperature of the coldest body of water or the atmosphere into which the waste heat of a heat engine can be discharged.  For Earth, 300 K will do.  The effect of entropy on the availability function of sunlight is to reduce it by the ratio of the temperature of Earth to the temperature of the Sun – a factor of  about 19/20.  Since the enthalpy of a proton is 4/3 times the energy, the Gibbs availability of sunlight is about 76/60 times the energy.]

Odum’s original definition of emergy.  Odum defined emergy, measured in emjoules, to be the Gibbs availability of the sunlight, measured in joules, required to produce, by an optimal process, (1) fuels; (2) other energy sources such as wind or fresh water in mountain lakes; (3) natural resources such as grass and trees, (4) manufactured objects, (5) human resources; (6) information; and (7) any other objects of economic interest that can be associated with an identifiable quantity of sunlight.  This is a sunlight-based emergy.  It leads to large numbers for the emergies of primary fuels that are known only approximately; therefore, we shall modify the definition slightly to give common industrial energy products emergies that are known precisely and that are close to 1.0 in magnitude.

Definition (Standard Electricity).  In this paper, single-phase, 60 Hz, 110-volt alternating current is taken to be standard electricity.

Definition (Emergy Unit).  My arbitrary – but well-defined – choice for one unit of emergy (1 MU) is 1.0 kilowatt-hours of standard electricity.  Although electrical current carries a small amount of entropy manifest in difference currents, for all practical purposes, that is, for engineering purposes, electricity is pure work.  The availability of electricity is equal to its energy; and, with this choice of emergy unit, the emergy of electrical current is numerically equal to its energy in kilowatt-hours.  The transformity of sunlight, wind, biomass, and other energy products will be less than – but close to – 1.0.

Definition (Transformity).  The transformity of a primary fuel is the number of kilowatt-hours of standard electricity one can obtain from 1 kWhr of the primary fuel by an efficient process, the tradition of reporting the availability of fuels in BTUs per pound or kilocalories per gram mole notwithstanding.  Any unit of energy can be converted to kilowatt-hours.  This is an electricity-based transformity, the units of which are emergy units per kilowatt-hour.

Definition (Emergy).  The embodied energy or emergy of a primary fuel is the Gibbs availability of the fuel in kilowatt-hours multiplied by the electricity-based transformity.  The emergy of anything else is the sum of all the emergy that went into producing it by an efficient process minus the emergies of any by-products formed.  The emergy of an activity is the average rate of expenditure of emergy times the time.  These definitions are easily extended to include the dependence of emergy on location and time.  The concept of nemergy or negative emergy can be introduced to aid in the discussion of environmental damage.

Definition (Emergy efficiency).  Emergy efficiency is emergy out divided by emergy in.  This efficiency is 1.0 for an optimal process because the emergy of the output is defined to be the emergy of the inputs.  For a less than optimal process, the emergy efficiency is the emergy of the inputs to an optimal process over the emergy of the inputs to the process under investigation.  Emergy efficiency lies between zero and one.
The transformity of any fuel can be determined by using it to generate standard electricity by an efficient process.  The most efficient process might be a fuel cell.  Therefore, the emergy of any fuel is the Gibbs availability of the fuel multiplied by the electricity-based transformity.

Balance Equations.  Sholto Maud suggested working out energy, availability, and emergy balance equations for simple extraction and conversion processes.  Writing balance equations for extraction and Type 1 conversion helped me to understand what must be included in the definition of emergy and what may not be included without encountering inconsistencies.  Many other people can improve their understandings by studying the balance equations discussed at http://www.dematerialism.net/Mark-II-Balance.html.

Extraction.  An example of extraction is the production of petroleum from the well to the refinery.  Extraction is discussed in http://www.dematerialism.net/Mark-II-EROI.html.

Type 1 Conversion.  The first type of conversion is the production of primary energy from energy supplied by Nature for which we do not compensate Nature.  This is a sustainable process provided the energy from Nature (natural energy) comes from a source that is continuously renewed by the Moon or by the Sun shining on the Earth.  The input to such a process includes other types of energy, material goods, transportation, labor, taxes, etc.  The output includes the principal product, one or more by-products, waste heat, and pollution.  Normally, pollution is not considered; however, the concept of nemergy (negative emergy) should be employed to account for pollution of every type even, for example, the extent to which animals are deprived of habitat by the mere existence of the energy production facility.  Examples of Type 1 conversion are the production of electricity by windpower and solar power.  The emergy balance equation for a Type 1 process will be discussed next:

Figure 1.  Emergy Balance for Type 1 Conversion

Let us define some symbols to be used in connection with Figure 1:

Table of symbols used in this discussion
Gibbs availability of fuel produced by process
electricity-based transformity of fuel produced
emergy of fuel produced by process = λR · ER
the algebraic sum of all of the emergy inputs (except for MN) minus the by-products
Gibbs availability of stream MI
ratio of EN per unit mass to ER per unit mass
Gibbs availability of energy from Nature = μ · (ER + EI)
the electricity-based transformity of the energy supplied by Nature
emergy of energy from Nature = λN · EN
Energy returned over energy invested minus 1 (ERoEI-1) = ER/EI = MR/MI
the Gibbs availability of primary energy in Type 2 conversions
the transformity of the primary energy source in Type 2 conversions
the emergy of the primary energy supply in Type 2 conversions

Each of the input emergies, except the emergy supplied by Nature, is to be transformed into a product-equivalent emergy.  Then, the emergy invested, MI, is imagined to have been produced by the same process that produced the fuel.  In this way, it will be apparent immediately if the process consumes more emergy than it produces.  All indirect energy expenses should be included in the MI term, in which case ERoEI-1 is a good measure of the effectiveness of the process.  (See http://www.dematerialism.net/Mark-II-EROI.html.)  [An example of an indirect cost is the pro-rata share of the commuting costs of the tax consultant (A) that should be charged to the worker (B) who maintains a windpower installation because the man (C) who serves B lunch had his taxes done by A.]

Then, since 


In the first approach, the transformity of the product is determined by the generation of standard electricity with a well-known efficient process and the transformity of the energy from Nature, whether it be from the tides, from biomass, from wind, from sunlight itself, or from some other natural source, is determined from the emergy balance.  Normally, this transformity is well established.  Therefore, two separate cases obtain:

Case 1.  If λN, the value we compute, is greater than λN*, the accepted value of the transformity of the natural energy, then we should report that our process is part of a more efficient route to standard electricity, and λN should be considered for a new value of the transformity of the energy supplied by Nature.
Case 2.  If λN is less than λN*, then our process is less efficient than the process that established the larger value and we must report an efficiency, η, for our process because we could have generated more emergy with the same quantity of natural energy if we had used the standard process.  The reader should remember that the energy from Nature is “free”, but the area of the solar collector or the size of the windmill is not.

In the second approach, the well-established value of the transformity of the energy supplied by Nature is accepted and the transformity of the product is computed from it.  Call it λR'.  If λR' is less than λR, the true value, we should revert to Case 1 and recalculate the transformity of the natural energy.  If λR' is greater than λR, then the efficiency is λR over λR'.  This is in agreement with Equation 2 above.
Let us imagine the process in the configuration illustrated by Figure 2. 

These results are worth deriving in a different way:

If a fuel the emergy of which is known is produced by the process under investigation and the sum of all of the emergy costs – both direct and indirect – that go into the process (computed with the true transformity λP*) minus the emergies of any useful by-products is greater than the algebraic sum of the emergy inputs for the process that determined the known emergy of the energy product, the process under investigation is sub-optimal and the efficiency, η, is

Figure 2.  Alternative Diagram for Type 1 Conversion

If the algebraic sum of the emergy inputs to a process minus the emergy supplied by Nature exceeds the emergy of the product, that is, if MI > MR, then the process is wasting energy resources.  This is the case for some alternative energy projects that seek venture capital, government subsidies, donations, or unwary buyers.  If they were not subsidized by fossil fuel, they would not work.
Type 2 Conversion.  The second type of conversion is the production of secondary energy from primary energy.  The production of hydrogen from methane or from electrolysis of water is an example of Type 2 conversion.  Figure 2 is the same as Figure 1 except that MP, the primary energy, is substituted for MN:

Figure 3.  Emergy Balance for Type 2 Conversion

In the first approach, the transformity of the product is determined by the generation of standard electricity by a well-known efficient process and the transformity of the primary energy is computed from the emergy balance equation just as we did in the case of a Type 1 conversion, mutatis mutandis:

Case 1.  If λP, the value we compute, is greater than λP*, the accepted value of the transformity of the primary energy, then we should report that our process is part of a more efficient route to standard electricity, and λP should be considered for a new value of the transformity of the primary energy.

Case 2.  If λP is less than λP*, then our process is less efficient than the process that established the larger value and we must report an efficiency, η, for our process because we could have generated more emergy with the same quantity of primary energy if we had used the standard process.

In the second approach, the well-established value of the transformity of the energy supplied by Nature is accepted and the transformity of the product is computed from it.  Call it λR'.  If λR' is less than λR, the true value, we should revert to Case 1 and recalculate the transformity of the natural energy.  If λR' is greater than λR, then the efficiency is λR over λR'.  This is in agreement with Equation 2 above.
Let us imagine the process in the configuration illustrated by Figure 2.

Type 3 Conversion.  The third type of conversion is the manufacture of non-energy goods.  The manufacturing process has inputs of energy, material goods, transportation, labor, taxes, etc., and outputs that include a principal product, one or more by-products, and waste heat.  This is best illustrated with a diagram such as Figure 4.

If a fuel the emergy of which is known is produced by the process under investigation and the sum of all of the emergy costs – both direct and indirect – that go into the process (computed with the true transformity λP*) minus the emergies of any useful by-products is greater than the algebraic sum of the emergy inputs for the process that determined the known emergy of the energy product, the process under investigation is sub-optimal and the efficiency, η, is

and, the transformity of the product we would compute from 

is higher than the true value λR.  The only justification for the process is that we cannot do without the product and there is no other way to get it, which is not the case when electricity is used to produce hot water (discussed below) since hot water can be produced with less emergy by burning fuel under normal circumstances.  Nevertheless, the process may be needed in extraordinary circumstances where the burning of fuel is prohibited, e. g., in a space capsule.

If the algebraic sum of the emergy inputs for the process under investigation is less than that of the older process, the transformity of the primary energy should be recalculated.  It may not be expedient to discontinue production by the older process immediately because of compelling reasons not to shut down the older facilities – not the least of which is the time delay before new facilities can be built.  The emergy efficiency of the older process is now less than 1.0.

Figure 4.  Emergy Balance for Manufacturing Process

Table of symbols for Figure 4
emergy of direct energy supplies
emergy of inputs of material, transportation, labor, taxes, etc.
emergy of principal product
emergy of by-product
emergy of waste heat stream

The emergy, MW, of the waste heat stream is its availability times the number of kilowatts of standard electricity that can be generated efficiently by one kilowatt-hour of waste heat.  The emergy of the sum total of all direct energy inputs to the process is determined in the usual way.  The emergy of the sum total of all non-energy inputs must be available from past studies or must be determined during the analysis.  It may include contributions from pollution etc. in which case negative emergy in the output is added to the input.  Unlike the case of energy production, the transformities of the inputs cannot be influenced by the process.  The emergy of the principal product and the by-product must equal the emergy of the inputs minus the emergy of the waste heat.  In the case of a principal product as the sole output, the determination is trivial.  However, when one or more by-products are present, the emergies of the by-products and the principal project must be apportioned in a canonical manner that should be determined by the analyst on a case-by-case basis.

If the emergy of a by-product is known in some other way, it may be appropriate to use the known value.  In a case where the emergies must be distributed equitably, the relation between market price, either instantaneous or averaged over time, and energy or emergy may be useful.  See “The Relation of Energy to Money”.  Thus, the emergy is apportioned according to market value.  This is a singular intrusion of money into the physical realm of emergy analysis and may not be advisable.  In a non-market economy, some combination of energy, labor, capital expenditures, product mass or heat of fusion (even) might be of use.  In any case, the sum of the emergies of the products must close the emergy balance.  The consumer may find it expedient to compare the emergy of any given product with the emergy of a comparable product to minimize his impact upon the environment.

Note.  ERoEI-1 is one less than the usual ERoEI which equals (MR + MI)/MI.  The reader should realize that the terms Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3 Conversion have no currency outside of this paper.

Houston, Texas
Friday, October 27, 2006