* 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.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Special Characteristics [of a monetary system] Needed to Avoid Economic Collapse

This has appeared as part of two previous posts; but, it probably deserves a post of its own.

Our crisis has a physical component and an imaginary component. The physical
component comes from limitations in the quantities of land, water,
consumable energy, and the environment itself. The ecological footprint of
the human race exceeds the carrying capacity of Earth. The imaginary
component is instability in the monetary system caused by excessive debt and
excessive monetary inequality. To ameliorate the physical crisis we must
eliminate the imaginary one. I do not mean that indebtedness, poverty, and
wealth are imaginary; but, rather, that we can eliminate all three with the
application of our imaginations without affecting the physical universe.
Stabilizing our population and reducing our ecological footprint will
ultimately have a desirable effect upon the universe.

Regardless of what the people want, the owners of the country want to retain
their positions of power, privilege, and wealth. Naturally, they despise the
idea of government control of the economy and the means of production;
however, when a crisis arises that they cannot handle, they readily accede
to crisis socialism to save them. During World War II, without adopting
socialism completely, they allowed rationing, wage and price control, and
management of vital industries by government employees even if they were
paid only one dollar per year.

To respond appropriately to resource and environmental limits, we need to
establish crisis socialism. However, to eliminate debt, we need to repudiate
the US dollar; and, to eliminate inequality, we need to pay everyone the
same even if no work can be found for them to replace the inessential work
from which they were furloughed to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels
and our ecological footprint. After all, the requirement that every citizen
does useful work to get paid and the requirement that the pay should be
commensurate with the value of the work are completely imaginary. The idea
that everyone should be allowed to get as much money as he can is completely
wrong. (One of the reasons Dematerialism is right and everything else is
wrong is that any society in which it is possible for one person to acquire
more wealth than another is doomed.)

Wealth sharing is necessary and philosophically correct.

The first characteristic of the natural political economy as envisioned by this author was stated as follows in http://dematerialism.wikispaces.com/:  (Note that Proviso (b) (below) ensures that wealth sharing does not lead to population growth.) 

1. A give-away economy with no monetary system. Each economic actor¹ notifies directly the enterprises that supply his genuine needs, which, in turn, tell him when the item or items can be picked up or will be delivered depending upon which mode has the lower emergy costs. Clearly, delivery syndicates will need to minimize emergy by solving optimization problems – possibly of combinatorial complexity – by computer, if computers are available in the wake of Peak Oil. Otherwise, emergy consumption is not likely to be minimized, although it may be acceptably low. Being too poor to afford a computer for each economic actor is another case of the poor communities getting poorer; but, even in the worst case, it will not be accompanied by the rich getting richer to exacerbate the situation. These enterprises also report the emergy values of the item or items to each economic actor and to a public servant if the community deems this necessary until people have learned the lesson of minimizing their consumption. Thus, the economy is consumer-planned subject only to the consumer's responsibility (a) to use no more than 1/Nth of the total sustainable dividend of the economy (measured in emergy units) where N is the number of consumers and (b) to reproduce himself only, to pass on his reproductive rights to another, or not to reproduce. Life can be made discouragingly difficult for cheaters.

Nearly every progressive visionary includes some proivision in his plan for those in society who are unable to care for themselves.  Normally, though, this type of charity assumes that those who cannot do better for themselves deserve no more than the minimum stipend, which is assumed to permit bare survival.  Two comments on this follow:

1.  In the post-Peak Oil world, the minimum for survival is likely to to be the maximum possible equal share or very close to it.  (If there should not be enough survival shares to go around, we expect that those who are not capable will be the first to perish.)

2.  Although the world has evolved into a place where certain types of creatures are better adapted to survive and/or thrive, this is an artifact of evolution and not inherently fair or moral.  If the class of people who are most capable of doing so impose their will upon the others, this is not a moral choice and may not be defended philosophically.  To assume otherwise, requires the world to have evolved under the direction of a divine (moral) intelligence, which is nonsense.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Letter to Pedro A. Prieto for the Energy Resources Yahoo Group (including Denis Frith and Kermit Schlansker)

Hello Pedro,  (attention Denis and Kermit)

You wrote: “One of the most striking discoveries of this study was to realize that about 2/3 of the energy inputs were due to factors other than those usually considered in the conventional EROI or EPBT analyses that we gave for good at about 8-9:1”.

I want to be absolutely certain that “two-thirds of the energy inputs [measured in BTUs rather than counted like items in a list] were due to factors other than those usually considered in the conventional EROI or EPBT analyses” [that amount to about one-eighth or one-ninth of the total energy produced by the solar installation under investigation]. 

Perhaps, I had better mention to you the criticism of EROI (ERoEI) by Denis Frith in this forum.   I am interested in what your response might have been.  I know I have been critical of you and Charlie in the past; but, I have been defending all of us in an on-going debate with Denis who completely denies the usefulness of net energy measurements.  Here is my draft of a post I will try to finish speedily because of the late hour:

Denis again makes himself useful with the following comment:  (By the way, Kermit, notice that our on-going “debate” does have useful consequences.) 

As usual, Tom has an unfounded belief in recycling of materials. He does not take into account the fact that when the time comes to replace the system the supply of materials will be greatly depleted. He claims that it would not be a problem for a thousand years! He, of course, ignores the impact of friction because it spoils his delusion. He again says I am wrong yet he quotes ERoEI* >1 after saying if First Solar can capture the solar energy without hurting wild life. That is a provision not included in ERoEI*. [italics mine]  He leaves out consideration of other practical factors such as the fertile soil that is not longer able to be used for food production.

So now we have had another rant of Tom with his fallacious comments. I still look forward to sound comments from some one.


[Note added to this blog:  Notice that Denis begs the question routinely.  I don't think he knows this is a logical fallacy.]

----- Original Message -----
From: twayburn@att.net
Sent: 02/25/14 03:55 AM
To: energyresources@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Re: [energyresources] Solar Fall-out

I, too, think that First Solar should find a way to capture solar energy without hurting wildlife; but, if they had already managed to do this; and, if they had a process with ERoEI* <http://eroei.blogspot.com/> greater than 1.0, then Denis's comment would be wrong and extremely harmful. If ERoEI* were greater than 1.0, First Solar would have found a way to rebuild their installation repeatedly with only a very small stockpile of materials that could be replenished with part of the net energy returned. They could take care of Denis's other objections as well. Of course, they would begin operations with a large deficit because much of the energy cost of building the installation must be paid before a single BTU is returned; therefore, the problems would be at the beginning - not during maintenance or when it comes time to replace the aging installation. The materials of construction do not disappear with age except in such small amounts as to be unimportant for the first thousand years. They must find someone who will lend them energy to get started with. This initial loan could be paid back with interest.

Tom Wayburn, BS chemical engineering, MS mathematics, PhD chemical engineering

I need to state specifically how ERoEI* takes care of wildlife.  From http://eroei.blogspot.com/ :   

An energy technology is sustainable if and only if ERoEI* (E-R-O-E-I star) is no less than 1.0.  An entire society is sustainable if and only if the compound ERoEI* of its entire mix of energy technologies is no less than 1.0.   Early on, recognizing that a community can persist for quite a long time if most of the characteristics of ERoEI* are satisfied, we considered quasi-sustainability; that is, during a transition period between fossil fuels and renewable energy, we must tolerate some slight environmental destruction and diminution of our storehouses of essential natural resources because of the large proportion of the energy investment for most renewable energy technologies that must be paid before any energy is returned.

I think it might be useful to define "feasibility" as something different from sustainability.  For example, we might say that a renewable energy is feasible if no more characteristics of ERoEI* are relaxed than are consistent with the community standards and laws of the land currently.

Early on, I defined sustainability in terms of the phase space for the Earth: “When all is sustainable, the phase-space trajectory of the environment will be required to be periodic and close to the expected natural trajectory, that is, the trajectory we might expect without human influence. Moreover, the steady state of our population and our economy must be matched by the steady state of our storehouses of natural resources” [by which I mean the “natural resources that the process uses”.]   The requirement of periodicity is perhaps inappropriate.

However, the second of the three notes that precedes the thought experiment by which the principal energy inputs are defined [http://eroei.net/eroeistar.htm] states:

·        The price of energy should reflect the cost of preventing or repairing any changes to the environment that diminish the quality of life of mankind and other species or that compromise the sustainability of the relevant ecosystems including the magnitude of the storehouses of natural resources.  The quality of life depends upon aesthetics as well as pure material circumstances.

I have no idea what would make this clearer.

The methodology I favor accounts for most externalities by adding the computed energy cost of preventing undesirable and ensuring desirable outcomes.  For example, the incremental energy cost of building a solar installation so that animals in its environment are not harmed is added to the EI (energy-invested) term.  Since ERoEI pertains to the delivery of energy when and where it is wanted, the ratio for a location remote from the energy production facility under investigation has its EI incremented by the cost of the infrastructure necessary to so deliver it; and, if the delivery of the energy is delayed, the cost of delivering the most suitable substitute energy product is added to the EI term (while taking appropriate credit for it in the ER term).

Best regards to you and Charlie – I am counting on you.

P.S.  I have not discussed at least two of Denis's objections.  (If you can get past his insults and his habit of begging the question - in this case by referring to my comments as "fallaceous", which would be the conclusion of a valid argument to determine which of us is correct rather than the beginning of a new argument, Denis's objections are useful.)  

1.  Preserving and using soil nutrients:  Suppose the installation  is to be installed on a concrete pad.   The preparations for the foundation of the pad should include shoveling the soil to appropriate garden spots in and among the portions of the plant site borrowed by the technology.  This is consistent with multiple uses of the site for solar power, a garden, and a wildlife refuge.  

2.  Friction does not generally remove much material but whatever is removed can be filtered from used lubricants before the lubricants themselves are recycled.  This is a stationary solar collector; therefore, the recycling is particularly easy, as the cooperation of consumers is unnecessary except with respect to that part of the delivery mechanism that enters the user's space.  One way in which technological progress could manifest itself in a steady-state or shrinking economy is by permitting each successive generation of solar collection equipment to harvest the same net energy with less massive equipment thus reducing the amount that needs to be recovered somewhat, say from 99% to only 95%, provided the losses are not otherwise harmful.  Remember, unlike energy efficiency which is bounded away from 100% by the hard Carnot limit, material recovery can be as close to 100% as we are willing to expend the energy for. 

As in all the previous cases, even if the process does not realize sustainability, ERoEI* should be computed as though it did; that is, by adding the computed cost of doing these things to the energy-invested term.