Friday, March 14, 2014

Follow the net energy

Energy comes to us from the sun, some is stored temporarily, all eventually dissipates. We capture and use it for life as it dissipates. It takes energy to capture and use energy. The ratio of useful energy to to the amount for capture and use is net energy.

In calculating net energy for fossil fuel, economists usually do not count all the costs. Many costs such as health damage, climate disruption, waste disposal, clean up, and resource depletion are ignored. It is likely that if the full costs of the Canada tarsands were calculated, we would find the net energy ratio to be less than 1. That means that we spend more energy than we get. Why do it? Because we want the energy in a liquid form.

The liquid fuel problem has us literally eating and riding on net energy that is not only lower than we thought, but at the same time falling due to increasing extraction costs.

A lot of so-called solutions are being offered. Most of them are attempts to pass the pain to the powerless, such as exporting pollution to poor areas, or cutting social spending and such. The goal of these is to preserve the current system as long as possible. We do not have time to waste on wrong solutions.

What are the characteristics of solutions take us in the right direction?

must be doable now
must reduce energy use or waste
must have the support and engagement of millions of people
must lead to a smaller human footprint on earth