Thursday, May 15, 2014

What is net energy and why is it falling?

Net energy is the amount of energy that can be put to use from a system. For example, oil is found, pumped, transported, refined, and burned. You can see that a lot of energy was invested before the benefit is reaped. When that net energy is less that 1:1, that means you are spending more energy than you are getting.

The problem with transport energy is that it must be liquid because trillions of dollars have already been invested in the system that uses it. So, even if the net is a loss, we still pursue liquid fuel. The tarsands are a good example. Some economists say that the net energy of tarsands is greater than 1:1. But they do not include the following:

  • clean up costs of toxic waste
  • loss of forest
  • cancer
  • greenhouse gas emissions during extraction
  • cost of train derailments
  • carcinogens leaking into rivers

If these costs were in included, then tarsands would be a net LOSER in energy.

Tarsands are an extreme example.  Many energy sources in general are not as generous as they seem. And to make matters worse, humans, at current growth rates, will cook the biosphere (100C/212F degrees) in 400 years NO MATTER WHAT WE BURN.

Solution - Degrowth. How to get there? Make cities carfree. Urbanization will drop birthrates. Waiting for collapse is not acceptable.