Thursday, July 7, 2016

Falling net-energy means unpayable debt is due

Our Finite World: "My analysis has as its premise that the economy behaves like other physical systems. It needs energy–and, in fact, growing energy–to operate. If the system does not get the energy it needs, it “rebalances” in a way that may not be to our liking."
Net-energy is the number of joules converted to useful work minus joules spent. For example, with oil, if X is energy spent finding, drilling, pumping, transporting, refining, distributing, and burning and Y is coming out in motion of a vehicle net-energy is Y - X.

But considering the overall needs of humans, X underestimated and Y overestimated. For one thing Y is usually the energy to move a vehicle. The actual moving of a person is a lot less.

Every day X increases for most energy sources. This is an acute problem with oil which supplies fixed systems that require liquid fuel. The cost of converting these systems is too much.

There are many other factors which if properly calculated for humans would decrease Y and increase X. For example, the costs of carbon emissions, a problem for human life, are generally not included in X. 

In addition, because of human financial systems, through debt, joules of Y have been borrowed from the future, so Y will be dropping to pay them back.

Humans will be using less energy, but how painful will it be? The fastest and least painful is dropping birth rates, canceling debt, and stopping growth. By making cities car-free we can speed up two of these.