Energy Bulletin

Energy Bulletin

Will quantum fusion save the day?

So let us imagine that in fact, such a limitless source of energy does exist. Does it actually solve all our energy problems? Because this is a real and interesting and important question – and one many people believe to be the case. In fact, I would argue that the reason we need to talk about this is that the assumption that something being possible solves the problem is incredibly pervasive even among well educated people who ought to know …  More »

Can renewable energy sustain consumer societies?

A new report has just been published which ought to provoke a Copernican revolution in dominant conceptions of renewable energy and of sustainability more generally. The message may not be one that environmentalists want to hear, but it is one that we …  More »

A History of the World, BRIC by BRIC

The multitrillion-dollar global question remains: Is the emergence of BRICS a signal that we have truly entered a new multipolar world? read more  More »

Seascape with methane plumes

In the wake of last week’s post, I’d meant to plunge straight into the next part of this sequence of posts and talk about the unraveling of American politics. Still, it’s worth remembering that the twilight of America’s global empire is merely …  More »

Flex-Fuel Humans

If you’re one of those humans who actually eats food, like I am, then a non-negligible part of your energy allocation goes into food production. As an approximate rule-of-thumb, each kilocalorie ingested by Americans consumes 10 kilocalories of fossil fuel energy to plant, fertilize, harvest, transport, and prepare….But much like household energy, we control what we stick in our mouths, and can make energy-conscious choices that result in substantial reductions of energy consumption. I now call myself a flexitarian, a …  More »

Deepwater what?

The Deepwater Horizon was all about peak oil. And climate change. And economic collapse. How soon we forget. read more  More »

America: The Price of Supremacy

A complex and self-justifying mythology has grown up around the process by which, during and after the Second World War, the United States made the transition from regional power to global empire. That sort of thing is common enough that it probably belongs on the short list of imperial obsessions—Rome had its imperial myth, as did Spain, Britain, and just about any other empire you care to think of—but the American version of it deserves close attention, because it obscures …  More »

Historic preservation vs. clean energy

Now, living with a family in my own house-castle, the only limitation to delving into energy efficiency is our budget (and of course, the kid’s willingness to turn off the lights. Except that our Edwardian townhouse also happens to be located in an off…  More »

Easing Off the Gas

The Do the Math blog series has built the case that physical growth cannot continue indefinitely; that fossil fuel availability will commence a decline this century—starting with petroleum; that alternative energy schemes constitute imperfect substitutes for fossil fuels; and has concluded that a very smart strategy for us to adopt is to slow down while we sort out the biggest transition humans have ever faced. The idea is to relieve pressure on the system, avoid the Energy Trap, and give …  More »

Commentary: The world is finite, isn’t it?

Yesterday I gave a presentation to a group of distinguished business leaders. In my presentation, I tried to show that the global rate of production of petroleum and the associated lease condensate is at an all-time high or a “peak” that at a greatly e…  More »

Let’s hear it for higher gasoline prices

Gas prices are on the rise again, which means the “man on the street” will complain to local news reporters about greedy oil companies and foreign cartels, and energy-illiterate pundits and politicians will cry for domestic drilling with wild aband…  More »

America: The Gasoline War

Like all other human activities, warfare depends on energy sources, and the Second World War was the first major war in history in which victory depended on access to petroleum, and in which the possibilities opened up by petroleum-burning internal combustion engines were exploited to the full. It could as well be called the Gasoline War — and its aftermath saw global power transferred to the United States, at that time the world’s largest producer of petroleum. How that happened, …  More »

Exponential Economist Meets Finite Physicist

Some while back, I found myself sitting next to an accomplished economics professor at a dinner event. Shortly after pleasantries, I said to him, “economic growth cannot continue indefinitely,” just to see where things would go. It was a lively and informative conversation. I was somewhat alarmed by the disconnect between economic theory and physical constraints—not for the first time, but here it was up-close and personal. Though my memory is not keen enough to recount our conversation verbatim, I …  More »

Should we care about the human future? If so, how much?

In virtually every institution in human society, we humans concern ourselves with the continuation of the species. We have children, we raise them in some sort of family, we educate them for the world of work and citizenship, and then we see them couple and start the cycle all over again. All the while we seek to defend ourselves from disease, violence, economic deprivation, in fact, anything that might cut short our lives or those of our children. It ought …  More »

Peak eggs: Hubbert and the Easter Bunny

Here is a little Easter post where I try to model the Easter Egg hunt as if it were the production of a mineral resource. A simple model based on system dynamics turns out to be equivalent to the Hubbert model of oil production. We can have “peak eggs” and the curve may also take the asymmetric shape of the “Seneca Peak.” So, even this simple model confirms what the Roman Philosopher told us long ago: that ruin is much …  More »
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