What Will the Renewable Future Look Like


Richard Heinberg asked    What Will the Renewable Future Look Like?               1/29/2015

Each American uses 96,000 KWH for
       Healthcare, education, food, housing, entertainment, transportation, recreation,and
              development of new technology and services.
Europeans use half that amount but get most of what Americans get.
       Let’s say 50,000 KWH makes a nice life.

There is a lot of waste. We throw away a lot of food, and non lasting products
       that could be built better, last longer. this would (cut back 50,000KWH 10-15%)
We could consolidate living space, production facilities, and localized food production
        to lower infrastructure and transport costs per person. (cut another 10-15%)

On the other hand, mining ever degraded ore will increase the energy cost of acquisition so high
       it will take less energy to recycle from our waste stream than mine and refine new ore.
The energy cost of maintaining access to material resources will increase per capita energy 20-30%

Similarly there are some gains in efficiency for using electric motors rather than internal combustion engines. I envision no cars or planes

So we are back, at 50,000 KWH per person in a first world, high tech, low conflict civilization.

Now let’s take at realistic long view of energy deliveries.

By 2100, there probably will not be much delivery of coal, oil, petroleum or uranium.
       Each will take so much energy to extract and refine that
              little to none will be left over to run civilization.

Solar thermal, solar photo-voltaic, wind, tidal, wave, and Geo thermal
       take so much infrastructure that after allocating their own energy
       to maintain it, there is little to none left over to run civilization.
              ( think of an all electric japan, running only on wind turbines
              completely cut off from he rest of the world)
These renewable energy sources are actually not energy sources.
       (or not at their present technology)

Of course, there are technological improvements, both in efficiencies and in new sources.
       liquid salt reactors, fusion, or something completely new (dilithium crystals)
       but it takes energy to develop, and build out these new production systems
       There is a good chance we will run out of present energy deliveries or stretch them too thin
       resulting in conflict which squanders the energy, resulting in civilization collapse.

This leaves hydro electric deliveries,
       we cannot build new dams with renewable energy but
              we can use delivery from the dams that are in place.
       The energy that is produced might be able to maintain delivery and
              support some number of people at 50,000 KWH.
       This delivery won’t last forever, so it is really not a sustainable system.
       The dam will silt up and the concrete will fatigue in 400 years. ( we will still have river run delivery)

But this path provides some type of sustainability for a developed and a developing civilization if
       we maintain our high tech development skills (ward off collapse)
       and find new energy sources or energy storage processes.

After looking at the hydro electric dams around the world, just maybe we can support 50 million people at 50,000 KWH per person.

This view of the future,
       demands that we get the population down to 50 million by 2100 and
       that we do it without squandering the remaining available fossil fuels in social conflict

These ideas are fleshed out in SKIL videos
(see front page of www.skil.org below) and SKIL Notes 80 -105.

I am in the process of writing a long SKIL note Called “Unwinding the human predicament”
which ties together the:
       elements of the predicament,
       behaviors that unwind it and
       ways of implementing the behaviors.

We should talk again.

Jack Alpert www.skil.org


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