Murray Grimwood, aka interest.co.nz commentator Power Down Kiwi, says NZ needs a strategic plan with all-party political support to achieve energy resilience

Murray Grimwood, aka interest.co.nz commentator Power Down Kiwi, says NZ needs a strategic plan with all-party political support to achieve energy resilience

By Murray Grimwood*

As usual this is a once-over-lightly treatise and as usual, I give a link to what I consider the best extra reading: This. It’s a user-friendly book, free-to-download in part or whole, from the late David MacKay FRS (then Regius Professor of Engineering, University of Cambridge). It covers every energy option from every angle in simple language; a must-read for politicians, planners and those preaching perpetual profit.

Alternatives?

All else being finite (current-technology nuclear included) – we will end up running on solar energy and solar derivatives (wind, hydro, tide, biomass). The first problem is that we have to use the existing to create the new – and the new has to be good enough to be able to perpetuate itself (the solar-powered Tesla factory being the best-known current example). And we need to do it fast – before the repercussions of using the old source, demand an increasing percentage of our time and effort.

The second problem is that nearly everything besides fossil fuels only does electricity (bio-fuels are the exception, but they compete with food for productive land and are currently only break-even in EROEI - Energy return on Energy Invested - terms). Charging, storing, discharging and transmission have always been the problems with electricity – it’s upside is that electric motors are near-perfectly efficient. So we’ll need to electrify everything we think we’ll do in the future.

There is the very real problem that future bets (debts – which you currently take on when building new infrastructure) may not be underwritten due to the lesser availability of future energy. The 2008 ‘readjustment’, counted in trillions of US dollars (called ‘lost’ but actually never underwritten) gives us a foretaste that the current system may not be able to ‘account’ for what we need. But the effort has to be made, irrespective of ‘budget’ projections, of ‘price comparisons’, of every financial – or fiscal – consideration. (Although it is inevitable that fitting into the new regime will change our financial – and fiscal – arrangements, probably beyond recognition).

Waiting for ‘the price to come down’ or judging ‘future savings’ using current ratios, are completely invalid in a dwindling energy-availability scenario. (A classic example is the pay-off time for solar panels – few of us apply an exponential increase in the future ‘price’ of energy when making the call to install. Taken to its conclusion, such a progression renders panels both priceless and unavailable – meaning they’re worth installing at any ‘price’, right now!).

Mind set

The mind set change required, can be seen in the difference between those who stay off-grid and those who try but fail. It’s a micro version of the attitudinal change we have to make in terms of population/consumption/planetary resources; you simply have to learn to live within a budget. In the off-grid case, it’s an energy budget. Interestingly, you end up working with – not against – nature. If the sun shines, you turn on the washing-machine (it’s also the best day for drying on the line, as a rule) and do your other load-demanding stuff. Interestingly too, you find that a simple system working below full capacity, serves better long-term than a tricked-up one being run full-noise. There are lessons there for building societal-sized renewable energy systems.

Can we ‘grow’ on renewables?

Sorry, growth (physical growth) on this planet is well into unsustainable territory now; irrespective of the energy question. It’s already an invalid goal.

To those arguing that there is seemingly-unlimited solar energy arriving on the planet daily, I agree. But it is all doing something already; ocean currents, wind, rain, food webs, biological cycles and reflecting back into space (without which we’d cook). We commandeer a surprising portion of it for ourselves, even now – the Canterbury Plains being a classic example. As with our avoidance of CO2 mitigation, we’ve avoided renewables because they don’t support ‘growth’ of net energy at the rate we have temporarily become accustomed to. (Please read your way through the linked book before disagreeing with this paragraph).

Maintain?

Can we maintain our current production/consumption economy on renewables? Um, no. Which, I argue, is why we haven’t. Their EROEI is maybe equivalent to tar-sands (hydro does better, excluding build) and they only do electricity – storage being the obvious supplementary question. There is a level we will be able to achieve, but it will be less than we’ve been used to.

Efficiencies, ‘productivity’, technology

A year ago, I was discussing the energy issue on a starlit tropical beach, trade winds sighing in the palms, my rowboat pulled up alongside my companion’s flash RIB. He suggested that technology was the answer. I looked at his outboard – fuel injected, computer-controlled CDI, precision-engineered, a vast technological improvement on an old Seagull. But just like the Seagull, if it ran out of fuel, it would stop. Proof – if my companion thought it through – that technology cannot be substituted for energy. Proof too, that the cognitive capacity of the human brain is gazumped by an empty tank. Every time.

What he had, was an efficient machine for turning fossil energy into forward motion; as near efficient as thermodynamics will let us get. But (as Jevons once pointed out conceptually) there are now millions of outboard motors where there were once hundreds – the net result is no energy saving.

Productivity gains, of course, are energy efficiencies. Whether that be a trend towards slave-labour, or towards eliminating waste in the conversion of energy to work, there are obvious limits – those who desire permanent percentage gains in productivity are soon destined for permanent disappointment (the anomalous rates of post-WW2 ‘gain’ have inexorably slowed and will not return).

 It requires a minimum of food energy to keep a slave alive and working. It requires a minimum of energy to raise ten tons to the top of the Rimutakas. These are immutable facts. Breed a more efficient slave by all means, flatten the Hill too – keeping track of the energy it takes to do so, of course…….

Future obligations

If we start from the POV (peak operating voltage) of our grandchildren in, say, 2100, we can assume they won’t want to be dealing with unmaintainable/obsolete infrastructure, or battling a warmer/stormier planet. They certainly won’t want to be addressing those things while relying solely on human labour, either. So sometime between now and then (using the fossil energy remaining while trying to stay below 2 degrees and attempting to redress the unmitigated degradation thus far) we have to give them a non-impactive energy system and a collection of infrastructure they can maintain with it. While leaving them no energy-requiring legacy of degradation or pollution, of course (as far as I can see, that last sentence rules out current-technology nuclear energy).

And we need to reiterate that the requirement is the requirement – regardless of profits, losses, growths or de-growths along the way. This morph just has to happen.

Applying logic

The usual first-world response to ‘We’ll have to shift to renewable energy’ is ‘Electric cars’. ‘Built using what energy, what materials, recycled to what extent and driving over what surface?’ Is my standard reply. Bitumen, for example, is made and laid using fossil fuels. You end up realizing that steel-on steel is the most energy-efficient way to roll, and that rail - electrified or bio-diesel/electric and two-way if possible – beats road every time. You end up realizing that carting 1-2 tons of metal around with you, usually to go no more than a few blocks, is a waste of energy. And of course, energy is going to ‘cost’ us more from here on – get used to it! We actually ‘value’ it far too cheaply.

Even if we applied all our discretionary energy at morphing to renewable energy, we’d be late. We probably have to discuss Nimbyism too – mea culpa rather than mea avoida. If you want your power, be prepared to see wind-turbines or solar panels (out-of-sight, out-of-mind is one of the reasons for the shortfall in current perceptions; we’ve simply lost sight of what our personal impacts are, via the supermarket shelf, the petrol bowser and the flush-button). And we need a strategic plan with all-party political support.

This country would run to a halt without fossil energy, would be in trouble feeding its city-folk shortly thereafter, and ‘market forces’ have proven incapable of effecting morphs ahead of disaster. We’re a long way from energy resilience and much of our infrastructure can best be described as ‘stranded assets in waiting’. Yet still we dither, still we buy SUVs, still our motorways clog nose-to-tail, still we exhaust, still we propose more of the problem as a solution to the problem.  

Timeframe?

That depends on socio-politics – war(s), pandemic possibilities, climate demands and financial/trading cohesion. My guess is that we have until 2030 at the very outside, to be capable of self-reliance as a New Zealand paddock stocked with five million head without external input (the biggest part of which is fossil energy). Of course, the energy demands of exporting, smelting and tourism would be missing from the ledger….. We have a big head-start in that 80% of our electricity is ‘renewable’, but (although politicians love to imply that the 80% is ‘of the total’) this is only 40% of our total energy use. Replacing (or triaging) the other 60%, particularly the portion applied to feeding ourselves, is the task ahead.

And, of course, digging up our own fossil resources has to be off the counter before we start. (a) they’re temporary, (b) some (deep offshore, Southland lignite) are so low in EROEI that they’re not worth the effort, and (c) there’s the CO2 problem. It’s not a stop-gap idea, it’s red herring. A selfish grasping at temporary straws.

Revelations (every good book should have ‘em)

Realising we were already late, I co-chaired a thing called Solar Action, a decade ago. Realising that powering-down would need demonstration, I’ve spent 16 very comfortable years on no more than 200 watts, often on much less. One of the more interesting revelations of valuing everything in energy terms, is that life gets cheaper! You need to do less ‘work’, you have more leisure – unsurprising given that your move was away from energy-poverty (slavery). You’re not much use to the produce more/consume more/trash more process, of course, but that era is well into injury time anyway – who cares?

Smart people have seen this coming for a while. Edison is reported to have said (to Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, in 1931): “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy – what a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until we run out of oil and coal before we tackle that”.  

It’ll be a near-run thing……..


*This is part 2 of a two part series. Here's part 1.
And
 Murray Grimwood's other recent articles for interest.co.nz can be seen herehere & here.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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"We actually ‘value’ it far too cheaply"

Indeed. A barrel of Oil at US100 say when it produces 10,000 hours human manual labour.... no contest.
But the problem is that all that the Debt that backs our wealth and runs our supply chains relies on this massive (under) valuation. Its where all the surplus come from to live like kings.

To transition is to forgo the surplus ... which given the leverage we have in place (based on forecast MORE energy surplus coming on stream...) collapses the value of debt/wealth. Its like asking doctors to now expect $15 minimum wage .... cant see any issues there...

Its a transition physics will make for us as noone is going to choose collapse.

Thanks PDK. Over the next decade I suspect this issue might be come more apparently for a larger cohort of people. Until then I think the powers that be will attempt to 'party on'.

Nice work. I have to chuckle though, because coincidentally it was announced that Paul Romer will receive the Nobel (Memorial) Prize in Economics.
Interestingly, although I doubt you realise, this article is actually an exercise in explaining the implications of Romer's endogenous growth theory - The need for economies to adapt in order to sustain economic growth. Those who don't - in this case failure to adapt to energy use dynamics, climate change, etc - will fail to grow.

I guess even PDK needs to use existing economic theory in order to explain his position ;)
Although I do think Romer would disagree with the article title.

Great links.

The whole article is a disjointed ramble - it starts with the premise that energy resources are finite without defining finite.

The UK alone has over 50,000 years of spent Uranium in storage that can be processed through current technology breeders to satisfy all current UK energy demands.

We have current technology Thorium breeders so multiply that many times over as Thorium is many times more plentiful in nature than Uranium.

I regard over a million years of known energy supplies as infinite for all reasonable debate.

Continues on with the EROIE nonsense which ignores the price variable.

POV or Peak Operating Voltage is totally meaningless.

Despite what he states - life in 2030 will be very like today. A few more electric cars, lots more Dreamliners and A350's flying many more passengers over many more kms and still burning the same old Jet blends as we do today with emissions very much higher.

Many more cars, trucks on the roads driven by simple population growth again with higher emissions than today.

Take a look at US Air Traffic on Thanksgiving day: https://www.flixxy.com/us-thanksgiving-airspace-timelapse-2013.htm?utm_s...

When reality strikes - the dreamers are going to find that reducing emissions is just not achievable in a modern world. Half the world's coal is consumed in steel manufacturing and there is no substitute - nor for Aluminium smelters. Yet we never hear how this is to be addressed.

When we look at the facts assembled independently using satellite technology that measures global atmospheric temperatures - we see that they have not increased for over 20 years and on current trends will not have increased for over 40 years quite soon.

Satellite record of global atmospheric temperatures at: http://www.drroyspencer.com/latest-global-temperatures/

The recent IPPC report states temperatures have risen ~1º since the start of the industrial age - quite correct - but a gross distortion when we know full well that this marked the end of the little ice age when temperatures fell by ~ 1º from the medieval warm period around 1300.

With sunspot activity at very low levels as experienced in the well documented Maunder and Dalton minimums we are soon very likely to see much colder temperatures returning.

Eventually this whole warming and renewable energy cult will be exposed for what it is.

Just be patient !

And I’m sure fusion will probably be solved somewhere in the next million years while we are using up all the thorium.

You mean 'whole' - and try and read it properly please. You need to address the residual legacy issue - as the 'ramble' made clear.

But we're past the denial stuff, thanks. The rest of us have moved on.

What is the residual legacy issue?

From someone who has visited the French nuclear long term storage plant which occupies about 2 football fields with no radiation detected on the surface - he states the waste for a family for a generation is about equal to one fingernail.

Doesn't seem an insurmountable problem to me.

The French left their power generation to engineers - not politicians or a butt ignorant voting public - very few who could even define an isotope, a half life or a decay chain !

I think the river in Indonesia recently pictured in Reuters disgorging 2000 tons of plastic waste a day would seem a more immediate problem to me.

"The Nuclear Navy has logged over 5,400 reactor years of accident-free operations and travelled over 130 million miles on nuclear energy."
https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2014/10/28/americas-navy-the-uns...

I look forward to your persuading the Greens and Labour that nuclear is good. I'm persuaded but I think we would have a better chance of getting our PM to sell her child.

Well the lady did say climate change was her nuclear moment!

I suspect you have never been in the military, so have no concept of the difference between maintenance in comparison to that in a commercial environment.

For someone trying to claim the high ground you have a remarkable lack of understanding of mathematics and physics. You are publishing energy figures in years, which is more meaningless than anything you claim of PDK. You clearly don't have a clue about the concept of exponential growth do you?

"The UK alone has over 50,000 years of spent Uranium in storage that can be processed through current technology breeders to satisfy all current UK energy demands."

Really? They can run their cars/tractors/trucks on this currently? Why do they bother importing energy then?
Or are you overlooking certain missing (prohibitive) Infrastructure & COST ?

You dont run out of possible energy sources. You run out of NET energy to support exponential growth. Which eventually will collapse debt.

Okay,

When I was in secondary school we watched a video in science and it told us that the stuff in lightbulbs would run out and the world would live in darkness. I forget the apocalyptic date but it was passed long ago. Even if it had run out, we’ve moved on to LED.

But I’m not hear to argue that fossil fuels will last forever.

Technology will save us. If there is enough energy coming from the sun, and there is, it’s just a question of getting good enough to build solar panels and batteries.

Now, solar panels and batteries are on a rapid improvement curve and this only accounts for evolutionary changes in design not revolutionary changes in design. Who is to say we won’t be harnessing solar through biology rather than machinery by 2100?

The author frets about oil running out. But oil will not run out, we will stop using oil. This is happening to coal. Nobody has banned coal and there is plenty of coal left, but talk to a coal miner about their prognosis. So there will be plenty of oil left for plastic and bitumen when the cars are all electric. And one day we will create a better solution for those two.

I’ve been seeing the apocalyptic predictions about 1.5 degrees. We all need to step back and see the path away from fossil fuels. If we get the cars electric that goes a long way. Get the power plants green and that goes further. The important thing is the innovation continues. Trump has screwed that up a bit but India and China and Europe are moving forward. It will happen and we will live in an age of abundance not this era of scarcity.

How much of the natural environment and other species are you prepared to sacrifice until your technological utopia saves us and the planet?

I don’t know that I was proposing sacrificing any of it. I was presenting optimistic view of technological progress.

In my experience there are two types of people. Those who are pessimistic about the future of the environment and those who are optimistic. Strangely they both seem to use the same amount of fossil fuels.

You may be right or not. Look at the performance of steam engines - starting at less than 1% conversion of heat into pumping action and evolving to be efficient enough and light enough to be put on wheels - took over 100 years - and the railway age was born. The Rainhill trials which started rail travel had a horse drawn wagon as one of the competitors and then technological innovation took off and those engines went faster and faster - starting a little faster than a running horse they reached 80mph within about 20 years. 70 years later they manged 120mph and that is where they stuck. Until a replacement for steam was found.
You cannot be certain of technological advances; efficiency savings get smaller and smaller - the jet airliners of my childhood were little slower than the latest dreamliner.

You cannot be certain of technological advances; efficiency savings get smaller and smaller - the jet airliners of my childhood were little slower than the latest dreamliner.

Ahhh...What?
Because they are "little slower" they aren't comparable in efficiency?
I'm sorry, but that is a terrible comparison to make your point. The Dreamliner is so hugely more efficient than things "from your day", it's almost a joke.

The 1950's Comet had over 100 passengers. A big modern plane maybe 800 and I'm guessing using less fuel. An increase of 8 fold in 50 years is very unimpressive when the world's population has tripled and those chosing to fly maybe a thousand fold.. I'm more impressed by increases in rice yields over the same period - from India having major starvation to India exporting rice however the same point about diminishing returns.

Yea. Another poor example.
The point isn't to develop one aircraft that can carry 100,000 passengers. The point of technological advancement is to be able to satisfy the demand of 100,000 passengers.

Also Dreamliners are notoriously good at staying in the sky.. The comet became quite good at the opposite after a few years of flying.
So in terms of safety, modern airplanes are hugely superior in that regard, also.

We need to think more broadly about transportation so high speed rail and the potential of the hyper loop are relevant here. If the author above is correct and oil becomes increasingly expensive then that will create innovation pressure towards alternatives that are more energy efficient. Given the lack of such pressure it’s no surprise that there has been limited innovation.

Say double the price of fossil fuel and double the efficiency of the transport (car, bus, train, plane) - not too difficult. Then try doing it again - well it gets impossible because there is an upper limit for energy conversion. You can persuade people to stop using cars and start using buses. However although it isn't difficult to imagine a society where almost everyone uses public transport and personal vehicles are rare (that would be say 1920's) it is a dramatically different society to today.
New modes of transport such as hyper loop will still be converting some form of energy into physically moving people from place to place.

It doesn’t need to be that efficient. The main thing is to move transport from planes to hyperloop where possible then power the hyperloop using solar. If that makes economic sense you can cut out a massive amount of air (and car) travel. If oil prices were $150-$200 per barrel I imagine the economics of the hyperloop would be amazing even without further gains in solar efficiency.

Proven oil reserves have tripled since 1980 so don't bank on oil doubling in price.
"Global proved oil reserves in 2017 fell slightly by 0.5 billion barrels (-0.03%) to 1696.6 billion barrels, which would be sufficient to meet 50.2 years of global production at 2017 levels".

With a view to dealing with climate change you might try and simulate a doubling of oil prices. Not over night but perhaps over a couple of decades.

Edit: I mean using taxes.

You shouldn't conflate reserves with production rate. If you can't get the oil out fast enough because it's difficult or there's constraints then large reserves become a moot point, I see after all these years you still haven't wrapped your head around this important concept.

Just look at the Permian, it currently can't produce more because the rate is limited by bottlenecks despite large reserves of oil being in the ground.

Likewise Pluto you shouldn't conflate reserves with proven reserves. Don't fret about the Permian - it is victim of its own success and the doers out there are on it. The Permian production rates have been phenomenal - you couldn't have chosen a worse example in the history of oil production. "Over the past five years, the increase in Permian crude oil production has been more than three times the rate of all the rest of the U.S. put together, and the Permian will continue to dominate U.S. production growth.

The addition of five major greenfield crude oil pipes plus a host of expansion projects could bring Permian takeaway capacity up to 8.0 MMb/d from only 3.3 MMb/d today, with almost all of the incremental barrels destined for export markets. It’s a similar story for natural gas, with seven new pipes in the works to bring 2.0 Bcf/d each to Corpus Christi, Houston, or Louisiana, again with most of the molecules targeting exports. Not to be left behind, at least 27 new Permian gas processing plants are in development, and five new pipeline projects could bring 1.6 MMb/d of y-grade NGLs to the Gulf Coast."

Nah, it's actually a perfect example because it's production growth is currently stymied until pipeline constraints are addressed. The point was to illustrate other factors besides reserves matter: geopolitical, infrastructure, quality of source rock etc.

Tar sands and the Orinoco belt have massive reserves which would last for an extremely long time but I doubt we'll ever be seeing them producing at high daily volume due to the above constraints. Heck, I'm sure there will still be fossil fuel reserves 200 years from now, I just doubt we're going to extract them at the current rate and in the end that's the most important thing - can't use them if you can't get them out fast enough.

Anyway, why has oil price been increasing so much with all these reserves you speak of!? It's almost like it's not being produced fast enough to lower it's price?!

Yes Pluto other factors matter - that's why I quote proven reserves (which take into account infrastructure costs, quality of source rock etc.) not reserves. Geopolitical factors are added to the complexity and are having a much bigger impact on current price than strawman Permian pipeline capacity.

10 year futures at sitting at $59 not $159 so PDK will be sitting on fortune in the futures market.

Personally I think the USA may end up producing 2-3 million more bpd before they peak but I'm not as convinced that the rest of the world can keep production up during this time. I personally believe the futures market is very optimistic but maybe we'll have to revisit things in a few years time and see where the chips have fallen.

Well, unless we are prepared to reduce our footprint right now, then many, many species are in danger of not being here when my and maybe your grandchildren are grown. That, I find, deeply, deeply saddening, I can't pretend otherwise.

True, True, True.

I think technology will probably be the saviour, but I do not think it can be for more and more of us, in fact, I think it can be the thing that makes it possible for us to reduce our numbers on the planet, because regardless of tech, we still need a fair amount of land each from which our food must come, we need water and we need to do something with our waste.

Vertical farming is quite interesting. The possibility of doing agriculture vertically, in cities and in close proximity to consumers is exciting.

And how do you propose to get natural bio-diversity and all the organisms in healthy natural ground in the air?

I don’t. Vertical farming is for farming. But if you are growing crops vertically it frees up land that can be returned to native bush or whatever. And it reduces the energy used for transportation since vertical farms will be closer to consumers. And the food will be fresher - potentially even harvested for the consumer.

It's going to be pretty short of a few trace elements, minerals and such, I would think. You are describing a pretty fake existence aren't you really? It sounds pretty awful really, would you like to live like that?

Here is a short (3 minute) video explaining how it works. Uses 95% less water, no pesticides or herbicedes. And as I said, grown in cities so less transport emissions.

Edit: I forgot the link https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-_tvJtUHnmU

You can’t complain about the environment and then demand everything be produced the way it’s always been. Unless you want to go with a Thanos strategy of course....

There are other options of course, mainly a much lowered birth rate but if it's genocide you seek, watch the space that is Brazil, but to sentence the human race (or at least that part of it that can afford) a completely fake existence just so we can keep increasing our numbers just seems just crazy.
I believe there is much strife to come in the world before we settle on which way it will be, billions more of us living a plastic existence or a life more "grounded" for a reduced number of us.

I think technology will probably be the saviour too. For example fission or decoding the secret of chlorophyll and delivering high efficient incredibly cheap electricity. Efficiency improvements are welcome but limited and swamped by endless population growth.
This month it was announced that for the first time ever over half the world is middle class. That massive growth of the middle class in developing countries makes Murray's predicted disaster almost certain. Time to read beyond page 2 of his link.

As technology supersedes the human worker how will people be able to access whatever resource there might be.
And imagine a world where people have to live hundreds of storeys in the air, their feet perhaps never touching the earth, people who could live their entire life never being able to eat an orange picked straight from the tree. You know, there is nothing much worse that I could think of.

Don't think I can persuade you to buy my apartment in Hobson st. It is top floor.

When hell freezes over. I am the sort when I see things like "the Greens will have us back riding horses", I think "oh, if only". When I was a kid, we nearly all could ride a horse, now very few barely know one end from the other.

Ah the good old days when horses used 40% of agricultural land and we could fret about the impending horse dung crisis and what sort of world we were leaving our grandchildren. Bit of a lesson there for the hand wringing/we know best section of society.

"This problem came to a head when in 1894, The Times newspaper predicted… “In 50 years, every street in London will be buried under nine feet of manure.”

This became known as the ‘Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894’."
https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofBritain/Great-Horse-Manur...

I just have always loved horses and know how positive an effect they can have on people "There is something about the outsides of a horse that is good for the insides of a man".

Great link that will keep me busy for a long time. There is a theory that Polynesians reached a large remote landmass covered in large fat docile birds full of protein and they ate them and the human population grew exponentially until the last bird was eaten and the solution to a protein shortage was warfare and cannibalism. At a similar period they reached Easter Island set in an ocean of protein sources that only needed canoes to capture. All went well and a complex rich culture evolved until they cut down the last tree and couldn't make any more fishing boats. Their society collapsed. We couldn't be that stupid could we?

dp

Good work Murray, keep it coming and maybe some of the denser ones will get it. Don't hold your breath though.

Not with the amount of 'magical thinking' that is apparently going on in a lot of people.

The answer lies somewhere between doing nothing and being so radical its stupid. My thought is that like steam energy and a few other technologies that underpinned the industrial revolution they will take some time to appear and refine then be deployed. I should point out that if people are concerned at mankinds propensity for material greed and environmental recklessness I think we should all be equally concerned at mankinds propensity for time greed and poor decision making. Who says all the change has to happen in such a compact timeframe? Wheres the proof? Why can't it happen over a longer time frame instead? In a mad rush we might genuinely come off the tracks! Time will tell.

Q: Can we ‘grow’ on renewables? A: Sorry, growth (physical growth) on this planet is well into unsustainable territory now; irrespective of the energy question. It’s already an invalid goal.

Only by answering in constrained limited terms can anyone argue that growth is impossible. We have not been constrained to this planet for more than 70 years, we stand at the cusp of virtually limitless growth. Only about 1 billionth of our solar energy hits planet Earth, the answer is to strive for more energy by reaching out.