sign uplog in
Want to go ad-free? Find out how, here.

Long-time commenter Murray Grimwood (aka Power Down Kiwi) on the energy returns on energy invested, why we don't want to believe in Peak Oil and climate change, and more

Long-time commenter Murray Grimwood (aka Power Down Kiwi) on the energy returns on energy invested, why we don't want to believe in Peak Oil and climate change, and more

This week’s Top 5 is from energy-savvy long-time commenter Murray Grimwood, aka Power Down Kiwi.

As always, we welcome your additions in the comments below or via email to

And if you're interested in contributing the occasional Top 10 yourself, contact

See all previous Top 5s here.

Being a long-time visitor hereabouts, I decided to offer the old-fashioned 10, the way it was before marketplace rationalities reduced it to 5. So they’re half price each – a bargain.

1. Understanding Energy Return on Energy Invested

What we call ‘the economy’, is actually a sub-set of a linear energy/materials flow. We miss this by choosing to account using a formula which calls things ‘externalities’. Here’s Dr Susan Krumdiek, nailing the problem. If you only watch one thing in the list, this is the one to go for (especially if you work for Treasury or the RBNZ). I was the weak link in a debating team with her about a decade ago – we’re going to need engineers like her (see 9 below for an amazing other) as we effect the biggest change the human race has attempted.

2. Energy return on investment, peak oil, and the end of economic growth

Here’s a cogent version from slightly earlier: The only beef I have with it, is the assumption that oil will get ever-more expensive. I thought that once (so did Goldman Sachs) but I now realise that forward Capex repayment is dependent on future net-energy availability, meaning there’s a price beyond which recession is inevitable. Rinse and repeat – until you’re out of powder.

3. The Growth Delusion: why we don’t want to believe in Peak Oil and Climate Change

It’s not as if the message is new. This fellow was my mentor during the years I spent soaking information out of Otago Uni. Enough information-soaking, in the end, to de-bunk some of what is taught – and implied - there. In wondering why, I came to the conclusion that commodification of knowledge and siloing of disciplines, were the main culprits.

4. Dare to declare capitalism dead – before it takes us all down with it

Not everybody ‘gets it’ all. Here’s a common style, where the assumption is that we can maintain First-World lifestyles if we only (a) divest ourselves of fossil fuels and (b) ‘invest’ in renewable energy. Yes, we will end up on renewables by default, but they won’t power the ‘economy’ we’ve come to expect.

5. Antibiotic resistance 'as big a threat as climate change'

Here’s an example of what siloing does to thinking. This brain is clearly superior to mine, but has she contemplated population as a problem? Or energy/resource depletion? Or read Catton’s ‘Overshoot’?

6. Truth to power

Compare that to this. We should all feel slightly sheepish – I reckon that if she hasn’t yet learned about the contents of 1, 2 and 3 above, she’d get it in five minutes flat, and be able to explain it to the General Assembly two minutes later.

7. Tom Petty was Right

Equally as eloquent, indeed one of the better wordsmiths on the planet. Imagine this fellow and Greta on a debating-team! His take on the MSM Trump/Russia witch-hunt is thought-provoking (see his earlier blog-posts). For those who haven’t read his stuff, his book ‘The Long Emergency’ is one of my all-time favourites, well worth the download.

8. Letter to Dennis A. Muilenburg, CEO of Boeing

Unsafe at any height? Here’s Ralph Nader in vintage form, castigating Boeing. Assuming he’s correctly informed, we can expect the odd grounding. The bigger question is whether complexity, when pushed too far, reduces resilience?

9. The fastest electric motorcycle

Here’s another of those engineers we will need, just getting on with pushing the boundaries. I met her and Killajoule - 80% of which she built herself - a few years back. And came away feeling distinctly pedestrian. A visit to her site shows she’s not resting on her laurels.

10. The Battle of Evermore

It ain’t often that a cover outshines an inspired original, but I reckon these two go close, covering Led Zep. Oldies will remember them as ‘Heart’, and a song called ‘Magic Man’.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


Why don't we want to believe in peak oil?

Simple. It's because we are getting further and further from the supposed peak as time goes on.

Proven reserves are now 3 to 4 times what they were 40 years ago, and they are growing almost every year.

Peak oil, schmeak oil. Enough, already.

Are those proven reserves positive EROI? There's no point extracting 1 unit of energy if it costs you 1.5 units. Well, unless you're consuming a non-portable form of energy to extract energy that is portable.

3P booked (PV10) petroleum reserves generate far more energy than it takes too produce/extract by multiple amounts. The problem is an economic one. No upstream company wants to do a 10% IRR project - too much risk. So only projects that meet a hurdle rate get developed until price increases then new projects get developed and so on.

Ralph Nader?

The only sensible thing he has uttered for decades is that the Democrats are still weak and corrupt.

I wonder how much point there is in discussing the end of the world with uncertain facts when instead Murray you could discuss NZ going zero carbon by such and such a date. You really must be on the outer limits of accepted environmental thought? As far as I can see NZ could very easily reach zero carbon in transport, household use and hopefully with enough political will in agriculture and industry too.

In my area of interest -cities -NZ could easily turn its figures around. Here is an example that would help Christchurch move on from auto-dependency for example.

Edit. Realised I could say it cleaner.

The problem is in framing the problem.

I'm on about sustainability - long term maintainability. Carbon-zeroing is a mere subset of that.

"" The bigger question is whether complexity, when pushed too far, reduces resilience?"" The human DNA has ~24,000 base pairs whereas a mouse has 26,800. Which complex creature is most resilient?

It's mice dude.

1, What we call ‘the economy’, is actually a sub-set of a linear energy/materials flow.

And it is therefore easy to show the economy has the potential for virtually unlimited growth for the next several centuries. Earth is in the pathway of a mere billionth of the energy produced by the Sun. So expanding the economy off planet enables energy growth to millions of times greater than current usage.

6. Truth to power

What if she looks up?

Harnessing nuclear power particularly via the thorium route gives us a way through for several hundred years a and possibly enough time to overcome all but the consumption of non replaceable resources.

I think we will need to find a quick fix for consuming plastic in our diets.......

Man cannot live on bread alone...he has to eat the Bag too???......??? matter how many Houses one owns, one cannot avoid the spread of our stupidity. Cancer will spread like the already is.