Last modified on 26 November 2009, at 04:03

Peak Oil: High Tide for an Oil Addicted World/Useful Things to Know

What is The Association for the Study of peak oil & Gas?Edit

ASPO is a network of scientists, affiliated with European institutions and universities, having an interest in determining the date and impact of the peak and decline of the world's production of oil and gas, due to resource constraints.

Its mission is to:

  1. Define and evaluate the world's endowment of oil and gas;
  2. Model depletion, taking due account of demand, economics, technology and politics;
  3. Raise awareness of the serious consequences for Mankind.

ASPO presently has 26 branches around the world.

What is EROEI?Edit

EROEI, or Energy Returned on Energy Invested, is the proportion of energy produced by a resource (such as oil, gas or wind power), relative to the energy required to exploit that resource. It is sometimes referred to as the net energy return.

EROEI provides a simple numeric value for measuring how economical it is to produce a particular fuel source. An EROEI of 1 means that the energy produced by the resource is the same as the energy used in its production. As EROEI increases, progressively more energy can be produced as a proportion to the energy input.

The energy used to exploit a resource is largely dependent on its accessibility and can be highly variable over time. Prospecting, mining, fuel transportation, infrastructure, waste disposal and decommissioning are factors that may affect EROEI calculations.

In the early days of oil exploration production costs were low, because oil was discovered in shallow basins that did not require the drilling of deep wells. This meant that the EROEI was often more than 50. EROEI has steadily decreased since that time, and will eventually reach the point where it is no longer economical to extract it, at least for use as simple energy.

A 1984 study found that nuclear energy from light-water reactors had an EROEI of about 4[1]. By comparison, the Danish Wind Energy Association claims that during its life time a wind turbine delivers 80 times more energy than is used in its production, maintenance and scrapping[2].

Note: EROEI is occasionally quoted as the difference between the energy returned and the energy invested, rather than the ratio of these two figures. In this case, negative EROEI values correspond to a net loss of energy and positive values correspond to a net gain[3].

What are the laws of thermodynamics?Edit

Thermodynamics is a branch of science that studies heat and its movement through systems. Heat is energy on the move so it’s an important area of study for anything that involves energy. Thermodynamics can be summed up in three laws.

The first law basically says that the increase in the amount of energy in a system is the same as the energy added to the system plus the losses. As no system is perfect you will lose some energy when you add energy to a system so you will need to add a bit more to cover the losses. Another way of saying that is to say the energy is conserved.

The second law says that you can’t get energy from nothing. So if you take the energy output from a system and feed it into a system the system will run down and come to a stop. This is because what you take out is a bit less than what you put in because the system is not perfect and you lose some energy in the system.

The third law states that as the temperature of a system approaches absolute zero (-273°C), the available energy of that system approaches zero.

What is entropy?Edit

Entropy is a term used to describe the energy in a system which is not available to use. If we take the example of a wind-turbine, the turning propellers generate rotational kinetic energy—which is use to power a generator and produce electricity—but they also generate heat due to friction. This heat energy cannot be used, and is therefore included in the entropy of the windmill.

The second law of thermodynamics (above) is a result of this kind of entropy. It says that in any process, a certain amount of usable energy must be converted to entropy and lost. If the system is to continue to function for a indefinite period of time, sources of fresh energy must be found to make up for that lost due to entropy.

What is emergy?Edit

Emergy is a contraction of the term embedded energy. "It evaluates the work previously done to make a product or service. Emergy is a measure of energy used in the past and thus is different from a measure of energy now."[4]

It brings into account the true energy and environmental cost of a product or process. It is very useful for, among other things, evaluating alternatives to primary energy sources. For example, when assessing a solar power, you don’t just look at how much energy it produces and how much it cost, you look at the total amount of energy used in the process of constructing and installing that solar panel, and also the environmental impacts which are often not included.

What is fractional reserve banking?Edit

"Fractional-reserve banking is the near-universal practice of banks retaining only a fraction of their clients' deposits and notes as reserves to satisfy demands for withdrawals, investing the remainder in loans to generate income. Clients would normally receive a proportion of this income via interest on their deposit. Inflation, partly caused by fractional-reserve banking increasing money supply, would reduce a client's capital growth in real terms." This creates the risk of a 'bank run' when demand depositors and note holders attempt to collectively withdraw more money than the bank has in reserves, causing the bank to collapse.[5]

This is important to understand because during the first half of the age of oil banks created money by lending more money than they had on deposit due to confidence that tomorrow’s expansion would pay for today’s debt. Because oil is the principal driver of economic growth, the decline of oil undermines that belief. This in turn erodes the value of most organizations quotes on the stock market.[6]

Evidence is emerging that progress can no longer be taken for granted. Growth may be coming to an end. Since our entire financial order — interest rates, pension funds, insurance, stock markets — is predicated on growth, the social and economic consequences would be severe and widespread.[7]

Will banks be so willing to lend money without the confidence they will be repaid? Will interest rates shoot up causing people to default on their loans and mortgages, increasing the problem?

What is permaculture?Edit

In essence permaculture is using modern know how along with nature to introduce design into growing and as such achieve sustainable high-yielding ecosystems. The name comes from permanent agriculture.

Permaculture therefore seeks to reduce the overall impact on the environment and not externalise costs. Concepts include the forest garden, renewable energies, natural building materials and energy efficient design, companion planting, diversity of ecosystems, natural fertilizers and natural pest control methods.

The permaculture movement has long been behind reducing dependencies on fossil fuels both because of their environmental impact as well as their lack of sustainability.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Energy and the U.S. Economy: A Biophysical Perspective. Cutler J. Cleveland; Robert Costanza; Charles A. S. Hall; Robert Kaufmann. Science, New Series, Vol. 225, No. 4665 (Aug. 31, 1984), 890-897.
  2. http://www.windpower.org/en/didyouknow.htm
  3. http://www.ker.co.nz/pdf/Energy%20and%20the%20U.S.%20Economy-%20A%20Biophysical%20Perspective.pdf
  4. http://www.mnforsustain.org/emergy_odum_howard_t_emergy_evaluation.htm
  5. "Fractional reserve banking" on Wikipedia
  6. http://www.energybulletin.net/5944.html
  7. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2099-1813695_1,00.html