86 thoughts on “Peak Oil”

  1. I agree fully that “Peak oil” worries are now foolish.

    However, I cannot blame people for believing it in the past, because in the past, from what they knew *at the time*, it was very reasonable to see oil as far more finite than it has proven to be. What would have been foolish would be to simply assume that technology would provide a way out, which is akin to a person not looking after their health because “Hey, they’ll find a cure!”. A cure may well be found, just as technology may provide an answer to a shortage, but counting on it is insane. It may not be found at all, or more likely, not be found in time.

    With peak oil, as with all else, rational opinions changed as the underlying data changed.

    1. “it was very reasonable to see oil as far more finite than it has proven to be.”

      Before the Internet, when information was difficult to find, maybe. But every ‘peak oil’ discussion on the Internet over the last twenty years or so had people pointing out that ‘oil reserves’ were only known reserves, and not actual reserves. And by the time ‘peak oil’ became the big new fad around 2007, there were plenty of websites demonstrating with actual data that there was plenty more oil available.

      So by a decade ago, ‘peak oil’ was plainly twaddle pushed by the usual suspects, but people continued to believe it. No-one could use ignorance as an excuse by that point.

      And we’re heading toward peak oil demand, not peak oil supply. VR is going to slash demand for oil to transport our bodies around the world, and local manufacturing is going to slash demand for oil to transport stuff around the world. There’ll still be plenty of oil in the ground by the time we stop using it.

      1. No, technological progress enabling the economic utilization of shale and oil sands is what has made a difference, “conventional” oil production is now in decline in the US (now down to 3 million barrels vs nearly 7 million barrels from shale), Britain, Norway, Indonesia and many other countries.
        So I agree with Arizona CJ, the peak oilists were wrong, but blaming them for being wrong on the basis of information they didn’t have isn’t justified.

        1. Andrew, you are such a know-it-all. Why don’t you know to keep your mouth shut (figuratively) when you don’t know something?

        2. “blaming them for being wrong on the basis of information they didn’t have isn’t justified.”

          The peak oilers have always been wrong. At one time, decades ago, they could claim ignorance. But not at any time in the last twenty years.

          When I was a kid, we had to switch to solar and wind power because we were going to run out of oil by the year 2000. We now have more known reserves than we did back then, but we still must switch to solar and wind power because we’re going to run of oil.

        3. That is true to some extent but even conventional reserves have been more abundant than alarmists predicted. Predictions of the end of humanity were based more on the underlying religious belief system than actual oil reserves.

    2. People have been making coal into synthetic fuels for a century now. Peak oil was always an excuse used by hysterical people to be hysterical.

    3. CJ, I disagree about blame and point to these lines:
      Peak oil predictions and other Malthusian prognostications of resource limits have failed repeatedly for decades. But the people who invoke these false auguries of doom and gloom never seem to suffer any consequences.

      I also disagree that notion that technology couldn’t find a way, and your metaphor is simple to a person, while we are talking about all of civilization. Sure, one person shouldn’t rely on technology to solve their individual problem, and too many certainly do place hope rather than take personal action. But as a civilization, time and time again technology has provided solutions to Malthusian problems.

      Set aside oil, Malthusian views of the same era of “peak oil” also promised world wide food shortages. This prompted self imposed rationing models that actually did leave to massive hunger. Food is the most basic of renewable resources on this planet. Food is still finite, but not at all at the level that Malthusian’s predicted, and their over-reaction harmed millions. Frankly, it is still harming millions, as continued concerns promotes policies of less children and encouragement of abortions, such that nations like Iceland trumpet as success the elimination of Down’s syndrome, not by cure but by prevention of Down’s syndrome related birth. One less mouth to feed, right?

      I accept your broader point that people should respond to finite resources. This is best done in open and free markets. It is such markets and it is related competition that drove technology which led to improvements in agriculture and petroleum production.

      1. I fully agree that technology has, time and time again, solved Malthusian problems.

        But it has not always done so, and even when it has, it is sometimes takes considerable time.

        My analogy was indeed to a person, but what is truly more dire; the fate of a person, or of civilization? Personally, I think the latter is not something to gamble with.

        My basic point was that, 20 odd years ago, I think it was very defensible to see an oil crunch coming and be looking into alternatives. I call that insurance. What I oppose is the notion some hold that tech will always solve problems and do so in time, which is very much akin to an individual not taking care of their health because “They’ll find a cure”.

        As for population, I have almost no doubt that technology can enable a denser population. I also oppose doing so, for two reasons. One is that such solutions are, of course, based on technology, and in most cases such things are hindered by disasters – thus making society more vulnerable and less able to ride out natural disasters, etc. And, I value quality of life more than quantity. (Population density is inversely proportional to freedom and safety). I utterly despise the thought of living in a city, so I’m not exactly keen on the whole world becoming one.

        1. I agree with your last paragraph completely.

          My disagreement is focused on blame, but that can be more focused on certain individuals. Too many shortages are man made and the men who made them suffered not from the damage they caused.

          I read this morning about Venezuela importing oil. We were told by economists in the US that the problem was Venezuela wasn’t prepared for the oil bust, but when prices rose, Venezuela economy would come back. Price of Brent Crude is now over $70/bbl with crazy talk of it getting back to $100 to $120. Yet now Venezuela has to import?

          Venezuela’s problems aren’t the price of oil or lack of renewables. It is progressive Malthusians pushing socialism as the future for that country. Now millions are starving, can’t get medicine, and can’t get modern medical care because they are running out of energy. None of that should be happening, and nobody is getting punished for supporting the situation that exists now. Why, because supposedly these nice people supported Chavez’s vote buying of giving money to the poor. In their mind, they should be commended, despite the fact that the only people rich in Venezuela now are the politicians, and everyone is poor and starving.

          I think those people deserve blame, at the very least.

          1. I completely agree regarding Venezuela, and I also blame the voters of Venezuela.

            That issue was never in doubt; from the moment they went socialist, disaster was guaranteed, because socialism does what socialism always does.

            The ones I was defending regarding peak oil aren’t the socialist types. The ones I had in mind were people who legitimately believed, based on what was known at the time (over 20 years ago) that oil was fast running out, and thus supported spending a little on research into alternatives (including ways to free oil from shale). The data at the time, especially for the US, was pretty dire; our oil production was declining every year and we were becoming more and more dependent upon foreign sources. In fact, I can’t much blame anyone who thought we had an oil problem, not until US production began its reversal, and that wasn’t until around 2005.

            A current example IMHO is space junk (orbital debris). Right now, based on what we know, it’s a minor problem that could become a major one. I think it would be foolish in the extreme to ignore it and assume “they’ll find a tech fix for it.” It’s IMHO prudent, lacking any such easy fix now, to do what we’re doing to avoid the problem getting unnecessarily worse (such as, when practical, deorbiting spent stages, limiting microsats to low orbits so they’ll be removed by decay, etc).

        2. “I think it was very defensible to see an oil crunch coming and be looking into alternatives.”

          Nobody ever did this. They just pretended to. Wind and solar were never viable “alternatives”, and still aren’t now. The only viable alternative was, is, and always will be nuclear power. Because mass to energy conversion is the only technology that can truly compete with eons of stored solar energy.

          1. They are suitable for appropriate niches, and that’s all they will ever be.
            I had to laugh at “that’s all they will ever be”. Bart, the great seer.

  2. “Wind and solar are intermittent and expensive. Both suffer from low power densities. These flaws are not political or even technological. They originate in the laws of physics and chemistry and are not likely to be overcome at any time in the foreseeable future.”

    I think it’s a bit rich for Deming to dismiss the possibility of technology improving the economic viability of wind and solar a few sentences after he’s explained that it’s technology that’s made shale oil economically viable.
    Obviously power densities are limited, but the relevant measures are available land area and the cost of delivering power to the consumer – when it’s required, and technology is making solar and wind economically viable.
    https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Price_history_of_silicon_PV_cells_since_1977.svg

    1. “technology is making solar and wind economically viable.”

      Cool. So we can eliminate all the subsidies, can’t we?

      Now, in a way, I’m kind of glad that governments have been subsidizing wind and solar power because I want to move somewhere that can be entirely self-contained. But that’s not because I think wind and solar power are a good idea, it’s because the idiot left are doing everything they can to destroy reliable grid power.

      1. Solar always sounds great but anyone can go on youtube and watch #vanlife, RV, or modern homesteading videos to see the limitations of typical solar systems.

        You can charge your laptop, watch TV, and run some lights but watch out if you want to make coffee or run a blender.

        1. I use solar for my well, and I totally agree; it’s of limited use. I consider it a niche market.

          I went solar for my well because I got the panels for free (from a disgusted homeowner ripping an install off his roof). They work fine for me, but, I’d have never even considered it had they not been free – it would have made no sense.

    2. Perhaps you would be good enough to explain to the rest of we benighted troglodyte cretins just what sort of technology would make the wind blow and the sun shine predictably?

    3. Wind has been economically viable for hundreds of years, if you can find no one else to explain, ask the Dutch.

      Solar PV cells are limited, and always will be, by the amount of solar energy that reaches the ground. Those arguing for harnessing solar power in space and transmitting it to the Earth are interesting to me. None of those people should ever tell me about the potential horrors of climate change, particularly global warming. It seems foolish to think the solution for combatting climate change is to bypass the Earth’s atmosphere and inject even greater amounts of energy into the Earth’s environment.

      1. “Solar PV cells are limited, and always will be, by the amount of solar energy that reaches the ground. ”

        Of all the limits on PV, this is among the least important. 100,000 TW of sunlight is striking Earth at any moment; total world primary energy demand is about 20 TW.

        1. Great news if you spend 24 hours in the sun, which you can do at a pole for a few days a year. Sucks when the snow covers your PV array.

        2. The fundamental limit is that we simply can’t cover a significant fraction of that area in anything less than centuries of time at current global production rates of key materials. And, that’s devoting 100% of that production to it.

          1. The fundamental limit is that we simply can’t cover a significant fraction of that area in anything less than centuries of time at current global production rates of key materials. And, that’s devoting 100% of that production to it.
            What a bloody stupid comment, is there some law out there that limits future production levels to current production levels?

          2. Wow, you double down on your nonsense, the challenge is to produce electricity for people, not to cover the Earth in solar cells. Throughout most of the world 10 square meters/person would massively increase the amount of power available, that would be about 0.015% of the Earths surface, about the area now covered by houses, or looking at it another way, seven times the area occupied by motor vehicles (just the vehicles, not the roads).

          3. 10 square meters provides max of about 1.5 kW in full Sun. Everyone on Earth can dry their hair. Great.

            You really have no idea of the numbers involved, do you?

          4. As part of the energy mix along with hydro, biomass (waste wood ) nuclear, geothermal and wind, 12 kW/hr/day from PV solar through the dry season, would massively increase the amount of power available globally, the manufacturing commitment would not the Brobdingnagian, but in fact far less that the manufacturing investment that currently exists in numerous industries.
            It’s ridiculous that you’ve got this all or nothing mentality, all our energy needs won’t be met through PV so ta-da solar is no use as an energy source! Idiot.

          5. It’s ridiculous that you’ve got this all or nothing mentality, all our energy needs won’t be met through PV

            I realize Andrew that you aren’t here for serious conversation, so I’m sure you don’t care. But the mentality you describe isn’t Bart’s. It is Paul, when he stated: “Of all the limits on PV, this is among the least important. 100,000 TW of sunlight is striking Earth at any moment; total world primary energy demand is about 20 TW.

            Bart’s point is that Paul’s “all” concept is unrealistic. Perhaps you would understand his point if you actually cared to have a serious conversation rather than a monologue of pontification.

      2. The Netherlands is a small country with a lot of coastline. Wind off the sea is generally more constant than wind inland. I don’t have to ask the Dutch about this as I live a few miles from the Pacific in So. CA. “On-shore flow” is the term of art for sea breeze here. But the U.S. is a continental nation.

        And the Dutch have been using wind for centuries to grind grain, not generate baseload electric power. “Most of the time” is good enough for grinding grain. Not so much for generating reliable electricity.

        1. Point is, the Dutch have been using wind for industrial purposes for centuries. As a technology, wind generation hasn’t changed much in those centuries. Material properties can make for larger fan blades, and we can design the shape of blades for efficiency. And where there is enough wind, in places as you describe; wind can produce significant amounts of power.

          I do agree those places are not ubiquitous. Also, the same can be said for energy production from geothermal sources. Iceland can produce lots of electrical power from geothermal plants. Its viable, for them. Geothermal also has an added benefit of not killing migratory animals.

        2. I should also note that an unspoken part of my comment about wind viability is that despite being viable for so many centuries, it has not been a solution to electrifying the world at any point.

    4. Obviously power densities are limited, but the relevant measures are available land area and the cost of delivering power to the consumer

      This is true but since this argument is framed as saving the environment, we have to look at the opportunity cost of destroying large swaths of the environment to have enough solar and wind capacity.

      We also can’t just look at the price of solar cells but rather the system cost of a mutimodal production system. Anything that has to produce power when wind and solar aren’t producing adds to the system cost. The intermittent nature of wind and solar mean there is a lot of volatility in the grid and the energy market.

      Wind and solar could dump electricity during peaks and price out other forms of production but because those other means of production are also being used sporadically, it can drive up their costs. Rather than look at just solar or wind/solar we need to look at how all the means of generating electricity work as a system. It is a lot more complicated than the traditional grid and trying to manage the volatility is a big industry right now.

      All of these system costs are very different depending on location but all of the environmental prescriptions are universal.

        1. So were coal and petrol before they filtered out the sulfur and got rid of the lead, filter, capture and re-use of manufacturing pollutants is what happens, including for PV and other electronics manufacture in most places.

          1. Why make the effort, for such a pittance of power, and the destruction of hundreds of thousands of square miles of habitat?

  3. “The western U.S. alone contains at least 2 trillion barrels of petroleum in oil shale formations. At a current U.S. annual consumption rate of 7.2 billion barrels, that’s a 278-year supply.

    Ultimately, the world will switch to nuclear power because that’s where the energy is. But there’s no reason grounded in science for that transition to take place in the lifetime of anyone reading this article. ”

    Even at our current incompetent job of exploring space, we should be harvesting significant amount solar energy in the space environment within a century.
    And NASA could manage to focus on the right thing, it could be within 50 years.
    NASA has been “net loss” in terms of exploring space, this it due to being “unfocused”.
    The current plan of exploring the Moon, then exploring Mars is the correct direction, but
    It lacks focus, and inevitably will become less focused.
    NASA should be focused on exploring the lunar poles, and determining if and where there is minable lunar water.
    In order for lunar water to be profitably mined (commercial mining) the site to be mined can be quite small. Or if a square km has 10% water within 1 meter deep, that is 100,000 tonnes of water, and it would impossible to mine so much water within 10 years or economically impossible to sell or use that much water within 10 years, though if extend it to 15 to 20 years, it might be possible.
    And financial success would be apparent with 5 years, so smaller though richer or better
    site in other ways is better than site larger than 1 square I’m which less easy to mine water
    but has more than 100,000 tonnes of recoverable water.

    If you can split a thousand tonnes of water within couple years, and use solar energy
    that would be significant increase of all solar power harvested by all satellites and
    spacecraft or spacestation.
    To be financially viable, by about the 3rd to 5th year, one has at threshold of about 1000 tons of
    water and rocket fuel produced per year. Though if start up costs are low (say, launch cost are lower)
    you have get to such productions levels as quickly. But if talking about 10 years, one basically need to get to 1000 tonnes per year or more.
    Anyhow splitting 1000 tonnes of water per year requires a lot of energy.
    The problem of solar energy on earth is getting energy 25% of the time.
    With lunar poles one can solar energy 80% of time, and in early stages of
    Lunar water mine, you get solar power grid, giving 100% power.
    So on Earth you can’t get solar grid with more than 50% of time and lunar poles,
    one fairly easily get grid with 100% solar power.
    The availability of energy all the time, makes it easier and cheaper to
    split 1000 tons of water per year. And this also applies to all lunar operations.

  4. If you can say one has about 500 suborbial customers (and could be thousands), then
    One could say the Moon has about demand of about 5 to 10 tons of rocket fuel at the
    Lunar surface, at price of $10,000 per kg.
    And you can not say there is such demand elsewhere in space ( though perhaps low lunar orbit, oh also ISS rocket fuel and water could be counted in terms ISS resupply contracts)
    So not LEO, Mars orbits or surface.
    If you buy 5,000 kg at $10,000, for cost of 50 million, one could lower cost of returning passengers
    and lunar samples from the moon.
    But to make lunar rocket fuel you have to increase the demand.
    And one way involves lower price and related to lower price is
    exporting LOX to low lunar orbit to a price competing with earth launch
    cost of rocket fuel to low lunar orbit.
    Having rocket fuel at surface and low orbit, allows a reusable lunar lander.
    So to get to moon and back, need the earth launcher and earth reentry vehicle, and rocket
    fuel for a reusable lunar lander. Lunar rocket fuel company providing fuel for coming from low lunar
    orbit and back to low lunar orbit. And lunar rocket can be used for short hops roughly within lunar polar region, and H2 and O2 can be used for surface wheeled vehicles (exploration/tourist rides).

    If the lunar surface has been explored to determine if and where there is minable water, one
    start and stage from low lunar orbit or start by bringing rocket fuel from Earth, continue to
    bring rocket fuel until the time when lunar rocket fuel was same cost as earth launched rocket
    fuel. Which should mean that lunar LOX becomes the same cost before lunar LH2 does. And one will
    And up with surplus of LOX due to rocket mixture of 1 to 6, splitting water gives 1 to 8. Plus one
    could be get O2 from processing lunar oxides, such as making lunar iron.
    And eventually one can export lunar water, for manned trips to Mars. And possible to export
    Lunar water to lunar orbit to split it, at lunar orbit or elsewhere.

  5. Andrew_A the only viable use of solar energy is in space. Space use created the solar panel market.
    There are some uses of solar energy on Earth, such as food production requires solar energy.
    Solar energy also good to make warm water.
    And solar energy is good for camping purposes.
    But for general human needs, humans generally want electrical power 24 hours
    A day, and 365 days a year. To say people should not have electrical access on
    constant basics, is not providing people will what they want.

    1. The left don’t believe in ‘providing people with what they want’, they believe in telling people want they should want. See the recent complaints about reductions in fuel economy requirements in America, for example, where the left’s main problem seems to be that Americans will be allowed to buy the cars they want, and not the cars the left want them to want.

      Similarly, people should want solar and wind power, and if they don’t want that, well, they have to pay higher taxes so they government can give money to solar and wind power companies until the people do want it.

    2. “Andrew_A the only viable use of solar energy is in space.”

      This is so wrong I’m at a loss to understand just how you could make such a ridiculous statement. There have been viable markets for solar here on Earth for decades, and the markets keep getting larger.

      1. Markets, yes. But there’s no way solar can replace all the power needs of an industrial society that needs reliable power 24 hours a day at any price that’s comparable to reliable fossil fuels or nuclear power.

        Except, of course, if you make that reliable power so artificially expensive that unreliable solar and wind becomes cheaper.

        It’s funny. Communism used to be Soviet power plus electrification. Now it’s Soviet power plus de-electrification.

        1. American Socialism used to be the Tennessee Valley Authority, which was a Federal initiative to lift people in Appalachia out of grinding rural poverty through a combination of hydroelectric dams, coal-fired and nuclear power plants plus rural electrification.

          That is what Government is the Things We Do Together in the U.S.A. used to be.

          1. And it was a terrible, unnecessary, wasteful mess. Appalachia was already being slowly electrified by the free market. The federal government sped the process up by a few years, at tremendous taxpayer cost, quite a few un-Constitutional actions, and decades of waste and mismanagement.

        2. “Markets, yes. But there’s no way solar can replace all the power needs of an industrial society that needs reliable power 24 hours a day at any price that’s comparable to reliable fossil fuels or nuclear power.”

          I disagree.

          If we extrapolate the cost of PV, using the historical learning curve, then if PV expanded to provide the world’s current energy demand it would be around $0.01/kWh, perhaps less.

          At this cost, it would be worthwhile to use very inefficient (but low capital cost) energy storage techniques for very long term storage. For example, resistively heated artificial geothermal. This might have a round trip efficiency of maybe 25%, but the cost per unit of storage capacity would be very low. It could be used for leveling over periods of years, not days.

          Another possibility would be storage of hydrogen in underground repositories, as methane is stored today. This would require low capital cost electrolyzers, but these appear to be possible to build (membraneless electrolyzers that avoid the need for expensive ion conductive polymers, at the cost of somewhat reduced efficiency.)

          I think there’s some reluctance to consider the solar scenario because it would spell the end of the industrial dominance of the high latitude countries; i.e., the West.

          1. And if we extrapolate the amount of horse crap deposited on our city streets in 1900 by historical growth rates, we find that we’re all up to our necks in horse crap today.

            “I think there’s some reluctance to consider the solar scenario because it would spell the end of the industrial dominance of the high latitude countries; i.e., the West.”

            Yes. Oddly enough, we don’t want to see our economies destroyed by idiot leftists.

          2. You live a rich and full fantasy life, sir. Thanks for sharing.

            Seriously, if lots of sunny days were all that was needed to acquire “industrial dominance,” Saudi Arabia and the North African Mahgreb nations would already be the leading industrial powers on Earth.

          3. Edward:

            The hilarious thing about your posts is you’re exhibiting just the kind of cognitive deficit that led to “Peak Oil”, a blindness to the likelihood of technical advance.

            PV has come down in cost by a factor of 200 or so since it first came on the market. It has followed a power law experience curve over that time. A modest extrapolation (just another factor of 3 or 4, small compared to the improvement that has already occurred) brings the cost of PV down to the figure I gave there.

            Dick:

            That’s not all that’s required, but when energy becomes cheaper somewhere industry tends to move there. Are ALL the low latitude countries going to screw up? Hope is not a good plan.

          4. Well, you’ve made your prediction – simple-minded in the extreme though it be. I would not advise holding my breath awaiting its advent, however.

        3. Yes, modern life depends on abundant and cheap energy, which is why the anti-human environmentalists are so dead set against it.

          I don’t think they understand just how beneficial it is not to sleep in the dirt and be at the mercy of a fickle and unpredictable climate.

          None of the off grid types can do it without the fruits of modernity either.

          1. Yes. If you want to know what people who lived much closer to Nature used to think about it, read Grimm’s Fairy Tales sometime.

    3. But for general human needs, humans generally want electrical power 24 hours
      A day, and 365 days a year.

      But they don’t want it at a consistent level. Solar has the considerable virtue that in hot climates, it tracks demand fairly well.

      1. Two things.

        One is that at least in U.S., peak electric demand, especially in Florida and the Southwest, lags the solar peak by at least 6 hours. You cannot power your A/C in the early evening when you really want it.

        The other thing, and I have this on the authority of the Florida Solar Energy Research Center (FSERC), the heat reflective roof coverings, attic venting, insulating and taping HVAC ducts against air leaks along with best efficiency ratings of A/C units is much more cost effective than residential rooftop solar.

        It is the same story after the Arab Oil Embargo followed by the Iranian Revolution, the “energy crisis” in the U.S., President Carter’s Moral Equivalent of War, resulted in interest in active solar heating, meaning systems with rooftop thermal solar collectors with liquid heat transfer, thermal storage, and electrically powered pumps and fans.

        The early systems proved to be complicated, expensive and difficult to maintain. Interest in the active systems waned and interest switched to “passive solar”, largely a combination of south-facing windows, insulating window shades or shutters, and “thermal mass” in the structure to store heat. That, in turn, was superseded by “super insulated” houses, where if you insulated a house well enough, you didn’t really need much in the way of solar because the amount of heat you generate by consuming normal amounts of electric power keeps the place warm.

        Superinsulation, in turn, was superseded by building codes and construction practices such as 2×6 instead of 2×4 stud walls to allow thicker wall batts, extruded foam underlayment to the siding to reduce thermal conduction through the studs themselves, woven “house wraps” to reduce wind infiltration, a lot thicker attic insulation, lower heat loss windows using thermally reflective glass coatings and inert gas between glass panes, and systems for insulating below grade, placing extruded foam panels either inside or outside concrete basement, crawlspace or slab-foundation walls.

        I once looked at the numbers, and there was a real energy-reduction revolution both in new home construction as well as in retrofits and insulation upgrades. The houses look pretty much the same unless you see them being built and you know what to look for.

        The photoelectric solar panel is the 21st century version of the active-solar heated house — looks like you are saving the environment but simply not cost effective. Yes, the price of the solar panel is crashing, but you still have to pay for installation, maintenance and eventual replacement — it is not the cost of the panels but the labor of the installer that remains an issue. And it is an expensive “active system” solution for which there are cheaper “passive system” alternatives.

        1. Rooftop PV is a bad idea in general. It costs 2.5x as much in the US as utility-scale PV arrays. It’s just easier to install PV panels on mounts on the ground in large open fields. In the US, such utility-scale deployments have exceeded residential deployments for several years now.

          1. And, of course, more people have been killed installing rooftop solar than by nuclesr power plants… But an electrician falling off a roof doesn’t make the evening news.

          2. So are we still subsidizing rooftop solar through tax credits or have those who write the subsidy laws “caught wise” that residential solar is a bad use of the green dollar?

      2. How many watts of solar panels do you need to run AC, refrigerator, lights, and other appliances in an average size American home?

        You are right though that solar does work a lot better in certain areas.

    4. This seems pretty silly to me. Eventually we will have really good batteries, and it won’t matter so much when the sun shines. Eventually we will have cheap solar power satellites where the sun always shines.
      It doesn’t make sense to make this kind of generalization based on a snapshot of today.

      1. Yes, we have seen a revolution in electronics and electrical systems including PV and battery technology, this revolution still has plenty of momentum – there’s certainly plenty of technology there that will make this electronic side of the energy equation still more desirable in economic terms.
        With the fossil powered side of the energy equation we are seeing incremental steps in very old technology, the efficiencies today are near their theoretical limits, the incremental steps mostly limited to new materials.
        Abacus meet electronic calculator.

        1. They are both electric calculators really. The oil and gas industry is far from being an abacus.

          Solar and wind will see some innovation but the cutting edge stuff is in how electricity is used and transmitted at the utility and factory level.

      2. “Eventually we will have really good batteries, and it won’t matter so much when the sun shines.”

        Maybe we will, and maybe we won’t. It’s going to have to be totally new tech, though, because we’re already near the limits of conventional devices.

        Moreover, I seriously doubt it will ever scale to a practical level. The thing about energy storage is, any technology that can charge up quickly and efficiently can also discharge quickly and efficiently. And, when you’re talking energy storage on such a scale, you’ve got explosive possibilities.

        “Eventually we will have cheap solar power satellites where the sun always shines.”

        The Sun only shines all the time for Sun sync orbits, which can’t hang around overhead all day. GEO orbits get it most of the time, but you can’t service them there, disposal is difficult, and we can’t afford to pollute the GEO belt. What other ideas did you have?

        1. Maybe we will, and maybe we won’t. It’s going to have to be totally new tech, though, because we’re already near the limits of conventional devices.

          For a fixed storage installation the limits are cost not energy density, and costs are coming down.

          Moreover, I seriously doubt it will ever scale to a practical level.

          Of course you do, I wouldn’t expect anything else from you.

          The thing about energy storage is, any technology that can charge up quickly and efficiently can also discharge quickly and efficiently. And, when you’re talking energy storage on such a scale, you’ve got explosive possibilities.

          You mean like all energy storage, like what we use now? Yes you do.

          GEO orbits get it most of the time, but you can’t service them there, disposal is difficult, and we can’t afford to pollute the GEO belt. What other ideas did you have?

          Wow, you out did yourself, you appear to acknowledge that technically they’re possible, but though we might get them up there, it would be just too hard to use spacecraft and technology to service them, you’re a selective troglodyte, future technology will be great, but any future technology that works against the narrative you prefer is just gonna be too hard or impossible for you to consider.

          1. “You mean like all energy storage, like what we use now?”

            No. The FF energy sources we use now took eons to charge up.

            You are so knee-jerk and superficial. The challenges here are not just daunting, but disqualifying. Even if theoretically possible, the opportunity costs are decidedly in the red. In simple terms, they’re just not worth the effort.

          2. No. The FF energy sources we use now took eons to charge up.

            When someone resorts to a deliberate diversion like that, ignoring that, yes, we do have the fuel tanks in cars gas stations and fuel processing and storage sites go bang, but that we engineer them to minimize the risk, that the same happens with electrical storage, you know you’re wasting your time with someone living in their own reality.

        2. What an idiotic comment. There was no diversion. It is a factual statement. Fossil fuels formed over eons of time into an energy dense, relatively stable and conveniently transportable energy medium.

          1. The FF energy storage equivalent of batteries is fuel tanks, the equivalent of the FF resources is the sun. So yes, you were using a false analogy (batteries equivalent to in-ground FF resources) the alternative to you doing it as a red herring is you being an idiot.

          2. How can you not understand? FF are very stable, relatively speaking. It is the instability we are concerned about.

    1. Really? the battery in a Tesla can power the vehicle for hundreds of miles between charges, I’m pretty sure it’s a vast improvement on the batteries of decades ago.

      1. What about comparing apples to apples? Is your standard car battery revolutionarily better than twenty years ago? They are at least a little better.

        Cell tower batteries might be an area to look at. Tesla batteries don’t give you much to compare against. I’ve seen some residential builds where they acquired used Tesla batteries and those things weren’t cheap. Having enough to power a city at current levels of demand would be rather costly.

        Safe to say batteries as an industry have been making a lot of innovations but not necessarily for all applications.

  6. wodun:

    April 16th, 2018 at 5:38 PM

    “What about comparing apples to apples? Is your standard car battery revolutionarily better than twenty years ago? They are at least a little better. ”
    Used to be one had check the water level, now they are mostly sealed.
    Which is improvement if no one checks their level anyhow. Other than that, they don’t last
    longer, are more powerful, or are cheaper.

    1. John McCarthy of the Lisp computer language fame, prior to his passing, had a Web page with a section on “Technological Optimism.” This page was to counter the Doomsayers claiming not only are we at Peak Oil but we will revert to living in damp caves.

      He suggested that if we run out of oil, we could at least get by with electric cars, clumsily perhaps, but we could manage. Based on the lead-acid or nickel-cadmium battery tech of when we wrote this, his idea was battery exchange to extend the range. It would be a lot less convenient than filling a tank with gas, but his point that if Peak Oil was for real, we would attempt one way or the other rather than just throw up our hands.

      Tesla demonstrated with the higher energy-density lithium cell, an electric car could have (at least on paper) a range to satisfy all short trips without worry of getting stranded, and it could be recharged quickly enough at a type of “filling station” to make long distance trips practical, if maybe slightly slower or somewhat more inconvenient. Furthermore, an electric car was no longer a glorified golf cart with limited top speed and acceleration — it could be a powerful luxury automobile. Even beyond that, aided by software-controlled “battery management” along with a liquid battery heating/cooling system, the battery at least has a claimed longevity exceeding the life of the car, where limited charge cycles is a problem with the lead-acid type.

      There is a difference between engineering-proof-of-concept and being an economic and functional replacement for the fossil-fueled car, a difference that escapes many boosters of all things “green.” Yes, if required by the alien invasion from Independence Day 2, we could substitute Tesla-style electric cars for our gas-engine cars. Many profess a belief that Peak Oil or Climate Change is the Moral Equivalent of the Independence Day aliens in the movie, but many others believe that it is not, and imposing the economic costs associated with countering Independence Day aliens for a less serious global challenge is well, anti-humanity.

      As to us “haters” of green tech, I see us siding with General Motors in the “Who Killed the Electric Car” movie. GM designed, built and marketed its EV-1 electric car as an engineering proof-of-concept, and when CARB beheld the EV-1 and saw that it was green, they decreed that all cars shalt be EV-1s and the GM rebelled. The thing that generates so much hate against the electric cars is that government regulators see these things and right away they want to jam those golf carts (OK, Teslas) down everyone’s throat, long before the tech is ready for mass adoption.

      It also appears that you cannot reason with “greens” regarding the engineering tradeoffs — they wear those smug Reverend Moon-cult grins and explain the benefits of green tech to the rest of us as if we were intellectually disabled. That ‘tude generates a lot of push-back, call it “hate” if you must.

  7. I think the problem with GM is no one told them they could build a electric muscle car AND that it would be subsidized by the government.

  8. The problem I see with wind and solar is that they reverse a long term trend of making humanity less dependent on nature. i.e vulnerabilities to being disrupted by weather events.
    Wind turbines are already close to theoretical maximum efficiencies. Hard to see them getting any better. You need storage. Add that in and the cost becomes high.
    On a different topic space solar power sats located at L1 and L2 could be used to supply electrical energy to lunar settlements day and night. Nobody to complain about “death rays through the atmosphere”.

  9. “On a different topic space solar power sats located at L1 and L2 could be used to supply electrical energy to lunar settlements day and night. Nobody to complain about “death rays through the atmosphere”

    I assume earth moon L 1 & 2 (which are about 60,000 km from Moon) not sun earth L 1&2 which are further away. At Lunar poles one can encircle the small lunar polar region and get sunlight at all times (except, when Earth blocks the Sun) for solar grid and for single sites get about 80% of sunlight.
    If near lunar equator then you get only 50% – and have two weeks of night per two week of daylight.

    The no worries of death rays also applies with Mars, or with Mars SPS one could beam more intense microwave energy to the surface, and allow a smaller area to receive the energy.

  10. This topic is too long in the tooth to revive. But when this topic comes up again I want to query Paul D. about the economics of large scale solar coupled with small scale lithium battery tech ala the Tesla PowerWall. I’m unconvinced hydrogen as a storage medium with all its handling difficulties will ever be a viable alternative to highly energy dense battery tech, unless fuel cells ever take off.

  11. Regards Peak Oil. Yes shale extraction takes care of that issue at least over the next two centuries. Beyond that, I’m of the controversial opinion that hydro-carbon fuels being primarily fossil in nature might also be a cause of common knowledge being wrong. We have stories of old abandoned oil fields slowly regenerating. How is that possible? Maybe our understanding about processes going on in the deep crust aren’t as cut, dried and fossilized as the “science” seems to be.

    1. “I’m of the controversial opinion that hydro-carbon fuels being primarily fossil in nature might also be a cause of common knowledge being wrong.”

      If you study the science you’ll find that petroleum geologists do actually have some understanding of the geology involved.

      “We have stories of old abandoned oil fields slowly regenerating. How is that possible?”

      because oil seeps slowly through the amorphous rock that it’s trapped in, when the pressure is lower at the bottom of an abandoned well oil in rock surrounding that well gets squeezed towards it. It’s neither surprising nor uncommon for this to happen.

      1. Not just geology but chemical processes. I believe there is likely more going on in the deep crust than we know. There is this idea that hydro-carbon fuels are fixed in quantity based on decayed fauna and flora from geological time. But what if there are other processes involved as well? It will be interesting if hydro-carbon fuels are found in quantities on other planets, esp. the gas giants where no fauna or flora were ever present. We already know of huge methane lakes on Saturn’s moon Titan for example. I know methane is not necessary a good example of what I’m trying to point out, but we know it wasn’t very likely to have been made due to decay of Earth like life. And if it was well that’s scientific-knowledge to be gained!

        As for oil field regeneration, let’s watch and see the extent of the regeneration. Theory of limited (geologic time) production of oil would cap the extent of the recovery to below what had been extracted. Yes? Otherwise where is that “new oil” coming from? If it reappears in less than geologic time?

        Note: Don’t extend what I’m saying to a belief that we should burn all the we can find. I think eventually we will eventually either go renewable or nuclear, simply because it will be cheaper and win out in the market w/o subsidy. But there are a lot of assumptions behind “Peak Oil” I find dubious.

        1. The more spectacular field regenerations happen when you have a fissure connecting two fields, the second field undiscovered.

        2. A book I recommend is Peter Tertzakian’s A Thousand Barrels a second, he’s worked as an oil geologist and discusses abiotic oil, field extraction and regeneration and peak oil along with historical analogies like how we once used whale oil to illuminate cities. I read the book some time ago and unlike many of the people writing books that discuss peak oil Tertzakian was not alarmist or skeptic but rather simply informative.

          1. Thanks for the reference! Cut and pasted so I can look it up! Sounds like a good read.

            The idea that a previously undiscovered reservoir could fill in a previously pumped out one is plausible but if it happens in several various fields that argument starts to look a bit like the “elephants riding the backs of sea turtles… All the way down!” argument. Just IMHO.

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