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The Economist sees the Light

Exponential increases in the use of resources are impossible in the really long term. Even straight line increases come to a limit.

The link is to the Economist article of 6th August which spots the fact that the energy figures don't reconcile.

Comments

neil craig said…
You misrepresent the article which is not about any inherent shortage of fuels but about the refuasl of British politicians, not least the Libdems, to allow the construction of new power generators. When the lights go out & more people die (you are already killing 24,000 pensioners annually) such politicians should be swinging from lamposts.

In relation to this perhaps you would care to explain your remarkably foolish remark about exponential growth being about to become impossible.
John Hemming said…
The article refers to the supply of gas having peaked. If you don't think that implies a shortage of domestically extracted gas then I don't know what you are on about.

Secondly I said:
"Exponential increases in the use of resources are impossible in the really long term. Even straight line increases come to a limit."
My degree is in Physics specialising in Atomic, Nuclear and Theoretical Physics. I recognise that the limitations of physical systems can be defined mathematically. What mumbo jumbo do you believe in?
neil craig said…
"Domesticaly supplied gas" is not the same as "gas". There are enormous supplies worldwide. For political reasons we may not wish to buy them but that, as i pointed out over the general problem, is politics not something inherent. Beyond that gas is merely a method of using energy & energy use can increase explonentially for at least millenia.

Perhaps with all these dozens of alleged degrees you would be able to explain what you mean about exponential being about to become impossible.
John Hemming said…
Read the words. What I have said is that exponential increases are not possible in the long term. When we hit peak production of any particular substance is a separate issue, but arguing that there is no limit to consumption is just plain wrong.

There is a lot of gas in Qatar, but I wonder what evidence you have that makes you more optimistic than the IEA for example.
neil craig said…
Well the particular case you choose, gas, is simply a means of getting energy & as an alleged nuclear physicist you would know that energy juse can expand exponentially for millenia. Other resources can also expand beyond any currently visible human need.
John Hemming said…
What is your evidence for this ludicrous claim?
neil craig said…
So noi sort of physicist then let alone a nuclear one or you would know how much of the earth's crust is made up of traniu, & thorium let alone how much solar energy goes to waste within near earth orbit.

Exactly the sort of total dishonesty I have come to expect from the lying fascist murdereres calling themselves "LibDems"
John Hemming said…
Fossil Fuel gas was formed many years ago and there is a limited amount. Although different types of energy can be converted into each other within the constraints of the second law of thermodynamics there is a limit as to how much energy can be sourced from natural gas.

It is quite simple really. There is doubt as to what the limit is.
neil craig said…
There is a limit to the amount of energy that can be sourced from whale oil, indeed that was the first peak oil scare a century & a half ago.

Since you are trying to limit it to gas it is clear you know you cannot dispute that there is no limit, for millenia at least, in exponential growth of power usage. It is the power usage not the containment medium which matters.
John Hemming said…
The difference about the fossil fuel problems we currently face is that we have to move to a less convenient energy source after gas peaks.

The idea of breeder reactors either based upon the Thorium cycle or otherwise has not been successfully implemented. In any event there is an EROEI (energy cost of extraction) issue to be resolved.

There are various ways of getting solar energy. I think the idea of a high voltage network to northern africa has merit. That is a form of renewable energy.

It remains, however, that the issue of peak extraction rates of oil and gas are important constraints which should be taken into account in planning future energy usage.
neil craig said…
Since reactors have been producing about 205 of the world's electricity for decades it is clearly possible to do so. Since they are cheaper than anything except, possibly, coal the economics of them, including energy economics, is not a problem.

I was considering solar power satellites, also a form of renewable as indeed is nuclear by any reasonable definition, but have no objection to covering the Sahara with units if it can be match the price of nuclear.

Extraction rates of volatiles is a constraint which should have made us encourage practical alternatives not impractical ones & making excuses to return to the Middle Ages. Regretably British politicians, with the LibDems in the lead, have repeatedly chosen to embrace Ludditism.
John Hemming said…
The constraint on fission is the fissile Isotope U235. Fusion (apart from solar energy) is always about 40 years in the future. That is why people look at breeders (either Thorium or Uranium based).

I would start with solar receptors in the Sahara in preference to Inner space.

These still would constrain energy usage below an exponential annual rate increase.
neil craig said…
And as I said there is no shortage of uranium. Even less of thorium. I never mentioned fusion because, though it might be useful, it is not necessary.

I would start with the most available & cost effective method. If you would prefer to start with something less effective then you are not arguing that it is inherent that energy will become less available but that, for political reasons, you want to produce an artificial shortage.

I don't & you should give reasons for wishing so.
John Hemming said…
Physical laws will always trump economic "laws". Hence you need to work out the energy balance for anything before trying to identify if it is economically viable. Simply because over time the input prices will vary in accordance with the physical laws.

There is an energy cost to concentrating Uranium after mining the ore. There is also a limit on various ore concentrations.

The IAEA look at these issues and identify constraints on usage eg
www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/Pub1104_scr.pdf
neil craig said…
Since mining uranium & turning it into electricity is being done economicaly & has been for decades it is silly to pretend there is doubt about whether it is possible to do it.

In any case if there were legitimate doubts about it that would not justify government "protecting" investors from proving it. The fact that investors have invested, repeatedly & made money except where government has prevented it shows political attempts to redefine "cost" are politics not economics or indeed physics.

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