How ya going to do that without oil?

I’ve been having a chat with arch-doomer Mike Stasse. We were discussing a nuclear powered Electric Vehicle economy, and I shared how America buys something around 12 million cars a year, and so that’s probably something like 24 Gigafactories. At 500,000 EV’s per gigafactory per year, it’s grossly simplified because I haven’t estimated the number of trucks included in that figure (that might work best on an alternative synthetic fuel like hydrogen or ‘rechargeable’ boron), and the Gigafactories are only about supplying the batteries: not building the whole EV. But this is about mass-producing the batteries to cut the battery cost by 30%!

I’m just trying to make the point that replacing oil for domestic driving is not impossible. I also had to include a disclaimer that I don’t necessarily agree with Americans buying 12 million cars a year. I wish it were at least a quarter of that because I wish Americans had better New Urban planning! I read many studies that conclude places like Portland and Manhattan are actually becoming more desirable. But this is a conversation about getting rid of oil, fast, and I’m happy to overlook the trucks and ecocities just to make a point! So assuming all those cars are EV’s, and assuming America doesn’t learn from Portland and Manhattan, they can still replace ALL 12 million Internal Combustion Engines by building 24 Gigafactories. Elon Musk is already building his first.

Then the premise of this typical doomer question got to me, and I just couldn’t stand it any more. It’s not my best writing, but here it is.

The other thing that strikes me as disingenuous about your typical “How are you going to do that without oil?” schtick is that it’s just so untrue to peak oil theory. The oil’s not going to run out overnight. It’s going to become more expensive. For *decades*. Like thumb screws that are slowly and gradually wound up tighter and tighter, the quest for alternatives to oil will gradually become more and more urgent. There’s time.

It’s also self-regulating. When high oil prices hit the economy, the economy slows down a bit and people don’t consume as much oil. Just look at the GFC. Americans stopped consuming 25% of their oil without a single bit of oil-saving legislation being passed! Note that they’re not a quarter of the way back to the stone age. Europeans use half the oil per capita than America. They’re not half the way back to the stone age. Economies can and will function on less oil, and when alternatives take over they can and will function with NO OIL!

So don’t trot out the entirely anti-science, anti-geology, anti-peak oil “How ya gonna do it without oil, huh?” meme at me when we have decades and decades of oil left, including all those disgusting brown-tech options ROEOZ always said would never amount to anything. Boy, you guys got that wrong didn’t you?

I guess I should have added that the best thing about this oil is that it is going to be more and more expensive. The whole reason we have cheap oil again is that Saudi Arabia didn’t like the threat from America’s non-conventional oil, and opened up her taps a bit more to bring the price down to bankrupt the dirtier brown-tech non-conventional oils that rely on a higher price. This kind of action will ricochet around the American economy well before the effects of declining oil hit. Maybe they’ll wake up before becoming addicted to brown-tech oil? Elon’s already building the Gigafactory which will be completed by 2020. It’s only $5 billion.


So what’s the bottom line? If America really wanted to get off oil in a hurry, all her family cars could easily be replaced with somewhere around 24 Gigafactories (and that’s being excessive because I haven’t allowed for all the pick up trucks that might run on other synthetic fuels like hydrogen or boron). This would cost around $120 billion for the factories alone. Americans would have to buy their own cars, and part of that cost would probably be importing lithium from Bolivia. That’s a win for Bolivia, but it’s about time South America had an economic win, hey?

Meanwhile, the other crucial part of doing without oil is also learning to do without natural gas and coal. Gas is about as bad as coal, because of the methane leaks from the old pipe infrastructure in most American cities. Not only do all fossil fuels destabilise our climate, but air pollution costs America a lot of money every year. As a Harvard study (that includes Richard Heinberg) says: “We estimate that the life cycle effects of coal and the waste stream generated are costing the U.S. public a third to over one-half of a trillion dollars annually.” Not only this, but America imports about $400 billion worth of oil annually. (Some have estimated more). Switching to clean nuclear power + renewables + EV’s (& synfuel) would clean up the air and prevent America importing oil. It would save them a third to half a trillion in health costs, and a quarter trillion in imported oil. With potentially an extra trillion dollars every 18 months to 2 years floating around in the American economy, and energy independence, and (with that independence) less likelihood of being dragged into future oil wars), it soon becomes clear. The question is not whether America can afford to go ‘nuclear gree’ with EV’s. It’s whether America can afford not to!

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I’ve been waiting for this for years.

On my ‘Replenish the soil’ page I have documented the work of soil experts in both biochar, and cow-rotation expert Joel Salatin. (PolyFace Farms). I’ve also been wondering about crop & cow and biochar interfaces. Now the different disciplines are starting to come together. All he needs to do is meet Joel Salatin and I think we’ve got a winner!

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International Energy Agency on subsidies





IEA subsidies


Page 12 of this Pdf shows:





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Review: The Quantum what?

I finally finished Quantum Thief. For a fair review and introduction to the themes of this book, try here, and then we’ll get to my gripe. Okay?

I’ve read a fair few space operas covering singularity and post singularity themes, but nothing with an economy this bleak. It’s the Quiet: the whole concept stood out like a sore thumb that just didn’t fit! With technology like this, why not build or grow a bunch of androids to do the Quiet jobs for you? Why ‘die’ and end up a slave for who knows how many decades? Why was it such a horrible experience that the very economy itself ran on quantum linked units of time measured by your Watch? I struggled with this most basic concept of the plot for a while. The author has a Phd in Mathematical Physics from Edinburgh, so of course was not going to leave such a horrid state of affairs unexplained. It’s all in the big reveal at the end, where some major paradigm shifts finally unpack this apparent contradiction and explain it.

But not much else is. I like being immersed in a sink or swim sci-fi-scape as much as the next bloke, but it would be nice to have *some* idea of the place by the time you finish a book. Sorbornost? Oubliette? If it were not for a few good online wikis, I would only have a vague idea about these important environments. Other reviewers agree.

Even the wiki mentions this problem. “Criticism for the novel has generally centred on Rajaniemi’s sparse “show, don’t tell” writing style. Brown notes that “the author makes no concessions to the lazy reader with info-dumps or convenient explanations.” Niall Alexander, of the Speculative Scotsman, states that “had there been some sort of index, [he] would have gladly (and repeatedly) referred to it during the mind-boggling first third of The Quantum Thief “, while proclaiming the novel to be “the sci-fi debut of 2010.””

Overall, I enjoyed it, but am sort of glad it is over. For now. I’m not sure if or when I’ll get the energy for the sequels! There will probably be some more Peter F Hamilton to read by then.

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Renewables contradictions


Are we going off-grid, or building a super-grid?
Will that grid be baseload and reliable and give us power when we really need it, or only trickles that can hardly meet the real demand?


a/  We’re all going off grid, and magical storage devices are going to back up wind and solar on our own houses or industrial estates or offices in town. Renewables advocates like Paul Gilding, one of Australia’s biggest sustainability experts, celebrates the ‘death spiral’ of utilities and how they’re going to be stranded with all these inconvenient expensive assets. He says: “The utility death spiral is a great example of system complexity that is simple to understand. Solar energy costs have plummeted – so far that in most places you can get electricity cheaper from your own solar panels than you can from a utility. The impact on the grid of people doing so at scale is to lower the overall cost of electricity generation by reducing both peak demand (and so peak pricing) and lowering volume. Utilities are then stuck with expensive physical assets, less sales and lower margins, so they need to increase either the cost per unit of power or impose grid connection charges to customers. But doing either gives customers more motivation to leave the utility – thus the death spiral.”

He is celebrating people going off-line and threatening the economic viability of the grid.

  1. SUPER-GRID: We’re all going ONTO a continent-wide super-grid, and it’s going to cost billions in its own right because it is necessary to get the distant wind and solar to where the consumers are, and if we build it big enough it might even help tackle that other great problem with wind and solar, it being fundamentally intermittent and unreliable. Desertec assumes that EUrope are going to build a continent spanning super-grid all the way down through the Middle East into North Africa. (EU-ME-NA, Eumena).

    Key FindingsDesert Power 2050demonstrates that the abundance of sun and wind in the EUMENA region will enable the creation of a joint power network that will entail more than 90 percent renewables. According to the study such a joint power network involving North Africa, the Middle East and Europe (EUMENA) offers clear benefits to all involved. The nations of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) could meet their expanding needs for power with renewable energy, while developing an export industry from their excess power with could reach an annual volume worth more than 60 billion euros, according to the study results. By importing up to 20 percent of its power from the deserts, Europe could save up to 30 euros for each megawatt hour of desert power.

    The north and south would become the powerhouses of this joint network, supported by wind and hydropower in Scandinavia, as well as wind and solar energy in the MENA region. Supply and demand would complement one other – both regionally and seasonally – according to the findings of Desert Power 2050. With its constant supply of wind and solar energy throughout the year, the MENA region can cover Europe’s energy needs without the latter having to build costly excess capacities. A further benefit of the power network is the enhanced security of supply to all nations concerned. A renewables based network would lead to mutual reliance among the countries involved, complemented by inexpensive imports from the south and the north.”

    This is just one example. Australia’s going to be part of an Asian super-grid.
Even University of Melbourne think tank Beyond Zero Emissions recommends an Australia-wide supergrid.

So which is it? Paul Gilding’s death spiral, or the Pan-Asian-Australian super grid? Are these people even speaking to each other? What’s the plan?


The American NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) assures us that if we just charged all our cars at *night* on overnight *spare capacity*,  we could charge half of American driving without building a new power plant or upgrading the grid at all!

But hang on. This is the same NREL that pushes Amory Lovin’s studies that claim we don’t *need* reliable baseload power overnight. He understands that solar and wind work mostly during the day, and that there are challenges moving from a power supply that is baseload and reliable (or mostly ON) to intermittent and unreliable (or mostly OFF!) Amory says there will be no baseload power. With all his efficiency measures, we’ll only need a trickle of power at night. He doesn’t understand that baseload power *is* a massive efficiency measure because it lets you charge half your electric car fleet at night, on the existing grid transmissions lines and generators. But no. Forget charging half the fleet on spare night-time capacity. That’s gone! Amory is relying on intermittent solar and wind power to run a tiny fraction of the grid at night, and power everything during the day.

So how are we going to charge our cars during the day? If today’s baseload grid’s *huge* night time spare capacity could only have charged half the fleet, then what about during the day when the grid is already struggling to meet demand? How many times are we going to build out the grid again? How are we going to charge all those EV’s? Are we going to double the grid? Triple it? No. Amory Lovins pretends we’re going to roughly *halve* daytime capacity!

To which I say, pull the other one!

So what is it NREL? Baseload reliable night time power charging our EV’s, or only a tiny trickle, and the day time grid being beefed up to some kind of hyper-industrial super-grid? How much is *that* going to cost? Talk about magical *and* contradictory thinking!  This kind of wishful thinking is just not good enough for deep sustainability. I haven’t even talked about the costs of building out the so-called smart-grid either. It’s not just a super-grid, it’s a super-sized super-smart super-grid! Or we could end these silly debates, and just plug nuclear power into today’s sized dumb grids and clean up our energy in about 11 years, as France did.

As Dr James Hansen said:

“Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”

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Evacuate 33 million people from Kerala NOW!

Quick! It’s an emergency! We simply must evacuate 33 million citizens of Kerala State, India, according to Fukushima regulations! It has 3 times the radiation of Fukushima! Evacuate it now!!!

“For thousands of years, some of the population of Kerala have been living bathed in radiation at more than triple the level which will get you compulsorily thrown out of your home (evacuation) in Japan. The Japanese have set the maximum annual radiation level at 20 milli Sieverts per year around Fukushima while some parts of Kerala have had a level of 70 milliSieverts per year … for ever.”…/24/what-can-we-learn-from-ker…/

Or not. Or we could educate Japanese officials about the negligible impacts of radiation exposure, and let evacuees go home to most of the exclusion zone.

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Evernote V Onenote: Onenote wins for my purposes!

  • I *had* given up on Onenote. I thought it would let me do everything I wanted (like ‘Find & Replace’) with the Onetastic extension, but I use Mac and Onetastic only works on Windows7. Mac doesn’t even seem to let you rename Notebooks! How outrageous is that?
  • But then after a few weeks playing with Evernote, I realised it wasn’t the best app for my needs either. It doesn’t have ‘Find & Replace’ either. (‘Replace’ is important to me as I’m using my notes as a novel-wiki with all the backstory etc to a sci-fi novel. Now imagine I change a character name! Ouch!)
  • I couldn’t get hooked on Mac’s because I might soon get a free hand-me-down Windows laptop that I could use to write. Then I can customise the laptop as *mine* and finally get *my* account to sync properly for the Onetastic extension
  • Until I get Onenote on Windows I *can* edit notebook names on my imac by just logging into, where I can delete or rename notebooks as often as I like.
  • Evernote doesn’t store on the device: it requires wifi or mobile access to data to update the screen you’re watching. Onenote can sync on my local wifi at home, and then be up to date on my iphone.
  • I like the Onenote layout better than Evernote. Evernote only gives 250 notebooks, and then everything is in notes. Onenote has notebooks, Sections, and then pages. That’s much more useful for me!
  • Evernote notes wouldn’t just drag to the order I wanted them to sit in the notebook, but seemed to be name dependent. I had to add *numbers* to each note’s title for this! Crazy. Onenote pages just drag up and down where you want, within the Section you want. Easy!
    8. Evernote scared me when it warned I had already used up half the data-transfer allowed in one week! Upload / download is only 60MB a month! I use lots of images in my character wiki’s etc. Images spark up my writing. They’re essential. But they take up space! Given I wanted to export Evernote to my mac every month for security, it would not be long until just doing my monthly backup would use up all my free data transfer allowance! Onenote doesn’t have one of those, and instead just has a free 15 GIG storage allowance. (As I run a business with Microsoft Office365, we get 1TB on onedrive!)
    So, for now I’m moving across to Onenote and I don’t think I’ll be looking back. When I finally get a hand-me-down Windoze, I’ll be able to customise my accounts and finally sync for the Onetastic Search & Replace.
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