The Seneca Effect

Collapses are the way the universe gets rid of the old to leave space for the new. It was noted for the first time by the Roman Philosopher Lucius Anneaus Seneca (4 BCE-65 CE) and it is called today the "Seneca Effect."

Sunday, December 25, 2022

A Christmas Post: The Miracle of Renewables



The "Seneca Effect" has been a little gloomy, recently. So, for a change of pace, here is the translation in English of a post that I wrote for the Italian newspaper "Il Fatto Quotidiano," also reproduced in my blog "The Sunflower Society". Because it was published in a newspaper, it is simplified and short, yet it says what's needed to understand the revolution we are going through that will change the world in the coming years. If you are interested in the source of the data,  you can find them on Lazard.comSo, Merry Christmas, and never despair. Sometimes, miracles happen! 

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” (Luke 2:9-10)


Miracles are not so frequent and, if one has serious health problems, it is not probable that a swim in the Lourdes pool will solve them. However, it is also true that sometimes things change quickly, opening up new possibilities. That's what's happening with renewable energy. Talking about a "miracle" is a bit much, I know, but recent technological developments have made available to us a tool that until a few years ago we didn't even dream of having. And this could solve problems that once seemed unsolvable.

For years, I've been lecturing about climate change and other looming worries, such as oil depletion. Usually, the people who came to listen to me were prepared for a message that was not exactly reassuring, but the question was what to do about it. At the end of the conference, a debate normally ensued in which the same things were said: ride a bicycle, turn down the thermostat in the house, install double glazing panes on the windows, use low energy light bulbs, things like that.

It was a little soothing ritual but, in reality, everyone knew that these weren't real solutions. Not that they're useless, but they're just a light layer of green on a system that continues to depend on fossil fuels to function. We have been talking about double glazing and bicycles for at least twenty years, but CO2 emissions continue to increase as before. Actually, faster than before. If we don't go to the heart of the problem, which is to eliminate fossil fuels, we will get nowhere. But how to do it? Until a few years ago, there seemed to be no way except to go back to tilling the fields by hand, as our ancestors did during the Middle Ages.

But today things have changed radically. You probably didn't notice it, caught up in the debate on politics. But it doesn't matter whether the right or the left wins. Change, the real one, is coming with renewable technologies. Wind and photovoltaic plants have been optimized and scaling factors have generated massive savings in production costs. Today, a kilowatt-hour produced by a photovoltaic panel costs perhaps a factor of 5-10 less than a kilowatt-hour from natural gas (and maybe a factor of 5 less than a nuclear kilowatt-hour) (source). We used to call renewables "alternative energy," but today all others are "alternative."

Furthermore, producing energy with modern renewable technologies does not pollute, does not require non-recyclable materials, does not generate greenhouse gases, does not generate local pollution, and nobody can bomb the sun to leave us without energy. Now, don't make me say that renewables have automatically solved all the problems we have. It is true that today they are cheap, but it is also true that they are not free. Then, investments are needed to adapt energy infrastructure throughout the country, to create energy storage systems, and much more. These are not things that can be done in a month, or even in a few years. There is talk of a decade, at least, to arrive at an energy system based mainly on renewables.

But it is also true that every journey begins with the first step. And now we see ahead of us a road ahead. A road that leads us to a cleaner, more prosperous, and hopefully less violent world. I haven't stopped going around giving conferences but, now, I can propose real solutions. And it's not just me who noticed the change. In the debate, today you can feel the enthusiasm of being able to do something concrete. Many people ask if they can install solar panels at home. Others say they've already done it. Some mad (and rightfully so) at the bureaucracy that prevents them from installing panels on their roof or in their garden. You also see the changing trend on social media.

There is always someone who speaks out against renewables by reasoning like the medieval flagellants who went around shouting "remember that you must die". But there are also those who respond in kind, "good riddance, and live happily together with the other cavemen." If you have a south-facing balcony (and if your municipality doesn't sabotage your idea), you can already install photovoltaic panels hanging from the railing that will help you reduce your electricity bill. No paperwork is needed! (another small miracle). One step at a time, we will succeed!


For a general assessment of the performance of renewables compared to fossil fuels, see this recent article by Murphy et al.

92 comments:

  1. If a kilowatt-hour produced by a photovoltaic costs less than a kilowatt-hour from natural gas, how come the factories producing these photovoltaic panels in China are powered by coal and natural gas? Is it just a matter of time? (Like… nuclear fusion?)

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    1. Renewable Energy is like a newborn child. At the beginning, she needs everything from her parents, but then she grows and becomes independent and helps others. It is the great cycle of life (Citing from the "Lion King" :-) ) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GibiNy4d4gc

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  2. Focusing on the cost of energy or the type of energy used to power an unsustainable system is rather hilarious. It matters not one bit HOW one powers civilization, it remains unsustainable. Non-renewable rebuildable energy devices are a distraction at best; focusing instead on degrowth, reducing technology use across the board, and ending the system of civilization should be our goals if we wish to avoid extinction: https://problemspredicamentsandtechnology.blogspot.com/2022/12/bargaining-to-maintain-civilization.html

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  3. Has the forum infiltrated by WEF? ūüėĄ Green solutions are not really green, soy milk is not really milk, same for fake meat etc. Some nations will fail earlier than others. First world living standarts will be a thing of the past.

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    1. It takes some time to see changes, especially when they are at the beginning of their cycle. But, at some moment, they become impossible to ignore. We are all going through this epiphany, some of us arrived at it earlier than others. But that does not change the fact that change is coming.

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  4. Ugo, your post is uncharacteristically shallow. And nonsensical. Which begs the question: Are you attempting to be ironic, sarcastic, or is this just hopium greenwash in a weak moment of despair?

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    1. It is an article that appeared in a newspaper, not a scientific article. But it is based on scientific studies, some performed by me, some by others. Greenwash for yourself, it is good for the health of one's teeth, but this article is not about dentistry.

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    2. “It is … not a scientific article.”

      Correct. It would never pass peer review. Hoping for “miracles” is not a respected methodology in science.

      “… recent technological developments” provide a tool “…we didn’t even dream of having” that could now “…solve problems that once seemed unsolvable.”

      So you’re now in the “technology will save us” camp. Ok, that’s clear enough. But remember that all modern technology is simply a derivative of using fossil fuel.

      And that “renewable energy” devices are based entirely on fossil fuel. They simply don’t have the same energy density. They cannot and will not keep Billions of humans alive and well.

      In your “newspaper article” you unfortunately fail to point this out. The real problem is not too little energy but too many consumers.

      Adding the energy needs of 85 million more consumers - every 12 months - to an already degraded biosphere, will not be solved by fossil fuel based “renewable technologies”.

      One can only think that perhaps you’ve momentarily forgotten the Laws of Thermodynamics and the Principles of Ecology in order to… lift our spirits? Well, why not. Even though your miracle-based thinking does not comport with reality, it’s certainly a good time of year to engage in wishful thinking.

      So thanks for the attempt. But you really should have temporarily re-named your blog “The Seneca Defect: Increases are of Sluggish Growth, But the Way to Ruin is… (drum roll, wait for it…) Prevented If We Use Technology!”


      Cheers and Happy Holidays!

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    3. Why so much anger? Take a look at this recent article https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/14/12/7098. You'll see that the EROI of renewables is now much better than that of fossil fuels. Why do you lock yourself in this intellectual cage that sees fossil fuels as the only way to support a civilization? Update your database. Accept that things change. It was one of the main point that Seneca made.

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    4. Anyone who points out your silliness, and then concludes with “Cheers and Happy Holidays!” is clearly not “angry”. But your attempt to label it that, well, does reveal a deep - and uncharacteristic - defensiveness. Where is that coming from?

      “…fossil fuels as the only way to support a civilization…”

      You’re not aware that human civilizations for the last 8,000 years did not use fossil fuels? And their populations did not grow exponentially?

      Do the homework, and “update your data base” and you’ll find that realism and empiricism works better than miracle-based wishful thinking in forming a coherent world view.

      And please “accept that things change” quickly, unexpectedly, and destructively even after a long period of success (and one might add technological achievement). That is what Seneca was asserting - and it’s puzzling why you now suddenly deny it when someone disagrees with you.

      Lighten up Ugo, we’re just having a small inconsequential conversation here.

      And again, Cheers and Happy Holidays!

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    5. Indeed, an inconsequential conversation. You don't seem to understand what I am saying. Besides, it is not nice to accuse me of "miracle-based wishful thinking" when I link to the data on which I base my considerations. And the fact that you wish Happy Holidays at the end doesn't mean that you are not angry. Again, I invite you to base your considerations on data, not on statements that you think are self-evident. Anyway, Happy Holidays to you, too.

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    6. Maybe this is a Grokking test? The scientific paper Ugo links to states in its opening paragraph "Most importantly, the authors advocate for the use of point-of-use EROIs rather than point-of-extraction EROIs as the energy “cost” of the processes to get most thermal fuels from extraction to point of use drastically lowers their EROI." Which excludes all the fossil energy used from point of extraction i.e. ring fenced infinite externalities have been admitted into the assertions in Ugo's article here above.

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    7. Natasha, but what is your point? "ring fenced infinite externalities"? What would that be?

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    8. I was wrong to use the word "infinite". Nonetheless, the Murphy et al paper's EROI harmonisation does not include post "point of use" material inputs to make the machines that use different fuels, which are significantly different from each other e.g. the land and raw materials needed to manufacture EV's c/w ICE's etc.

      The "life cycle assessment (LCA) community” analysis simply outputs comparisons, as if its inputs, in particular land-use, is not a limited finite resource: using land for one purpose axiomatically means there is less for other uses. In other words land use - which is at the root of all energy supplies to humans and all other life on the 'pale blue dot' - appears to have not been properly accounted for, either post or pre "point of use".

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  5. Even if one is willing to accept that renewable energy is capable of completely replacing non-renewable energy sources (itself a doubtful proposition), there remains the fact that industrial civilization requires vast amounts of other non-renewable resources (including those used to build the renewable-energy-harvesting devices, I might add). Unless someone also invents a "replicator", our current industrial way of life is nevertheless doomed.

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    1. I agree that the current first world lifestyle is past it's pull date, but it still doesn't have to be a tragic collapse ... even though it probably will be.

      Fighting to try to maintain that first world style of consumption as long as possible can cause much worse suffering among those who aren't part of the rich world.

      In truth, the suburbs and SUVs lifestyle isn't all that great anyway, and could be abandoned without many regrets.

      But people hold onto their lifesyle, because they don't see any other way.

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    2. Yes. I take a bit of comfort when I observe that past civilizations achieved some amazing things without any of the trappings of industrial civilization.

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  6. Who you think will be Iraqie'd for their fossil resources next, after Ukraine and Russia - in order for renewables, artic oil & gas, cold fusion, shale oil, shale gas and other shenanigans - to remain heard about in the News and Posts?

    Algeria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Tunisia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, or who - you think in 2022?

    Local observers in the ME think Iraq will soon be Iraqie'd - once more - first...

    Energy, never comes from the future...

    Energy only flows from past to future...

    Wailing.

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    1. That's exactly what we can hope renewables will avoid.

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    2. Ugo, can you point me/us here to a study that compares all the energy in fossil fuels spent mining, manufacturing, transporting and maintaining (and in the end scrapping) the huge wind turbines, against the energy produced by them in average (rather than ideal) conditions?

      I must report that here in Colorado, the people who have installed solar panels against promises of certain payments for contributing to the grid, have been systematically cheated by the electric utilities who make it less and less profitable for the homeowner. Not to mention the often dishonest information about how many years it takes to pay for itself, and the toxic debris once the panels have been scrapped. I would also love to see a report of the various boondoggles like the vast solar farms in the western desert here that have been abandoned and left to pollute the desert forever. I used to be a big fan of these technologies, but my sense of the situation is turning unfavorable.

      Thank you for your help in clearing up some of the smoke.

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    3. This one is a true milestone: https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/14/12/7098. It says everything that needs to be said to clear the smoke

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  7. "...it is not nice to accuse me of miracle-based wishful thinking..."

    You clearly use “Miracle” in the very title of your newspaper article!

    Pointing out that undeniable fact is not “accusation” but simple “observation”. And observation is the first step in empiricism, is it not?

    “…base your considerations on data…”

    You’re unaware of the data that “renewables” are entirely based on fossil fuels?

    You’re unaware of the data that tells us “renewables” cannot scale-up and keep Billions of humans alive and well?

    You’re unaware that 85 million more humans are added to a degraded biosphere every 12 months?

    You’re temporarily -and conveniently - unaware of the Laws of Thermodynamics and the Principles of Ecology?

    You’re unaware that there can be no infinite growth in a finite space?

    You’re unaware that overshooting carrying capacity ends with collapse?

    Not going to do the homework for you Ugo. Your belief that something can’t be self-evident unless a link is included is, well, a bit bizarre. If that were true, there could be no conversation. But being caught in a defensive and stubborn mood will make certain people believe that. Especially those who think “You don’t understand what I am saying” proves they’re right.

    Your newspaper article was quite easy to understand. Many learned people disagree with your well-worn conclusion that “renewables will change the world”. You know who they are, and where to find them, and read their analysis and data. They “Do The Math”. The onus is on you to prove them wrong.

    Again, lighten up friend, it’s unlike you to be a scrooge during the holiday season.

    And one more time, with sincerity and from the heart (but with no links to show the corroborating data) Cheers and Happy Holidays!

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    1. I am afraid that simply repeating the same statements over and over won't make you right. But I am sure you enjoy your certainties. Happy Yuletide!

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    2. BTW, I never asked you to do the homework for me. I've already done that extensively. It is you who need to do your homework to update your obsolete beliefs. Happy Kwanzaa!

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    3. Anonymous, I see that you started doing some homework, but you still don't understand how these evaluations are made. So, I hope you'll excuse me if I interrupt this thread that has become useless. Happy Ashura!

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  8. When you guys figure out cold fusion, you will be amazed at the rapid positive changes. I'm tempted to tell you how to do it. That would be frowned upon. But I still might. What would someone trade for that knowledge?

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    1. Sure. We can't wait for Rossi's water boiler being on sale at Walmart.

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  9. Seems doubtful that renewables can save industrial civ. No one wants to post links; here are a few.

    https://energyskeptic.com/2022/why-how-mining-metals-for-renewables-will-destroy-the-planet-not-prevent-the-energy-crisis/

    https://energyskeptic.com/2021/science-no-single-or-combination-of-alternative-energy-resources-can-replace-fossil-fuels/

    https://energyskeptic.com/2020/fossil-fueled-industrial-heat-hard-to-impossible-to-replace-with-renewables/

    https://consciousnessofsheep.co.uk/2022/08/30/net-zero-is-dead-so-what-now/


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    1. Let me rephrase your comment, Stefano. Instead of "seems doubtful," I would say, "some people believe that renewables cannot save the industrial civilization." They may be right or wrong, but it is all to be seen.

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  10. Perhaps we should point out that right now solar panels use 25% of the world tellurium (probably more now). They produce 1% of the electricity. So we can get to 4%, great. But no more.

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    1. Allow me, anonymous, to tell you that your comment is a good example of how it is not a good idea to rush to the keyboard without doing your homework first. CdTe (cadmium-tellurium) panels represent today less than 5% of the world production of PV panels. The great majority, 95%, use silicon which is one of the most abundant elements in Earth's crust. So, there does not exist a problem of tellurium depletion -- when (if) we run out of it, we move to 100% silicon.

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    2. anonymous ugo bardi is right you can never mine out silicium because most of planet earth is silicium

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    3. “…you can never mine out sillicium…” - aaron faes

      So you believe that silicon is the only component of a solar panel?

      Clearly you’re unaware of Leibig’s Law of the Minimum.

      There is a long complex concatenation of required human activities, supply chains, metals, minerals, vital components, and stable socio/cultural-economic-financial systems necessary to manufacture a solar panel. Each of these is a complex process by itself, and and without all these systems and processes being available, affordable, profitable, in synchronization, and working together, a solar panel will not be produced.

      Let’s choose just one obvious component of a solar panel: fossil fuel.

      aaron, without fossil fuel how will the machine that mines silicon be built? (Hint: energy density). (Another hint: peak oil appears to be in the past).

      Proponents of “miracle renewables” that will “change the world” reveal a deeply embarrassing and disturbing lack of “systems thinking”. Most notably, those who are highly educated.

      Probably the most important driver of the steep downward trajectory of the Seneca curve is this lack of “systems thinking” - in individuals, communities, societies, and of course, civilizations. Why? Systems thinking becomes exceedingly difficult for humans when confronted with increasing complexity.

      Look forward to your response, aaron.

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    4. Dear anonymous, Aaron is perfectly right: silicon is the main component of solar panels. They also need some aluminum for the contacts and the glass plate, but aluminum is another very abundant material on Earth. Then, they need traces of boron and phosphorous, again common materials. And finally, cells use some silver as a backing contact -- but it is not really necessary. Please update your mental database: it is partly wrong, and partly obsolete.

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    5. anonymous we do not need fossil fuels to mine we can mine like the old days with horses or just humanpower with pickaxe and a bag on our backs with the mined minerals like the roman slaves or egyptian's slave they show it in the bibble movies and they used kids in the small shirts to push the cart's humans always find ways to do it

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    6. “… silicon is the main component of solar panels.” - Ugo

      My dear Ugo, reading comprehension is important.

      The question has nothing to do with “the main component” of solar panels.

      Quite the opposite. It shows that unavailability of a required minimum component can shut down a manufacturing process.

      So read the question carefully and please try again.

      I can help you out here by restating it: Without fossil fuel, how will the machine that mines silicon be built?

      Look forward to your answer.

      Cheers and Happy Holidays!

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    7. In Italy we say "turning the omelette around" when someone brings different arguments in order to save face after having been shown to be wrong.

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    8. anonymous like ugo bardi posted a while ago coal was extracted by horses and manpower and i doubt if you actually need horses our ancestors mine with just a pickaxe and armpower and carried the minerals on their backs in baskets strapped around there backs like the slaves in egypt you can see it in the movie spartacus with kijk Douglas and also in the bible movie collection no horses needed humans are really smart we always find sommething that will help !

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    9. yeah ugo bardi your right i think aluminium is 15 % or 18% of all earth crust

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    10. So, our anonymous first said we don't have enough tellurium. When he realized he was wrong, he said there are other components that we can't mine in sufficient amounts. He was also shown to be wrong on this point. So, he said that the critical material were fossil fuels. When, of course, what's needed to make solar panels is not fossil fuels, it is electricity, and electricity is made using solar panels. In short, he has turned the omelette at least three times, and by now it is quite burned on both sides. So, I think it is appropriate to close also this thread.

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    11. Ugo, you claim that "what's needed to make solar panels is not fossil fuels, it is electricity" but as far as I have so far discovered this is incomplete: Indeed you know all this, so your change of mind is confusing, since available data including the favourable EROI calculations you reference (D. Murphy) in this blog post, nor the laws of thermodynamics prohibiting low energy batteries (which are close to max density) from powering large mining & transport equipment, etc., has not changed since you wrote the 'Universal Mining Machine' article published in the Oil Drum in 2008?

      http://theoildrum.com/node/3451

      Reviewed here:-

      https://energyskeptic.com/2021/ugo-bardis-the-universal-mining-machine/

      For example, mining silicon and aluminium and building sand (for concrete foundations) and steel fixing bolts and transporting these raw materials to refineries, and to factories, and then onto customers, and onto remote site build outs, and making plastic for dust covers and electrical cable insulations and on-site drainage plastic pipes, and converter circuit boards, and capacitors and other components, and weather proof housings - all requires high energy density liquid fossil fuels - unless there are remote electrically driven mines being set up anywhere?

      Ergo: no fossil fuel inputs = no renewables' outputs, unless we divert their electrical output to synfuel manufacture = at best too inefficient.

      I don't see how its possible to maintain renewable build out without fossil fuel inputs – at any scale much beyond current levels, beyond a few decades or so at any population or economic level above what the pale blue dot sustained 250 years ago.

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    12. Natasha, you keep producing statements that are evidently obvious for you, but for which you do not provide justification. There is no law of thermodynamics that prevents batteries from powering heavy equipment. And, yes, in 2008 I was considerably more pessimistic than I am now. As a scientist, it is my duty to change my mind when new data generate new knowledge. And that's what I am doing and that I am trying to explain to people who are still chained to 20 years old data. Please, try to update your mental models: they are obsolete. And excuse me if I will stop also this thread, because it is becoming repetitive.

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    13. hey ugo bardi is it also true than we can mine without horses i mean with manpower with our arms like our ancestors did can it be done ?

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  11. Interesting points of view. What I see in my own simple way is taking steps to reduce or eliminate your basic dependent needs from large "corporate" distribution systems will allow you some degree of flexibility, autonomy and eventually peace of mind. I'm not waiting for any government to overturn existing cash utility company cows in this energy transition. I don't see leadership there. But, as usual, chaos presents opportunity for those with a humble plan. Maybe, if enough ordinary people take simple steps like some solar panels, (just for your own needs) plant a garden. That will be evaluated, understood and replicated by those with a like mind. Doing nothing is not a tenable option, small steps are better than no steps. I hope 2023 is a better year for all of us, but I fear it will be a global version of musical chairs. I've taken small steps, and they have provided good results. My studying how to improve my garden soil, and plunking down a half dozen panels will not do anything to move the needle on a global scale. But maybe acting on an individual strategy is the real lesson to be learned here.

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  12. The article Ugo links to by David Murphy et al., in support of the thesis advanced in Ugo's blog post here, conflicts with the conclusions of an earlier article co-authored by David Murphy: 'Modernity is incompatible with planetary limits: Developing a PLAN for the future'.

    https://sciprofiles.com/publication/view/411384ad600e3bddf2e0fd0ba86829b6

    Notably the first author of this paper, Thomas W. Murphy (who also publishes 'Do The Math' blog), has published 'Energy and Human Ambitions on a Finite Planet'...

    https://escholarship.org/uc/item/9js5291m

    ... in which T. Murphy concludes that re-newables' will be so constrained by whole system factors - e.g. land, fossil energy & mineral resources limits - not considered by the D. Murphy article Ugo links to here, as to render re-newables' and nuclear near impossible to scale up in the real world - certainly no where near able to support 8 Billion people, not even a tenth as many, as fossil fuels have enabled.

    Meanwhile Lazzards Levelised co$ts publication, Ugo also links to, seems to pluck numbers out of thin air i.e. no references or transparency on how numbers were derived i.e. arbitrary ring fencing.

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    1. Natasha, David Murphy and the others are among the most respected professionals in their fields -- I know them personally and one of them, Raugei, has been a student of mine. About Lazard, they use standard calculation methods and are highly respected in the energy field. Saying that some of them "pluck numbers out of thin air" is simply offensive, unless you can support it by some kind of proof that such is the case.

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    2. Ugo, I wrote "seems to pluck numbers out of thin air" deliberately to not appear I meant to accuse or pre suppose Lazzard's of guilt, and certainly not to cause any offence. Rather I am simply asking the question, if not thin air then where / how did they get their data?

      Lazard tells us their "study has been prepared by Lazard for general informational purposes only, and it is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, financial or other advice."

      But they do not provide any sources whatsoever for any of the data they cite and rely on in their report. The data may be valid and accurate. But without sources, and with its disclaimer "not be construed as [...] advice" how can we rely on, or check its conclusions, without doing ALL the work ourselves? Isn't it up to those making claims to provide the evidence of the provenance of their data? Why is it up to the reports intended audience to provide "proof" that their data set is lacking references and origin? How am I supposed to provide "proof" they have not given any references!? Or should we just believe Lazard?

      Hiding behind its disclaimer "not be construed as [...] advice" renders the Lazard report bias and unreliable.

      Re: David Murphy, he has written two articles that appear to reach opposite conclusions a) renewables are scalable from current circa 5% global energy supply to replace fossil fuels at broadly current consumption levels (the paper you link to above) ~vs~ b) renewables can't scale much at all (the one I linked to). The point I am trying to raise is how do we resolve this apparat contradiction / conflict?

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    3. The report is biased on a well known concept: that of "levelized cost estimate" (LCOE). The results by Lazard are consistent with many other estimates and the operators in the field agree with them. If you have different data or interpretations, you are welcome to present them to the public.

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    4. Ugo, "levelized cost estimate" (LCOE) are far from being universally agreed upon e.g.
      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1040619020300610
      https://www.energyforgrowth.org/memo/lcoe-and-its-limitations/

      As such, I don't need to present my own original data. Further, since money is a future contact for energy supply, modelling comparative energy systems by abstracting to a money metric is self referential rendering such a method problematic and of little help understanding whole system complexity.

      Meanwhile limits to renewable harvesting infrastructure build out and scale up, rendered as externalities by your cited David Murphy article remain. Yes it's more efficient to burn fossils fuels to make renewables. But overall renewables can't stop de-growth, since there are many levels of complexity that limit future prosperity for humans.

      As anonymous tells us its very complex: "There is a long complex concatenation of required human activities, supply chains, metals, minerals, vital components, and stable socio/cultural-economic-financial systems necessary to manufacture a solar panel. Each of these is a complex process by itself, and without all these systems and processes being available, affordable, profitable, in synchronization, and working together, a solar [indeed all energy harvesting infrastructure] panel will not be produced."

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    5. Natasha, you are missing the basic point that I am making. BOTH monetary and energy calculations indicate that solar panels are a viable technology. I wouldn't trust LCOE calculations alone, and I would be surprised if energy calculations were not appearing as low prices of PV electricity. But both approaches are agreeing with each other, I think we can conclude that they are describing the real situation. So, I hope you will excuse me if I close this thread, too, because it is becoming repetitive and scarcely useful.

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  13. Perdón por la intromisión, pero tengo algunas dudas: las renovables sólo producen electricidad? Es cierto que hoy la electricidad apenas sobrepasa el 20% de la energía primaria que se consume? Es también cierto que, en la mejor de las previsiones la electrificación no superará el 40/45% del total de la energía disponible? Sobre el EROI sigo ateniéndome a lo que dicen Pedro Prieto et al.

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    1. You may, of course, choose to believe in those sources that confirm your preconceived opinion -- many people do exactly that. Allow me to tell you, though, that if you don't develop the sill of being able to change your mind when you have new data, you'll never be able to know the truth,

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    2. Bueno, reconozco mis carencias, pero el fracaso de las políticas alemanas de energía está a la vista.

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    3. Y en Espa√Īa, el pa√≠s m√°s soleado de Europa, la energ√≠a solar s√≥lo a generado (REE, 31/12/21) el 15,6% de la potencia total instalada.

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    4. There is no failure of the renewable energy in Germany. It is a small, ongoing, PR operation that keeps restating the obvious thing that "renewables cannot produce 100% renewable energy in Germany" as if it were a failure. It is not. Renewables cannot YET produce 100% renewable energy in Germany. It is not a failure, it is a step forward. Same for Spain. 15.6% is not a failure, it is progress toward the goal. Why are people so easily taken in by the silliest propaganda operations?

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    5. Reconozco que mi acercamiento a este asunto es a trav√©s del trabajo divulgativo de personas como A. Turiel, P. Prieto, Carlos de Castro y los Valero, padre e hija ( en Espa√Īa ); adem√°s de T. Murphy, Gail Tverberg, y hasta usted mismo. Si considera el trabajo de esas personas como propaganda tonta, no s√© ya qu√© pensar de usted.

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    6. Lining up people considered as "authorities" is not the way to understand a rapidly changing situation. We are not discussing theology, we are discussing technology.

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    7. Bueno, seguir√°n siendo autoridades hasta que alguien las desautorice sin evocar milagros. Entiendo que el concepto de EROI, su medici√≥n, est√©n en discusi√≥n, pero que la explosi√≥n inminente de la actividad extractiva minera necesaria para una sustituci√≥n generalizada de los combustibles f√≥siles antes de que se fundan los polos est√° fuera de dudas razonables. Alicia Valero menciona una proyecci√≥n de Halada et al. sobre el consumo de minerales basado en un modelo de desacoplamiento lineal en donde se relacionaba el consumo de metales per c√°pita y el PIB para los pa√≠ses ricos (G6) y emergentes (BRICS). El resultado fue que para el a√Īo 2050 se espera que el consumo de metales quintuplique globalmente el actual y que la demanda de algunos de ellos como el oro, plata, cobre, n√≠quel, esta√Īo, cinc, plomo o antimonio ser√° superior a sus reservas actuales.

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    8. Ugo, if its OK to line up David Murphy (environmental studies) as an "authority" as you have done for this blog post, then why is it not OK to line up Tom Murphy (physics) as an equally valid "authority" especially since they are both founding members of the PLAN initiative?

      "PLAN was initiated by Ben McCall (chemistry background), Melody LeHew (fashion studies), Tom Love (anthropology), David Murphy (environmental studies), and Tom Murphy (physics). These five co-authored a PLAN “launch” paper called Modernity is incompatible with planetary limits: Developing a PLAN for the future.

      In early 2022, PLAN became a sociocracy, which is a form of distributed governance de-emphasizing hierarchy and central control. Some PLAN members have joined “circles” (like committees) to move PLAN forward on a number of parallel fronts."
      https://planetarylimits.net/plan-leadership-governance/

      Further, if we combine David and Tom Murphy's conclusions it suggests a future that features solar energy flow harvesting infrastructure will very likely also require a human population crash back to pre fossil fuel numbers, circa same as in circa 1750s i.e. under circa 1 billion in a few short decades. Indeed Tom Murphy spells it out in his latest blog post: "[...] truthfully, I don’t know if it’s possible to preserve civilization—and neither does anyone else! To state the obvious: wanting civilization to continue is not enough without biophysical backing."
      https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/2022/12/the-simple-story/

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    9. Dear Natasha, and Dear Patxi, let me repeat that this is not the way to conduct the debate. I am not "relying on authority." If I cite David Murphy, it is because I checked his data, because I published myself in this field, and because his work is the most recent one and it is updated to the most recent data. Tom Murphy wrote an interesting book where he examined the whole spectrum of energy production and many other things. His conclusions are unfortunately flawed by a basic mistake: that the EROI of PV is 6. If he were to use the correct number (about 30 instead of 6) then he would have arrived to different conclusions, although his book remains valid in many respects. So, I think it is not enough to say "Murphy said" (Tom or David), you need to know the matter to judge by yourself how reliable is what they said. It is a complex matter, and I would also close this thread that is occupying too much space and leading nowhere.

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  14. If some country in the Sahara with sand good enough to make solar panels builds a solar-powered solar panel factory, it would be a game changer.

    While we may very well fail... What else would you better spend your time on anyway? ūüėČ

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    1. Ah.... maybe trying to build an atomic water boiler, like Mr. Andrea Rossi keeps doing :-)

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  15. Esta f√© un tanto desesperada de los tecnooptimistas en la sustituci√≥n de la energ√≠a f√≥sil por renovable y compatible con el crecimiento se parece, seg√ļn Antonio Turiel a la que en los a√Īos 50 del siglo pasado se ten√≠a en la fisi√≥n nuclear, " cuando todo iba a ser propulsado por peque√Īos reactores, cuando se dec√≠a que la electricidad se volver√≠a demasiado barata como para cobrarla. La fisi√≥n nuclear es esa energ√≠a que nos ha acabado llevando –tras Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chern√≥bil o Fukushima– a este invierno, en el cual Francia, la mayor potencia en cuanto a reactores nucleares, ha avisado de cortes de luz rotatorios a su poblaci√≥n principalmente porque tiene una buena parte de sus centrales paradas."

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  16. El mundo dentro de 50/80 a√Īos ser√° un mundo de renovables, inevitablemente.
    Pero no de las renovables tal y c√≥mo se est√°n dise√Īando ahora, incapaces de sostener un consumo de energ√≠a equivalente a 14700M de toneladas de petr√≥leo. (80% provenientes del petr√≥leo, carb√≥n y gas ).
    Resbalaremos, efectivamente, por el acantilado de Séneca. Y con gran sufrimiento.
    Si podemos evitar devastadoras guerras por los recursos que acaben con gran parte de la población. Si somos capaces de gestionar una caída enorme de los niveles de consumo aterrizaremos en una civilización muy distinta.
    Somos animales que consumimos hoy, por ejemplo en Espa√Īa, 4500 wts , pero hay vida digna en 800wts. Pero no, desde luego, la vida que llevamos ahora.
    Tendremos que prescindir de algunas cosas.

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    1. Exactly that. 800 W is enough -- but we can have more than that with renewables.

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    2. He o√≠do que en Suiza operan organizaciones ecologistas que est√°n proponiendo reducir el consumo a 2000 W desde los 8000 actuales. ¿Cu√°nto ser√≠a suficiente para t√≠ ? Me temo que los partidarios del GND, si no mencionan expresamente la necesidad de (alg√ļn) decrecimiento est√°n remando a favor del negacionismo. De los l√≠mites de energ√≠a y recursos, y del desastre clim√°tico.

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  17. Nonsense. No amount of wind and/or solar can replace fossil fuels. What is the only thing that can almost entirely replace fossil fuels without creating additional CO2? NUCLEAR ENERGY!!! The sooner The West wakes up to that the better off it will be. China and others already know that, but are happy to sell them the windmills and solar panels needed to feed European and American fantasies...

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  18. Ugo, you are making very naive mistake. It is not renewable energy it is technologies hatvesting renewable energy. And those technologies have damn high upkeep.

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    1. My point is that you are mistaking non-renewable renewable energy harvesting technologies with renewable energy itself. Do you understand now? The said technologies are built and maintained with fossil fuels and the products of fossil fueled operations.
      Also as a chemist could you explain how are we to meet our energy requirements by dialing down on the energy density if the energy carriers?
      Don't get me weong. I do hope that we can get ourselves out of that energy predicament but at the same time i am not discarding reality.

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    2. You are wrong. The papers I have linked consider the cost of the apparatuses needed to harvest solar energy.

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    3. About an year ago you also posted a paper by Oxford (i think) where it was made crystal clear that we don't have the amounts of critical materials to transition to 100% solar energy not for the world but just for the uk. Do you see the contradiction?
      Once again, don't get me wrong. I am not a doomer but a realiat. I do believe that solar/wind soxiety is possible but i am dead certain it won't be as complex and abundant as the cyrrent one. The world will be turned in a planetary developing society. I have lived and operated un such society and haven't seen any citizen of developed country to like it.

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    4. I can't find the exact paper as it is not easy to search for particular scientific article in google. But i found those:
      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921344919302290
      https://www.imf.org/en/Blogs/Articles/2021/12/08/metals-demand-from-energy-transition-may-top-current-global-supply
      https://www.imf.org/en/Blogs/Articles/2021/12/08/metals-demand-from-energy-transition-may-top-current-global-supply
      I think you can provide a link if you want. The paper was written by two authors from Oxford in 2021 if i remember correctly.
      Furthermore i recommend yku read some lf Sidharth Kara work on cobt mining. Here is a small snippet of hiw cobalt is mined in the biggest cobalt mine in the world (situated in Congo):

      https://youtu.be/CIWvk3gJ_7E

      Do you want for your offspring to labor in such mines (lithium and molybdenum mines are not differwnt from this cobalt mone)?

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  19. The linked article suggests that it's silly to produce electricity via fossil fuels; that it is more efficient to build and maintain renewable facilities using these fossil fuels than burning it for electricity, at least in the short term. It is explained by saying that traditionally transmission costs were not integrated in EROI for fossil fuels. Fine. Makes sense. I will assume it's good science.

    It does not say that PV can replace fossil fuels for our energy needs. It does not affirm that PV can be economically viable without fossil fuels. It does not claim that we can electrify everything. It does not say that our power grids can function normally only on renewables. In fact, it assumes that the grid is functioning on fossil fuels primary.

    It only says that in our current economy and availability of materials, it is more efficient to use electricity generated in a PV cell which is typically closer to the point of use than it is to use electricity generated in a thermal power plant. Which are good news for the investors in case it can be escalated, or only for the current owners otherwise.
    I'm afraid these are not good news for the consumers, who end up paying the electricity more expensive the more non-dispatchable renewable energies are included in the mix, unless we embrace intermittency (aka being cold in winter).
    The real game changer would be affordable large-scale energy storage.

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    1. Another miracle of renewables: receiving a comment by someone who uses his brain!

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    2. Renewables are the xxi sec coal. Cheap energy, that you can use to do things when y need; caring just a little about low efficiency.
      Now that renewables are so cheap, we can accept to use energy as P2G2P and P2G2L in order to solve the problem of seasons: how to have enough energy during winter.
      It is quite interesting to see how it could work, indeed. As aspo Italy we are doing some interesting simulations, here.

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    3. Oh, thank you for the compliment!
      I just couldn't believe you turned into the faith of progress by the night, so if you were so positive about the results, then they should be considered seriously. So did I.
      And I double checked it was not fool's day yet ;) (do you celebrate it December the 28th like us?).

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  20. It’s another Festivus MIRACLE!!!

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  21. South Australia has just hit new milestone of 10 days on renewable energy generation.
    https://reneweconomy.com.au/south-australias-remarkable-100-per-cent-renewables-run-extends-to-over-10-days/

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  22. that is great to hear jack in belgium we also break the record 4.505 mw it is the same amount that 4 nuclear reactors would use energy wise ugo bardi was right renewable energy is paying off ūüĎŹ ūüĎć ūüĎĆ ūüėÄ ūüėČ

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  23. The mineral requirements for the electrification of civilisation are far more than just the construction of PV panels. All the motors and batteries and turbines mineral requirements have to be supplied, from depletiing mineral reserves where the energy requirements for extracting each kilo of the various metals is increasing each year.

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  24. “The incorrect narrative provided by mainstream media (MSM) is that climate change is our worst problem. To lessen this problem, citizens need to move quickly away from fossil fuels and transition to renewables. The real narrative is that we are running short of fossil fuels that can be profitably extracted, and renewables are not adequate substitutes. However, this narrative is too worrisome for most people to handle.” — Ugo Bardi (as quoted by James Howard Kunstler)

    Renewables are not adequate substitutes. Right, Ugo? How does that jive with the paean on renewables above?

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    1. Disgraceful creature hiding under anonymity, you aren't even able to quote me correctly. That sentence is by Gail Tverberg, not mine. do you realize at what low level you are taking this "debate"?

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    2. Actually, it is not your fault. It was Jim Kunstler who attributed to me something I never said. The quote is from Gail Tverberg. And people are using it to accuse me of being incoherent. I never said anything like that. Never felt so close to poor Marie Antoinette....

      https://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/forecast-2023-get-out-of-the-way-if-you-cant-lend-a-hand/





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    3. Haha. But your first instinct was to yell at me, Ugo, even though I provided attribution. Tsk tsk.
      In any case, thank you for explaining. I wonder if you'll ever shake it off... now it's all over the web. Marie Antoinette never shook it off either... and it's been centuries.... ;-)

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    4. You didn't "provide attribution" -- you just cited James Kunstler without providing a link. That's not the way to quote someone. I had to search for it and finally I found it on Kunstler's blog. He removed that sentence from his blog upon my request.

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  25. Hi Ugo, one of the things that we lose sight of is elegance. EVs are simpler and more elegant than ICEs (more dependable too) LEDs longer lasting and more efficient than fluorescents and incandescents, heat pumps more efficient than gas furnaces, which were in turn much better than coal or wood heating (as Eli's Dad and Granddad could tell you were a positive pain). Today gas and resistive electric stoves are being replaced by induction.

    All of these are factors of 2 to 4 more efficient than the technology which went before them.

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