Thursday, 19 August 2010

How much energy do we REALLY need to replace to handle peak oil?

One of our idiot doomer friend said that it's impossible to replace current petroleum energy used by modern civilization.

Well instead of just falling out of my chair laughing, let's just do the numbers.


We need to replace the UTILITY lost by decline in oil supplies. And ONLY for the decline in oil supplies. The entire economy just doesn't run off of petroleum ONLY. There is a huge component that runs on electricity right now and we have no shortage of electricity in the industrialized world nor will we if we continue building renewables and more coal and nuke plants. Anyways, let's take the tack that even if there were no viable fossil fuel substitutes for the petroleum component (shale gas and unconventional oil does not exist for example) then we have the capacity to ramp up electricity production.

So how much do we actually need to replace? Only the equipment and plant affected by the decline rate of oil, not the entire stock of hardware in modern civilization. And since most equipment that uses petroleum is in transportation, let's look at the energy requirements to replace that decline rate.

Since electricity provides about 4X the utility of petroleum due to 4X the efficiency we need to replace about 1/4 of the decline rate assuming there are no other efficiencies to be had.

But there are.

Here in North America people are still arguing that 20mpg is "good gas mileage" because the average mpg of the fleet is about 15mpg.

If we triple that up to 45mpg equivalent by driving European style vehicles by size and then further cut the energy requirement by 4 due to electric efficiency and THEN only replace what we need to replace to cover the decline rate things start to look a LOT more doable.

In North America for example if we need to replace 1/4 of 10% (the high end of the doomer scenarios - though it's more likely to be 1/4 of 2%) then let's take a look eh?

How many vehicles do we have in our vehicle parc? Answer 250 million.
How many get replaced right NOW every year in a normal year? Answer 14 million.
I make that to be about 5 and a half percent.

So every year we are ALREADY replacing double the number of vehicles we need to replace to keep up with decline if we made them all electric. So let's look at how much power we would need to power all these puppies, shall we?

7 million new electric vehicles per year at 20KW/h per day = 140 million KW/h per day. Which is a capacity requirement of 140/24 to get KWs only. That gives us 5.8 million KWs capacity needed which is 5800 MWs.

Now let's take a look at what kind of capacity we're ACTUALLY bringing online:
Right from the Nuclear Energy Institute we have the following:
"For the first seven months of 2010, the following new electric generation came online: 3,700 MW of natural gas, 3,400 MW of coal, 1,500 MW of wind, 300 MW of biofuels, 80 MW of solar, 50 MW of geothermal, and 20 MW of hydro. A total of 37,000 MW of new capacity are under construction and expected to come online between now and 2014. Of this capacity, 46% is natural gas, 29% is coal, 16% is wind, 6% are other renewables and 3% is nuclear. Another 248,000 MW of capacity is planned to come online by 2014 but is still in the documentation phase; 41% of this capacity is wind, 32% are other renewables and 27% are fossil fuels (Ventyx, page 5)."

Wow. Looks like we're already bringing on about half the requirement in renewables by themselves.
So if we triple renewable construction we cover the decline just by renewables alone.


Hit the snooze button.

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