Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Energy Trap

I just read an interesting post on The Oil Drum. Not a new idea, but a good, clear explanation of it. Basically, it goes like this:

  • after peak, fossil fuel supplies decline at a certain rate per year.
  • renewable (or nuclear) energy can be used to replace the energy supply that is being lost.
  • building new energy supplies USES energy for the construction process.
  • if there was spare fossil fuel, this extra energy needed to build the supplies wouldn't be a problem, but instead we have declining fossil fuel supplies.
  • as a result, starting a big effort to build new energy supplies, of whatever sort, means that there is less energy available globally for other uses.
  • it is then several years before the new energy supplies being built manage to make up for both the fossil fuels lost and the energy used in their own construction - at any given point, giving up on the construction of new supplies would free up some energy and provide a few years of relief from the high energy prices, after which the problem would get worse again.
As you can see, we need to take several years of pain in higher energy prices to fund a new energy infrastructure that will keep us going in the long run. But since when has anyone voted in a government to do that kind of thing?

Take for example the impending cut in the UK solar PV feed-in-tariff. Granted, it was probably too generous form the start, which is why it has been 'too successful' - the result is people grumbling about the extra few pounds added to their electricity bills, rather than congratulating the government on getting lots of new energy supply infrastructure installed.

People want jam today, not tomorrow. We'll all be paying the price later...


Read the full article on TOD

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