More Articles on The Energy Trap

The Cost of Changing Energy Supply

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Energy Trapped

This explores the problem of finding the energy to change your source of energy.  It takes a lot of energy to build new power plants of a kind we haven’t designed before.  That energy cost is on top of the overall increasing demand for energy from industry and people alike.  If we leave the start of the change for too long, with fossil fuel reserves permanently dwindling, we face the possibility it will be too expensive to change at all.[1] At that point you will find whole countries desperately mortgaging their future to corporate greed in order to fund the change they need.

The site in footnote 5 gives an approach to determine what the lead time is to make the required change, so that can be placed against the time frame of increasing fossil fuel prices.  The last twenty years of the current oil reserves will see the price rice significantly and those reserves are currently understood to run out globally in 53 years at current consumption levels.[2]  That means in 2066 there will be no oil left in any current reserve anywhere in the world and the oil industry will have spent the decades leading up to this point finding more and more expensive sources to keep the money flowing.  This means we must complete the migration off oil by 2046 to avoid the worst crushing damages and debt.  To complete that migration off oil, we need to start a dedicated building program at least 20 years before 2046, in 2026.  To start that dedicated building program, we would need ten years of dedicated planning to understand precisely what to build and when.  So our last post deadline for completely dedicated national action is 2016 to be free from ANY reliance on oil.  I’ve filled in the same information for natural gas and coal based on the BP 2013 statistical summary.

Resource

National planning be must started by:

National building replacement must start by:

100% Replacement in Australia Complete by:

End of Asia Pacific Resource supply[3]

End of Global Resource Supply[4]

Oil

2016

2026

2046

2027

2066

Natural Gas

2027

2037

2057

2045

2069

Coal

2063

2073

2093

2064

2122

Figure 1: Schedule to avoid the energy trap – optimistic version

It is important to give this data some context, this is a prediction made by the oil industry, so it is likely to be optimistic.  The rate of resource consumption is based on maintaining current levels.  Based on history to this date, that is a bad assumption[5], so all these dates will shift earlier if we allow the expected 56% growth in consumption by 2040.  As oil runs out, there will be increased demand placed on natural gas and coal reserves, which will increase their consumption. The final aspect is that this is based on a list of known and accessible reserves. There are more reserves in Antarctica and remote locations that today are uneconomical to exploit.  As the price of fossil fuels rises steadily, this will start to look like an option.  At that point, we will need to decide if propping up a dying industry is worth destroying pristine environments permanently.

I have added a second table below to show the likely consequences of both increased consumption and more rapid consumption of natural gas and oil. This takes into account only the increased consumption from 2040 and assumes there is no further increase after that year.  In this way, it can take into account exploitation of currently inaccessible reserves as well as reduced demand from countries that do change.  The end date for coal has an additional 10 years taken off to account for increased demand after the end of oil and gas around 2060.

Resource

National planning be must started by:

National building replacement must start by:

100% Replacement in Australia Complete by:

End of Asia Pacific Resource supply – adjusted

End of Global Resource Supply – adjusted

Oil

2012

2022

2042

2027

2057

Natural Gas

2020

2030

2050

2041

2059

Coal

2035

2045

2065

2048

2083

Figure 2: Schedule to avoid the energy trap – balanced version

So what exactly does ten years of planning followed by building include?

The answer is different for the different resources.  Oil is crucial to a wide variety of industries[6], which makes it particularly concerning that it will expire first.  This means all of those industries must actively research other ways to meet their needs or innovate new ways to supply their energy needs.  This will also have a massive impact on residential consumers reliant on petrol or diesel vehicles. We are now one year late to begin the national planning phase to answer the question of how to stop using petrol and diesel vehicles completely by 2042.

There will also be a heavy impact on LPG powered vehicles where the gas is produced from oil instead of separated from natural gas sources.  In Australia, the vast majority of LPG is produced from natural gas sources. Industrial consumers will also be radically affected – fundamentally changing the mining, shipping, rail and road transport industries.

Natural Gas Consumption

Figure 3: Natural Gas Consumption in Australia by Industry 2011-127″[7]

Natural gas will affect residential consumers who currently use it extensively for heating and cooking as well as in LPG powered vehicles.  Industrial consumers also use gas extensively for heating[8]. This demand will need to be moved to renewable electricity powered appliances and vehicles by 2050.

We will need solutions for ALL the different renewable electricity powered vehicles required to supply these needs in place by 2042.

Coal will affect residential consumers through its extensive use in electricity generation.  Industrial consumers in the steel and cement industries will need to find new energy sources to heat kilns.[9] This demand will need to be replaced completely by 2065.

 

 


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