There Must Be More Energy – just add energy

Last August I invoked The Rocking Horse Winner, with its insistent refrain, There Must Be More Money:

Virtually everyone in America wants more money, whether through higher incomes or lower costs or lower taxes or free services. Every politician in America promises more money to an assortment of constituencies. Every politician delivers money to the most powerful of their constituents, or risks not being reelected.

Energy and money go hand in hand. As energy has been plentiful, so has money been spent more readily. We have a large, stable middle class that depends on steady incomes rather than being tied to tenant farms or trades. For there to be more money, there also must be more energy. And so we read a steady stream of claims that more energy is forthcoming.

When I was a kid, I ran all the jokes I heard past my Mom. “Instant Water! Just add water!” I told her, waiting for a laugh. But all I got was the wry smile. “That’s an old one,” she said. Kool-Aid was already around when she was a kid, and powdered milk was older still, so Just Add Water had been around when she was a kid, too.

Man has harnessed more and more dense energy from the sun, but it has gotten to the point that more and more energy is required to extract the tight oil or to frack the natural gas or mine the tar sands or build the nuclear plants.

Instant Energy – Just add energy.

Inside Climate writes, Oil Sands Mining Uses Up Almost as Much Energy as It Produces:

Tar sands retrieved by surface mining has an EROI of only about 5:1, according to research released Tuesday. Tar sands retrieved from deeper beneath the earth, through steam injection, fares even worse, with a maximum average ratio of just 2.9 to 1. That means one unit of natural gas is needed to create less than three units of oil-based energy.

But we’ll do it anyway – there must be more energy.

In, The Energy Debate We Aren’t Having, Pacific Standard observes that our environmental objections are flexible.

The much bigger and more salient struggle is over money and risk and how they’re distributed across the American landscape. To whom will go the spoils of this new boom, and on whose shoulders will the risks fall? Will states, in the absence of strong federal regulation, engage in a regulatory race to the bottom to compete for drilling contracts at the expense of their citizens? Will we be stuck arguing for and against fracking while communities are bankrupted and more carbon pours into the air?

… for the past 30-something years Americans have been against drilling offshore — but only when gas prices were low. The environmental movement has a long, successful history of rallying people against drilling. But the result—because U.S. production was falling and U.S. consumption was rising — was that we turned to countries with fewer regulations for our oil production: Nigeria, Ecuador, Chad. Effectively, we offshored the risks and environmental damage of oil production. When gasoline prices are high, Smith’s research shows, we suddenly support drilling in the U.S. We love the environment, but only when it doesn’t get between our feet and the gas pedal.

Ethanol requires diesel fuel, natural gas-derived fertilizer and nearby fields of corn, but garners farm subsidies. Ethanol plants are closing. Not because people realize it doesn’t the energy return doesn’t make sense but because even subsidized local corn has wilted in the drought, and shipping it in costs too much.

Nuclear plants require such an enormous investment of capital, and are so risky, that private businesses won’t finance them – they will, however, urge government to build them. Japan is so desperate for energy that only two years after Fukushima, they are restarting other plants.

We want to believe that we can both save the environment and keep using historically massive amounts of energy.


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One response to “There Must Be More Energy – just add energy”

  1. saywhatumean2say says :

    Not sure I actually “like” this article as it makes me uneasy and frightened but it sure held my attention and was informative. dru


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