[FoRK] Are you Malthusiastic? Re: Concrete results

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Mon Jun 17 12:32:13 PDT 2013

On Mon, Jun 17, 2013 at 11:45:43AM -0700, Stephen D. Williams wrote:
> On 6/17/13 4:38 AM, Eugen Leitl wrote:
> >On Sun, Jun 16, 2013 at 02:39:38PM -0700, Stephen Williams wrote:
> >
> >>>Today the Bakken has at least 24,000,000,000 barrels of recoverable oil
> >>>discovered so far.
> >>What's that?  Innovation saves the day, again?  Why, I'm surprised!
> >You should be surprised: http://www.theoildrum.com/search/apachesolr_search/bakken
> Really?

I take it you've read the top 3-4 hits on that, and disagree
with either the numbers, or the reasoning. (Notice that this
doesn't say anything else that has appeared in peer-reviewed
publications, so it takes a peer-reviewed publication to 
disagree -- something like Nature or Science, preferably).

> Perhaps we should stop making all nasty chemicals based on the same rationale?

Perhaps we should address the point at hand: how we don't fall
off the net energy cliff.
> ># That leaves us with only one sane course of action: demand
> >destruction combined with renewables. Any challenges to high EROI
> >renewables carry the responsibility to find high EROI solutions.
> >If batteries don't cut the mustard, then forget batteries. If the
> >main challenge is intermittency, then it is time for us to set the
> >bar higher and put qualified intermittency engineers to work. Many
> >serious developers are working on low cost, high capacity, high
> >round-trip efficiency storage. And they aren't wasting their time
> >on batteries. If trees can survive the night (/and/ winter even in
> >Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia and Siberia), then so can humans.
> >
> >What's your plan B?
> More innovation, of course.

What is the precise game plan to fill the fossil gap?
The number is 1 TW/year deployed. Where is the innovation
that can give us that, starting yesterdecade, for the next
40 years? Notice that there are no exponential in this,
it's linear at best, and arguably sublinear at high values.

> Not malthusiastic.
> Or perhaps just in time Malthusian: JITM.

Some of the Limits to Growth guys are pretty JITM.
They think that the population collapse doesn't happen
by deaths but birth rate going to almost zero overnight,
as peasants flock into the urban slums. I think that's
some nice crack they're smoking.
> On development time of nuclear reactors, I doubt there is a
> fundamental reason that it should take 20-30 years.  Many designs

It takes that much to go from a paper design to a commercial product
in volume (all assumes that your paper design works, so far it
doesn't seem likely). Remember that the volume is 2000 new reactors/year.
The demand gap is cumulative, and failure to deploy now limits your
ability to deploy in future. Does this sound like a winner scenario to you?

> are relatively simple.  Assuming an urgent need, we need only relax
> safety scrutiny and add money & people to speed things up some
> numbers of magnitudes.

Sorry, going from zero/year to thousands reactors/year overnight doesn't
happen in reality. Same applies for synfuel plants. Same applies
for grid upgrades. Same applies for storage. Same applies for

This isn't about making a NoSQL farm scale. This is actual,
hard work that takes real skill and real resources, including
real money. 

It doesn't matter, since we're already too late.

Since I have to explain elementary truths to a dubious audience,
here's your proof: we're fucked.  

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