There's No Tomorrow / Script / Sequence 2
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Energy is the ability to do work. 
The average American today has available the energy equivalent of 150 slaves, working 24 hours a day.  Materials that store this energy for work are called fuels,  Some fuels contain more energy than others. This is called energy density. 
Of these fuels, oil is the most critical. The world consumes 30 billion barrels a year,  equal to 1 cubic mile of oil, which contains as much energy as would be generated from 52 nuclear power plants working for the next 50 years. 
Although oil only generates 1.6% of U.S. electricity, it powers 96% of all transportation. 
In 2008, two thirds of America's oil was imported. Most was from Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Iraq and Angola. 
Several factors make oil unique: it is energy dense. One barrel of oil contains the energy equivalent of almost three years of human labour.  It is liquid at room temperature, easy to transport and usable in small engines.
To acquire energy, you have to use energy. The trick is to use smaller amounts to find and extract larger amounts. This is called EROEI: Energy Return on Energy Invested. 
Conventional oil is a good example. The easy to extract, high-quality crude was pumped first. Oilmen spent the energy equivalent of 1 barrel of oil to find and extract 100. The EROEI of oil was 100.  As the easy to find oil was pumped first, exploration moved into deep waters, or distant countries, using increasing amounts of energy to do so.  Often, the oil we find now is heavy or sour crude, and is expensive to refine.  The EROEI for oil today is as low as 10.  If you use more energy to get the fuel than is contained in the fuel, it's not worth the effort to get it. 
It is possible to convert one fuel source into another. Every time you do so, some of the energy contained in the original fuel is lost.  For instance, there is unconventional oil: Tar Sands and Shale. Tar Sands are found mainly in Canada.  Two thirds of the world's shale is in the US.  Both of these fuels can be converted to synthetic crude oil. However, this requires large amounts of heat and fresh water, reducing their EROEI, which varies from five, to as low as one and a half.  Shale is an exceptionally poor fuel, pound for pound containing about one third the energy of a box of breakfast cereal. 
Coal exists in vast quantities, and generates almost half of the planet's electricity.  The world uses almost 2 cubic miles of coal a year. However, Global coal production may peak before 2040.The claim that America has centuries worth of coal is deceptive, as it fails to account for growing demand, and decreasing quality.  Much of the high quality anthracite coal is gone, leaving lower quality coal that is less energy dense.  Production issues arise, as surface coal is depleted, and miners have to dig deeper and in less accessible areas. Many use destructive mountaintop removal to reach coal deposits, causing environmental mayhem. 
Natural gas is often found alongside oil and coal.  North American discovery of conventional gas peaked in the 1950s, and production peaked in the early 70s.  If the discovery graph is moved forward by 23 years, the possible future of North American conventional natural gas production is revealed.  Recent breakthroughs have allowed the extraction of unconventional natural gas, such as shale gas, which might help offset decline in the years ahead.  Unconventional natural gas is controversial, as it needs high energy prices to be profitable. Even with Unconventional gas, we may see a peak in global natural gas production by 2030.
Large uranium reserves for nuclear fission still exist.  To replace the 10 terawatts the world currently generates from fossil fuels, would require 10,000 nuclear power plants. At that rate, the known reserves of uranium would last for only 10 to 20 years. 
Experiments with plutonium based fast-breeder reactors in France and Japan have been expensive failures. 
Nuclear fusion faces massive technical obstacles. 
Then there are the renewables. Windpower has a high EROEI, but is intermittent. 
Hydro power is reliable, but most rivers in the developed world are already dammed. 
Conventional geothermal power plants use existing hotspots near the Earth's surface. They are limited to those areas.  In the experimental EGS system, two shafts would be drilled 6 miles deep. Water is pumped down one shaft, to be heated in fissures, then rise up the other, generating power.  According to a recent MIT report, this technology might supply 10% of US electricity by 2050. 
Wave power is restricted to coastal areas. The energy density of waves varies from region to region.  Transporting wave-generated electricity inland would be challenging. Also, the salty ocean environment is corrosive to turbines.
Biofuels are fuels that are grown.  Wood has a low energy density, and grows slowly. The world uses 3.7 cubic miles of wood a year.  Biodiesel and ethanol are made from crops grown by petroleum powered agriculture.  The energy profit from these fuels is very low.  Some politicians want to turn corn into ethanol. Using Ethanol to supply one tenth of projected US oil use in 2020, would require 3% of America's Land. To supply one third would require 3 times the area now used to grow food. To supply all US petroleum consumption in 2020 would take twice as much land as is used to grow food. 
Hydrogen has to be extracted from Natural Gas, coal or water,  which uses more energy than we get from the Hydrogen.  This makes a Hydrogen economy unlikely.
All the world's photovoltaic solar panels generate as much electricity as two coal power plants.  The equivalent of between 1 and 4 tons of coal are used in the manufacture of a single solar panel. We'd have to cover as many as 140,000 square miles with panels to meet current world demand. As of 2007, there are only about 4 square miles. 
Concentrated Solar Power, or Solar Thermal has great potential, though at the moment there are only a small number of plants operating.  They are also limited to sunny climates, requiring large amounts of electricity to be transmitted over long distances. 
All of the alternatives to oil depend on oil-powered machinery, or require materials such as plastics that are produced from oil.
When considering future claims of amazing new fuels or inventions, ask: Does the advocate have a working, commercial model of the invention? What is its energy density? Can it be stored or easily distributed? Is it reliable or intermittent? Can it be scaled to a national level?Are there hidden engineering challenges? What is the EROEI? What are the environmental impacts? Remember that large numbers can be deceptive. For example: 1 billion barrels of oil will satisfy global demand for only 12 days.
A transition from fossil fuels would be a monumental challenge. As of 2007, coal generates 48.5% of U.S. electricity. 21.6% is from natural gas, 1.6% is from petroleum, 19.4% is from nuclear, 5.8% is from hydro. Other renewables only generate 2.5%.
Is it possible to replace a system based on fossil fuels with a patchwork of alternatives? Major technological advances are needed, as well as political will and co-operation, massive investment, international consensus, the retrofitting of the $45 trillion global economy, including transportation, manufacturing industries, and agricultural systems, as well as officials competent to manage the transition.
If all these are achieved, could the current way of life continue?
REFERENCES & EXTRA READING
what is energy?
 Energy Slaves:
renewable energy: potential and implementation (100 slave estimate)
http://www.eoht.info/page/Energy+slave (200 slave estimate)
merriam-webster fuel definition
energy usage statistics
 Energy Density:
wikipedia entry on energy density
energy transitions past and future
 Oil use statistics:
Oil use by country
World crude oil consumption by year, 1980-2006
 Cubic mile of oil:
getting a grasp on oil production volumes
A different analysis of the cubic mile of oil (lower than the above)
 Oil usage in transportation:
transportation by the numbers.
the future of oil
 U.S. oil imports sources:
 Human energy in one barrel of oil:
what is EROEI?
an EROEI review
 EROEI of oil and other fuels:
net energy list (EROEI) comparing different energy processes
the net hubbert curve: what does It mean?
EROI on the web part 2 of 6
 Offshore EROEI:
the EROI of u.s. offshore energy extraction
EIA projection of offshore drilling
 Difficulty of refining heavy/sour crude:
crude lessons about oil
graphs of heavy/sour crudes
production of different grades of oil (light sweet vs. heavy, data from 2004)
easy oil production means cheap oil, difficult production means expensive oil
david strahan: can unconventional oil fill the gap?
 "Never burn a penny candle looking for a halfpenny." Irish proverb.
 Entropy and Thermodynamics:
a simple defintion of the laws of thermodynamics
laws of thermodynamics
entropy: primer and historical notes
 Tar Sands:
about tar sands
what is oil shale?
 Tar Sands to crude oil conversion:
mobilizing to save civilization
 Tar Sands EROEI
tar sands and shale oil
2006 boston ASPO: the canadian tar sands
tar sands flow rates
 Energy density of Shale:
the illusive bonanza: oil shale in colorado
oil shale may be fool's gold
eia: coal reserves
coal vs. wind
 Coal reserves:
federal research needed to determine size of U.S. coal reserves
 Peak Coal:
peak coal: sooner than you think
peak coal by 2025 say researchers peak coal - coming soon?
david strahan: peak coal
 Mountaintop removal:
EPA reviews 79 mountaintop removal coal permits
james hansen urges obama to ban mountaintop removal coal mining
mountaintop removal mining
ohio campaign against mountaintop removal
mountaintop-removal mining is devastating appalachia
quality and declining energy density of coal
 Natural gas formation:
eia: natural gas basics (for kids)
what is natural gas?
 Peak Natural Gas:
wiki article on peak gas
future of natural gas supply
natural gas overview
 Conventional Natural Gas cliff:
natural gas: how big is the problem?
 Unconventional Natural Gas:
can US natural gas production be ramped up? (good comment thread)
rediscovering natural gas by hitting rock bottom
will unconventional natural gas save us?
north american natural gas production and EROI decline (good comment thread).
a bearish analysis of unconventional natural gas
 Global Uranium Reserves:
uranium reserves (european nuclear society)
uranium reserves (red book)
 Uranium vs. Oil:
will the rate-of-conversion problem derail alternative energy?
an interview with david goodstein
professor goodstein discusses lowering oil reserves
nuclear energy vs. oil
 Fast breeders:
overview of fast breeder reactors
rokkasho plant too dangerous, costly: expert
energy options shrink with end of "fast breeder" nuclear research
 Nuclear Fusion:
nuclear fusion power
nuclear fusion introduction
fusion falters under soaring costs
energy from wind: a discussion of the EROI research
why wind power works in denmark
hydropower basics (for kids)
global hydropower generation capacity to reach 945.8 gw by 2015
hydroelectric power's dirty secret revealed
wiki article about geothermal_power
geothermal basics (for kids)
 EGS Geothermal:
wiki article about enhanced geothermal systems
 MIT report on EGS Geothermal [PDF]:
 Wave power EROEI, with pros and cons:
wave/geothermal - energy return on investment
wiki article on wave power difficulties
 Biofuels definition:
biomass basics (for kids)
wiki article on biofuels
wood energy economics
old sunlight vs ancient sunlight -an analysis of home heating and wood
use of USA forests for home heating - can this sensibly be expanded?
How much fuel do we use in a year?
 Biodiesel and Ethanol:
implications of biofuel production for united states water supplies
ethanol from brazil and the USA
 Net energy of Ethanol:
why cellulosic ethanol, biofuels are unsustainable and a threat to america
biofuels or biofools?
corn ethanol and biodiesel net energy losers
ethanol production consumes six units of energy to produce just one
ethics of biofuels
 Land requirements for ethanol:
grains being being grown to feed cars
 Hydrogen economy:
hydrogen economy looks out of reach
the hydrogen economy and peak platinum
 Hydrogen EROEI:
the hydrogen hoax
 Solar PV = 2 coal plants:
Paul Roberts, "The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World" (2004) p. 191
 Amount of land to be covered by Solar PV to meet energy demand:
total surface area required to fuel the world with solar
how many solar panels would it take to power the world
The 200×200 miles
 Solar Thermal (CSP):
wiki article on concentrated solar power
clean energy intro: solar thermal
amount of solar thermal to power the EU, and the world
photos of a solar thermal plant in andalusia, spain
 Solar Thermal needed:
arizona solar power project calculations
 2007 electricity production:
U.S. electric power industry net generation