Invasion of feral hogs yet another hazard for the future

Preface. The Decline category used to be Death By A Thousand Cuts. Feral hogs are yet another cut for anyone who survives peak oil. Not only will climate change be drastically cutting back food production, feral hogs will too, and potentially spread disease to livestock.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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Robbins, J. 2019. Feral Pigs Roam the South. Now Even Northern States Aren’t Safe. The swine have established themselves in Canada and are encroaching on border states like Montana and North Dakota. New York Times.

Feral pigs are widely considered to be the most destructive invasive species in the United States. They can do remarkable damage to the ecosystem, wrecking crops and hunting animals like birds and amphibians to near extinction.  They have wrecked military planes on runways.

The swine are also reservoirs for at least 32 diseases, including bovine tuberculosis, brucellosis and leptospirosis. Outbreaks of E. coli in spinach and lettuce have been blamed on feral hogs defecating in farm fields.

There are reports that people have contracted hepatitis and brucellosis from butchering the animals after hunting.

If an animal disease like African swine fever or hoof-and-mouth gets into these animals, it will be almost impossible to stop. It will shut down our livestock industry.

In the United States, their stronghold is the South — about half of the nation’s six million feral pigs live in Texas. But in the past 30 years, the hogs have expanded their range to 38 states from 17.

Many experts thought the pigs couldn’t thrive in cold climates. But they burrow into the snow in winter, creating so-called pigloos — a tunnel or cave with a foot or two of snow on top for insulation. Many have developed thick coats of fur.

The damage in the United States is estimated to be $1.5 billion annually, but likely closer to $2.5 billion.  Feral pigs don’t browse the landscape; they dig out plants by the root, and lots of them. Big hogs can chew up acres of crops in a single night, destroying pastures, tearing out fences, digging up irrigation systems, polluting water supplies.

They are very smart and can be very big — a Georgia pig called Hogzilla is believed to have weighed at least 800 pounds — and populations grow rapidly.

Pigs will literally eat anything.  They eat ground-nesting birds — eggs and young and adults. They eat frogs. They eat salamanders. They are huge on insect larvae. I’ve heard of them taking adult white-tailed deer.  A recent study found that mammal and bird communities are 26 percent less diverse in forests where feral pigs are present. Sea turtles are an especially egregious example.

Posted in Agriculture, Biodiversity Loss, BioInvasion, Disease | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Energy Slaves: every American has somewhere between 200 and 8,000 energy slaves

Source: https://www.homesthatfit.com/how-precious-is-energy-ask-your-slaves/

Preface.  To give you an idea of what energy slaves are, consider what it would take to use human power to provide these:

How much energy does it take to toast a single slice of Bread? Olympic Cyclist Vs. Toaster: Can He Power It?

Human Power Shower – Bang goes the theory – BBC One

And as the article below points out, if you tried to bicycle to power your TV,  that free electricity is not free at all. Since food costs money it may even end up being more expensive produced by cycling than from the grid — you’ll end up paying for it all the same, just not in utility bills, but in food.

Slav, I. 2019. Why Powering A City With Bicycles Is Impossible. oiprice.com

Many people have taken a crack at estimating how much muscle power the energy contained within oil represents.  Although there are different results, they all show how powerful oil is and how angry our descendants will be that we wasted it driving around in 4,000 pound cars for pleasure as they’re sawing wood and heaving hundred-pound sacks of grain onto horse-drawn wagons.

As I was writing my book “When Trucks Stop Running”, I came up with this (but didn’t include it since there are too many numbers):   A class 8 truck can carry 50,000 pounds of goods 500 miles in one day. This would take 1,250 people carrying 40-pound backpacks walking 16 miles a day for 31 days. If the people ate 2,000 kcal of raw food a day, they’d burn 77.5 million kcal (and even more energy if the food is cooked). The truck needs 31 times less energy: at 7 mpg, that’s 71 gallons of diesel containing 35,000 kcal per gallon. Trucks carried over 13.182 billion tons of goods, equal to 329 million people each carrying 40 pound packs.

Wiki definition: An Energy Slave is that quantity of energy (ability to do work) which, when used to construct and drive non-human infrastructure (machines, roads, power grids, fuel, draft animals, wind-driven pumps, etc.) replaces a unit of human labor (actual work). An energy slave does the work of a person, through the consumption of energy in the non-human infrastructure.

Below are nine estimates of how many energy slaves we have.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

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Nate Hagens & D. J. White. 2017. GDP, Jobs, and Fossil Largesse. Resilience.org

[excerpts, be sure to read the entire article at the link above because it explains not just energy slaves but the whole situation we’re in, the psychology, economics, and more]

One barrel of oil contains about 1700 kWh of work potential.46 Compared to an average human work day where 0.6kWh is generated, one barrel of oil, currently costing under than $50 to global citizens, contains about 10.5 years of human labor equivalence (4.5 years after conversion losses).47

GDP – what nations aspire to – is a measure of finished goods and services generated in an economy. It is strongly correlated with energy use, and given that almost 90% of our primary energy use is fossil fuels, with their combustion.48

Outside of nuclear and hydro, ~99.5% of ‘labor’ in human economies is done by oil, coal and natural gas (measured by joules of output). Due to this cheap embodied labor residing in fossil carbon compounds, the average human being in 2016 enjoys 14x the goods and services as the average human being in the year 1800. (the average American=> 49x).

The common political mantra that higher GDP creates social benefits by lifting all boats has become suspect since the 2008 recession and ‘recovery.’ For the first time in the history of the USA, we now have more bartenders and waitresses than manufacturing jobs.50 In order to maximize dollar profits, it often makes more sense for corporations to mechanize and hire ‘fossil slaves’ than to hire ‘real workers.’ Real income peaked in the USA around 1970 for the bottom 50% of wage earners.51

…at 2016 USA wage rates, moving from $20 per barrel (the long-run average cost for oil), to $150 per barrel, the army of energy slaves declines from 22,000 per barrel to under 3,000 – meaning the economy shrinks and therefore much more work needs to be accomplished via efficiency improvements, real humans, or making do with less.

Thing is, the energy slaves will soon be going away forever. In the last 30 years we’ve burned a third of all fossil energy that has been used since it was discovered thousands of years ago.58 Since your authors have been alive, humans have used more energy than in the entire 300,000 year history of homo sapiens.59 We are just now passing through the all-time peak of liquid hydrocarbon availability, which is the chief driver of our economies

we’re heading back into times – either gradually or suddenly, but inexorably – in which human labor makes up an increasing percentage of the total energy we have available. One day human (and perhaps animal) labor will again be the majority of the work done in human societies – just like it is in an anthill.

And this will happen in the context of a more used-up natural world. Rather than being able to catch dinner by throwing a hook in the nearby ocean, the nearest healthy schools of fish may be ten thousand miles away in Antarctica, and hard to get to without dirt-cheap energy slaves to make giant refrigerated ships to pursue and move them around for us. The copper mines will be mostly used up. The inorganic phosphate deposits we used to make fertilizer, mostly gone. And so on.

Or rather than “gone,” let’s use the more accurate term energetically remote. That is, there will still be loads of “stuff” underground, but it won’t be the very pure ores of yesteryear. It’ll be stuff that requires digging up a huge amount of rock for a tiny amount of whatever we’re after. Because we always use the best stuff first. Yet we’ll be going after worse and worse ore with fewer and fewer slaves.

So, right as our energy slaves are about to start going away forever, leaving 7-10 billion humans without the things they have come to take for granted, our nations have decided the answer is to make more babies! Yep, to raise GDP you need more demand for toys, diapers, teachers, etc… more jobs, because more jobs means more transactions which means more GDP! More GDP means “growth” so growth is good! China has just reversed its 1-child policy, which prevented massive starvations and slowed the horrendous assault on China’s environment.60 Many other nations, such as Japan, Germany, and Sweden, are now offering bonuses for getting pregnant. In Denmark advertising firms are encouraging couples to have more babies for the good of the economy via sexy commercials.61

Paradoxically, as traditional drivers of GDP growth – development of virgin land, credit expansion, low cost fossil fuels, and groundbreaking innovation- wane in their impact, there may be renewed incentives proposed not to shrink our population as ecology would advise, but instead to grow it! Currently we are having (as a species) over 120 million babies per year.62 This works out to over 335,000 human babies born every day – compared to a total extant population of all the other Great Apes (bonobos, chimpanzees and gorillas) of about ~200,000!63 Since ‘demand” is considered a quasi-magical force in current economic theory, babies are considered to be good for business (yet children brought into the world now for GDP reasons will face some real challenges in their lives.

Ugo Bardi. 2017. Why do we need jobs if we can have slaves working for us? Cassandra’s legacy.  Below are excerpts (paraphrased) from this post you can find here.

Energy slaves do what human slaves and domestic animals once did, only faster and cheaper. Today instead of 500 human slaves, every American has 500 fossil-fueled energy slaves working 24/7 for them, every day of the year. These energy slaves don’t complain, don’t sleep, and don’t need to be fed, but they do leave behind a lot of waste (climate change). But they’re invisible, we think about them as much as we do the nitrogen we breathe in — 78% of air.

The slaves have also made shipping nearly free, so any actual human labor we need can be hired in the cheapest places on earth (under essentially slave labor conditions), and shipped to us by planes, trains, ships and trucks for next to nothing. The average dinner travels over 1400 miles to get to your plate in USA.

But the energy slaves will soon be going away forever.  We are just now passing through the all-time peak of liquid hydrocarbon availability. Every year from now on, we’ll have fewer fossil energy slaves, until we’re back to the times centuries ago when biomass, and human and animal muscle made up the energy we had available.

Worse yet, here are just of the problems that will happen in a used-up natural world:

  • Rather than being able to catch dinner by throwing a hook in the nearby ocean, the nearest healthy schools of fish may be 10,000 miles away in Antarctica
  • The copper mines will be mostly used up.
  • The inorganic phosphate deposits essential to grow food that we put in fertilizer (not to mention the natural gas) will be mostly gone.

Sure, not gone entirely, but it may as well be since resources will be so energetically far away, the pure ores of yesterday will be mostly used up, because we used the best stuff up. And we’ll have far fewer energy slaves to help us get the poor remainders.

Our financial systems require growth, yet in the future we won’t be able to grow, we’ll be shrinking. Think about it, money is just bits and bytes or paper, a claim on future energy and resources as gold once was.  Each year we need growth in a household/city/state/nation/world to service and pay off monetary loans that were created previously. No serious government or institutional body has plans for anything other than continued growth into the future. Growth requires resource access and affordability but starts first with population.

So, right as our energy slaves are about to start going away forever, leaving 7-10 billion humans without the things they have come to take for granted, our nations have decided the answer is to make more babies! Yep, to raise GDP you need more demand for toys, diapers, teachers, etc… more jobs, because more jobs means more transactions which means more GDP! More GDP means “growth” so growth is good! China has just reversed its 1-child policy, which prevented massive starvation’s and slowed the horrendous assault on China’s environment. Many other nations, such as Japan, Germany, and Sweden, are now offering bonuses for getting pregnant. In Denmark advertising firms are encouraging couples to have more babies for the good of the economy via sexy commercials

MAY 14, 1957. Rear Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, U.S. Navy. Energy Resources and Our Future. Scientific Assembly of the Minnesota State Medical Association

With high energy consumption goes a high standard of living. Thus the enormous fossil energy which we in this country control feeds machines which make each of us master of an army of mechanical slaves. Man’s muscle power is rated at 35 watts continuously, or one-twentieth horsepower. Machines therefore furnish every American industrial worker with energy equivalent to that of 244 men, while at least 2,000 men push his automobile along the road, and his family is supplied with 33 faithful household helpers. Each locomotive engineer controls energy equivalent to that of 100,000 men; each jet pilot of 700,000 men. Truly, the humblest American enjoys the services of more slaves than were once owned by the richest nobles, and lives better than most ancient kings. In retrospect, and despite wars, revolutions, and disasters, the hundred years just gone by may well seem like a Golden Age.

R. Buckminster Fuller  et al., “Document 1: Inventory of World Resources, Human Trends and Needs,” in World Design Science Decade 1965–1975 (Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University, 1965–1967), pages 29–30.

“Energy Slave” was first used by R. Buckminster Fuller in the caption of an illustration for the cover of the February 1940 issue of Fortune Magazine, entitled “World Energy”. Alfred Ubbelohde also coined the term, apparently independently, in his 1955 book, “Man and Energy”, but the term did not come to be widely used until the 1960s, and is generally credited to Fuller.

The enormous gulf between high-energy and low-energy societies was dramatized by Buckminster Fuller when he proposed the unit of an “energy-slave,” based on the average output of a hard-working man doing 150,000 foot-pounds of work per day and working 250 days per year. In low-energy societies, the nonhuman energy slaves are typically horses, oxen, windmills, and riverboats. Using Fuller’s unit, the average American at the end of the century had more than 8,000 energy-slaves at his or her disposal. Moreover, Fuller pointed out, “energy-slaves, although doing only the foot-pounds of humans, are enormously more effective because they can work under conditions intolerable to man, e.g., 5,000° F, no sleep, ten-thousandths of an inch tolerance, one million times magnification, 400,000 pounds per square inch pressure, 186,000 miles per second alacrity and so forth.”

Walter Youngquist. Geodestinies: The Inevitable Control of Earth Resources over Nations. Page 22.

The measure ‘energy slave’ comes from estimations of how much manpower equivalent you can get from burning a material in terms of energy.  A person power (PP), or 1 energy slave, equals .25 horsepower = 186 watts = 635 Btu/Hr.   Therefore, 300 Energy Slaves = 1/10 lb Uranium, 4700 lbs natural gas, 5150 lbs coal and 8,000 lbs petroleum.

Tad Patzek Powering the World: Offshore Oil & Gas Production 2012.

In one day an average U.S. resident consumes 4.2 gallons of oil equivalent, or a 1/10 of a barrel:

  • An average U.S. resident develops 100 W of power per 24-hour day
  • Let’s assume that he/she can work for 8 hours/day at 200 W on average
  • Then, 4.2 gallons of petroleum is equivalent to 0.1 × 6.1 x 109 / 200 / 3600 / 8 = 106 days of labor

We would have to work hard for over 100 days to make up for what we consume as hydrocarbons in 1 day. One year of gorging on hydrocarbons is equal to 1 century of hard human labor.

In France (which has a lower level of energy use than the United States) each citizen has 500 energy slaves according to How much of a slave master am I?

Alexander, Samuel. January 15, 2012. Peak Oil, Energy Descent, and the Fate of Consumerism. University of Melbourne – Office for Environmental Programs.

Energy Slaves as the Invisible Foundation of Consumer Lifestyles

We could begin by noting, rather bluntly, that the world currently consumes around 89 million barrels of oil per day. This mind-boggling figure, which aggregates conventional and non-conventional oil, becomes all the more astonishing when we bear in mind the incredible energy density of oil. David Hughes, one of Canada’s premier energy analysts, has recently done the math (Nikiforik). He concludes that there is approximately six gigajoules six billion joules in one barrel of oil, or about 1,700 kilowatt hours. Multiply that by today’s oil consumption of 89 million barrels per day and this represents the consumption throughout equivalent of about 14,000 years of fossilized sunshine every day (Hughes). These figures may not mean very much to those readers unfamiliar to thinking in terms of energy, so it can be helpful to convert them into terms of human labor, which can prove more comprehensible. Hughes has done this calculation also (Nikiforik), and concludes that a healthy human being peddling quickly on a bicycle can produce enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb or 360,000 joules an hour). If this person works eight hours a day, five days a week, Hughes calculates that it would take roughly 8.6 years of human labor to produce the energy stored in one barrel of oil. Let us pause for a moment and reflect on this astounding conclusion. One barrel of oil is the equivalent of 8.6 years of human labor, and the world today consumers 89 million barrels of oil, everyday.

This type of analysis gave rise to the notion of ‘energy slaves’, a term coined by American energy philosopher, Buckminster Fuller, in 1944 (Armaroli). The purpose behind the energy slave concept is to understand how much human labor would be required, hypothetically, to sustain a certain action, lifestyle, or culture in the absence of the highly concentrated fossil-fuel energies available today. For example, it would take 11 energy slaves peddling madly simply to power an ordinary toaster. When this concept is applied to modern consumer societies as a whole, the results are eye opening, to say the least. Given that the average North American currently consumes over 24 barrels of oil per year, the average inhabitant in that region of the world would require at least 204 energy slaves to sustain their lifestyles (Nikiforik). The average Australian would require 130 energy slaves; the average Western European around 110 energy slaves. As if these figures were not confronting enough, in the absence of oil the global economy in its entirety would need approximately 66 billion energy slaves to sustain itself in its current form.

Whatever way one looks at this analysis, these are astonishing figures, representing a spectacular amount of energy that obviously far exceeds what was at the disposal of Monarchs,
aristocrats, and slave owners in previous eras. When we also bear in mind how cheap oil has been in the past, this analysis gets more remarkable still. Even at today’s price of around $100 per barrel, which historically is extremely high, this is really a very cheap form of energy. One only needs to imagine offering someone $100 for 8.6 years of labor to realize that even today’s so-called expensive oil is still amazingly cheap. Western–style consumer lifestyles, it can be seen, being so energy intensive, are utterly dependent on a cheap and abundant supply of energy, and in ways that are not always obvious. We often fail to see how central energy is to our lives because it is invisible, only its consequences are visible.

Armaroli, Nicola et al. 2011, Energy for a Sustainable World Ch 3.

Hughes, David. 2010. Peak Energy and its Implications for the City of Edmonton. City of Edmonton, Canada

Nikiforik, Andrew. May 5, 2011.  ‘You and Your Slaves’ The Tyee. http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2011/05/05/EnergySlaves/

Ron Patterson, author of the Peak Oil Barrel blog, wrote this in August of 2002:

Fossil fuel brought on the advent of the energy slave. With fossil fuels, we could move hundreds of times as much freight, hundreds of times faster. We invented the cotton gin and spinning machines. We invented the loom with the flying shuttle, and were able to produce hundreds of times as much fabric in a fraction of the time. The sewing was invented and we could manufacture clothes in a fraction of the time it once took. Even shoe manufacturing was the benefactor of the energy slave. We could manufacture shoes in a fraction of the time it once took us, and the last cobbler eventually died.

Everything we possess, including the roof over our head was produced with the aid of energy slaves. But nowhere have these energy slaves made more impact than in food production. Huge tractors pull sixteen pan plows where a horse once pulled one, and very slowly at that. Grain, once thrashed by hand is now thrashed by machine. Automatic cotton and corn pickers can do in one day what it once took a hundred farm hands weeks to do. Ammonium nitrate fertilizer and genetically modified seeds has enabled us to push food production even higher. Now one farmer can produce the food a hundred farmers once produced and on one quarter of the land. And, not the least important, we now have refrigeration with which we can preserve the food we grow until the next crop comes in. Also food can be preserved with pressure canning. This is also an art that has been taken over by large companies with the aid of energy slaves.

But when the energy slaves die, all that will be gone. And there is no going back because we do not possess the skills that our ancestors had. But that is not the half of it, you haven’t heard nothing yet. Our numbers are six times greater than they were in the pre-petroleum days. We are, for the most part, crowded into cities far away from any source of food that we may glean from nature.

Shiela Newman, author of the outstanding We Can Do Better blog, wrote in 2003:

The hypothesis I have made here is that without fossil energy ‘slaves’ we will go back to human slavery.  At first glance this may seem fanciful, but I think that that response to this theory would reflect an implicit assumption by many people concerned about fossil fuel depletion. They believe there will be apocalypse and die-off; they are worried, and believe that civilization will dissolve through resource war and economic collapse. They think people will be enslaved either by shifting, marauding gangs in unstable fragments of nation states, or whatever societies might emerge when Peak Oil is something that is receding into the past, in perhaps 40 years from now.

Before the commercial harnessing of fossil fuel, both human population growth and imperial expansion depended exclusively on the output of human slaves, beasts of burden, biomass and other natural sources of energy available, such as wind and water power.  In many parts of the world today commercial energy consumption per capita is still just a few dozen kilograms per year.   Compared with the speed that humans are able to proliferate and expand their influence under the aegis of fossil fuels, former, natural processes of human use of the biosphere were necessarily low energy and very slow. In the advanced nations the elements of coercion, abduction and bondage necessary to pre-fossil fuel societies, particularly with regard to human slavery, are subjectively and objectively seen as cruel.

Modern democracy, which by definition depends on the freeing of  human slaves, and which many have accepted as the ‘inevitable’ or even ‘final’ ethical evolution  of man, that enlightened  ape, in fact probably depends less on spontaneous moral perfectionism than on large flows of cheap fossil energy and ubiquitous fossil energy slaves.  The corollary of this is that when we no longer have oil-based economies  we will probably no longer have democracy.  The slide towards plutocracy, totalitarianism, imperialism and fascist organisational frameworks, which some see as consequences or as part of the global imposition of economic rationalism, may well be a sign that democracy is already eroding.

Human institutions must react and respond to changing economic circumstances, and therefore to changing regimes of energy-economic conditions.   Access or lack of access to commercially useful fossil fuels most certainly affected the date and type, speed and nature of Industrial Revolution and urbanization experienced by various nations and economies. Beginning with coal in England in the late 17th century, production increases of even this single source of fossil energy soon led to fast industrialization and urbanization, and almost straight-line, upward growth of population, with lesser but similar effects through Western Europe later. European anglophone colonization was a direct consequence, with permanent immigration from non-English speaking Europe more of a secondary phenomena.  Results of this include the cultural, economic and constitutional frameworks of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other countries still existing today.  In direct contrast the slower growing, less fossil energy dependent Arab and Muslim Empires retained many features of feudalism, including human slavery.

In 1492 Christopher Columbus left a cruel feudal, pre-fossil fuel society that depended on wood, wind, water  and the bio-energy of horses and human slaves for another cruel feudal pre-fossil fuel society with a different, and even less energy-intensive technology mix.

The Europe that produced Columbus was plague-ridden and in the grip of the “Little Ice-Age”. Population growth was very low, perhaps no more than 0.05% per year, and there were many fallbacks, that is years of population decline. Technologically well-matched Christians and Moors had been entwined for centuries, in North Africa and the Near East, in medieval battle using horses, some armour, low-technology artillery and by today’s standards simple biological and chemical weapons.

Things were very different in Central America. The Spanish quickly enslaved the Aztecs, who lacked guns, horses or sophisticated armour and were decimated by European diseases.  The economist Kondratiev estimated that perhaps about 50,000 tons of gold, and 450,000 tons of silver were transferred from conquered South America to Europe in the period of 1550-1600, starting the oldest and most-powerful of his ‘economic waves’.  Despite, or even because of this, Spanish colonial society and the metropole or European Spanish society, did not surge ahead.   Attempts to draw migrants from European Spain to its colonies were weak, hesitant and very ineffective. No rush to migrate occurred. In the South American colonies however, pre-fossil energy feudal society merged bloodily with pre-fossil fuel, non-European feudal societies and produced another, and similar feudal society. Hispaniola is mainly remembered for its cruelty, slavery and genocide, carried out in major part in the name of religion and with the help of priests. As Indian slaves succumbed to siphilis, smallpox, manhunts and the other ravages of this manifestation of medieval Christian messianism, they were replaced by African slaves.

Hispanic America then became locked in a time-warp, populated by near-serfs in semi-feudal agricultural societies, ideologically bolstered by a mix of primitive Catholicism, animism and non Christian myths and beliefs. Attempts to explain this failure to develop democracy and a competitive economy like that of the US in a period of under 200 years following colonisation include Spanish colonialism’s genocide, prevalence of tropical diseases, the climate factor, and the medieval, non-growth, or anti-growth ethic in which there is no work ethic, nor incitement to accumulate wealth by members of society outside the nobility and the church. Often overlooked, however, is that the Spanish motherland at that time also lacked a fossil fuel economy, and the technology, population pressure, and growth ethic which all stem from explosive economic and demographic growth.

Continental Europe left Hispanic America behind. From the 14th century plague and other sicknesses receded and Muslim settlers were progressively driven back from the heartlands of Western Europe. Glaciers made their final retreat revealing excellent new soils; agricultural and artisanal technologies improved.  From 1550 to 1820 the populations of Spain and other western European countries grew between 50% and 80%.  Medieval Christian society faced political challenge from religious reform such as the Protestant movement, from scientific inquiry dating from the Renaissance, and from collectivist and communal, pre-communist ideas embodied by the French revolution . As a direct consequence previous socio-religious reins on, and limits to ‘progress’, including the pursuit of wealth and personal consumption, were modified, but not to the degree they were across the Channel and the Atlantic.

The English Protestants who displaced the Indians of North America from about 1620 came from a different world to medieval Spanish colonists in South America, and they were not government sponsored. Their desire to establish a haven of religious freedom, to practice their fundamentalist beliefs, helped commit the pilgrims to permanent settlement. Having no way back they were condemned to succeed where others had failed.

The real starter motor for North American colonialism was the fossil ‘forest’ of English coal.   In Malthus’s Britain, coal brought forth not only hydrocarbon energy slaves, but fueled a population explosion in the 19th century, to which colonial pillage brought a steady crop of African slaves. Happily for this experiment, however, virtually limitless amounts of land had suddenly become available to soak up demographic oversupply, and this ‘window of opportunity’ soon created endless tales of opening up new territory and building infrastructures where nothing had previously existed.  Capital, however, remained scarce, while land and labor were in extravagant abundance.

Access to the Americas, with dispossession and genocide of indigenous peoples took the land potentially available to Europeans from about 24 acres to 120 acres per capita (an approximate 5-fold increase). The European ‘footprint’ therefore expanded radically and indelibly – unlike its earlier, shadow overlay in South America. The California, Alaska and other smaller gold rushes (1847-1900)  provided nearly instant wealth and attracted yet more people to North America.  Mineral wealth and new technology, like steam-power and electricity were to make for a brilliant 19th century, beneath the soot, tar and grime-daubed cities of the emerging American empire.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Islam had been pushed back out of Europe mostly to arid and relatively unproductive territories, where, to this day, in several of its states, it still keeps slaves.

The rise in fossil energy slaves coincided with the abolition of human slavery in the US under Abraham Lincoln.  As well as the use of beasts of burden, reliance on coerced human energy had required  the institution of a social class entirely denied the rights of ordinary citizens and treated like domestic animals.  As more efficient fuel sources came to provide fossil slaves instead of live ones, humans had enough to spare to become apparently comparatively more generous and gentle.  Although a social hierarchy was maintained, human rights and material circumstances improved. Slavery was soon to be abolished in North America.

By the time of the discovery of oil in the North America in 1850, and its first commercial production in 1859, coal had already contributed to a huge population explosion.  Energy slaves were fueling population growth at around 3% per annum.  Combined with the economic growth enabled by coal and now oil, and driven by rapid population growth there was thus fast-rising demand for jobs, which assisted in turn the slavery abolition movement, dating between 1810 and 1863 (the end of the civil war) when all slaves became free by law in the US.  Emancipation of slaves was one of the purposes of the civil war.  Another was the establishment of democracy, according to the definition that is attributed to Abraham Lincoln, “… government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” .

Despite two major depressions, in the 1890s and the 1930s, the US generally remained on a steep upward track in prosperity curve, driven by and favoring more population growth. The curve of increasing fossil energy consumption perfectly tracks those for economic output, population growth, urbanization and any other index of growth or progress that one can choose.

In the thirty years after the Second World War, the peoples of the first world became richer and freer than they ever had been before, even if they engaged in many and bloody liberation wars – which somehow failed to liberate – in what was to be called the Third World. The cheap resource supplier nations could not help but notice that they remained outside the charmed circle of fossil-powered wealth, however. The Third World contained, and contains the Islamic resource of petroleum. The Third World, including its Muslim nations, and from the Bandung Conference of 1955, demanded that it should derive more benefit from this and other mineral and agricultural commodities, hitherto supplied to the first world economic frameworks dating from colonial times.

So the coal-based industrial revolution that had given rise to the British Empire had been refueled in the 20th century with pilgrim oil and Muslim oil, and had then roared forward again, despite ‘peripheral’ opposition.  Arguably it reached its apotheosis in the Space Race between the two putative master races of the US and the Soviet Union, when it seemed that men, accompanied by beautiful and fertile women, would almost certainly soon travel to the stars and colonize their planets. This was a necessary escape clause for a species that was fast outgrowing its petri-dish. It was an attempt – a rather pathetic attempt – to identify a new and limitless horizon for the old notion of endless territorial expansion. It was perhaps a ‘shadow in the gene’, the same instinct that makes all animals expand into available territory, that  had brought the first waves of humans from Africa to Europe, and from Asia to Australasia during the last ice-age, and had continued with modern migration from Europe to the Americas and Australia.

Unfortunately or not, fossil fuel civilization began to falter in the second half of the twentieth century. One sign that it was coming to an end was that former colonial populations, many of them Muslim,  sought sovereignty over natural resources.  The third world revolt heralded by the formation of OPEC was contained finally, but still hit the first world hard, giving rise to the 1973 oil shock. The different reactions of  continental Western European societies, compared to those of English speaking settler societies (e.g. USA, Canada and Australia) to Oil Shock from the 1970s provides an outline image to how these societies will react when the Age of Oil disappears.

In 1971 the USA’s domestic oil production peaked.  Soon after, in 1973, the world’s major known oil reserves were commandeered by ‘indigenous upstarts’ through OPEC. The fortunes of Islam were turning once again. The fossil energy rich Future Eaters of the Americas and Oceania briefly glimpsed their apocalypse and blinked, but the countries of the first world rallied. Firstly using ‘petrodollar recycling’, conferences on International Solidarity and the recognition of Palestine, before reverting to type with Gulf War 1 of 1991 and preparation for Gulf War 2 of 2003, the First World has proven its inability to contemplate the Age of Oil’s demise. Brave words in the 1973-75 period, to the effect that ‘We can consume less – we are not addicted”, have disappeared. Since the liberation of Kuwait and its restoration to full sovereignty and oil output, syrupy speeches have given way to smart missiles and dumb propaganda.

In 1999 the average North American was using the equivalent in petroleum energy of 174 human slaves working an eight hour day every single day. The situation was however always a little different in Western Europe, where fossil fuel had never seemed so assured, and where fossil fuel civilization was a recent overlay, rather than the inventor of that society.  France, notably, was fossil energy poor.  After the first world war, both France and England had gone out of their way to locate and secure oil assets overseas in their colonies.  Unlike the US, Canada, and Australia, the French and other non-English speaking Western Europeans, cut off from their imported oil supplies, had struggled through oil shortages during World War Two.  Oil sources in Romania  came under attack early.  In 1942 Hitler’s army made for the Baku oilfields in southern Russia.  During the last days of that war, as General Patton pursued the German forces across France, a carpet of US oil-bearing pipeline had unrolled magically behind him, at the rate of up to 50 miles a day, constructed by teams from Texas.

The fate of the European allied forces had finally depended, worryingly, on the late entry of US oil powered forces.  But would the US always remain a friend?  What would the friendship cost?  And would the US always have oil to spare?  Then there had been a short dress rehearsal when the Suez Canal crisis (1956) threatened supply and the prospect of war in the Middle East.   Unlike the UK, European countries had few colonial stakes in oil bearing territories, most of which had become independent. In September 1973 Algeria, France’s last former colony, nationalized French oil companies . Israel and Palestine were quite some distance from the US and Australia, but frighteningly close to Western Europe and the threat of nuclear war during Yom Kippur was all too present in 1973. # France and other EU countries still pursue a defensive oil economics policy, acquiring assets but selling the bulk to countries overseas, whilst attempting to maximise self-sufficiency at home by developing and extending the capacity of nuclear, hydro and even renewable energy sources. Increasingly in Europe – and to this the English can agree – national opinion seeks zero net immigration from outside the EEC. Constant migrant inflow to the US is a cornerstone of US economic policy. In Europe, demographic policy since 1974 and demographic trajectories  indicate fast-falling total populations by 2050   Of course, relative to Peak Oil, this will be not be enough and will come too late – but is not the perfect opposite of sanity, which is the US position.

We see here then, the formation of at least two different first world geopolitical blocs on the question of energy resources.  The result will be a continuing divergence in policies on oil economics and energy policy, industrial and economic goals, population targets, social security policy, and systems of land development and urban planning.

Geopolitically, in the Euro-Asiatic region, new ‘land bridges’ are forming as the shrunken Russian Federation retreats from inherited, untenable frontiers in Southern Muslim republics of the former USSR. Due uniquely to oil, the US has leaped into this region – establishing its first beach head in Afghanistan – but forces are gathering to dispute it this foothold.  Across the narrow Mediterranean Europe is bonding, forming economic then strategic alliances with Muslim countries, as every day shown by European stances on the Israel-Palestine war or ‘conflict’. No greater contrast exists than that of European public opinion regarding Israel, and that of the USA. Cheap energy and air travel, and mass communications have enabled people from everywhere on earth to pour into the US, or to understand its way of life, full of wonders like Disneyland, self-flushing toilets, and cappuccinos in giant disposable plastic cups.  America itself, apart from its ruling elites, is now an ethnic mix, and in world terms a demographic superpower –only numerically outclassed by China and India. The difference is that America flatly rejects any limit on personal energy consumption; its lifestyle in the words of  G.W. Bush “is non negotiable”, while the Euro-Asians can not only negotiate but strategically ally with their land bridge neighbors, rivals, migrants and clients.

As a direct consequence the USA can only be intransigent, strident and aggressive – while Europeans, perhaps with the memory of failed colonization in South America and other places, have no such certainty, and must retreat to renouncement, to conciliation, to intrigue, to manipulation of and alliances with third world armed forces against the US. Naturally US oil policy has become a basis for war and conquest. Naturally European enthusiasm for a ‘remake’ of Gulf War 1 has been weak – lamentable to America, to a retreating America that becomes more alien and hostile each day as it beats the war drum, promising yet more conquest, and human blood to assuage its oil hunger. This has been noted by the Muslim world – by a culture at least as old as that of Europe.

Understandably, the oil-rich Islamic nations of the Middle East deeply resent the controlling economic hand of the non-muslim world, and America’s leading role as both banker and war-monger.  Just like the USA, their demographic explosions are artificially maintained by oil income, pending a catastrophic decline which will almost  certainly come after Peak Oil. In the short-term, those glorious days of petrodollar recycling of the 1970s must seem like something from the Persian Nights tales of legend, to populations of which 50% were born after 1970, many of which have recently known increasing poverty and humiliation. America’s ‘uncontrollable’ demographic growth is through the floodgate of immigration, which daily adds to the imperative to seek more energy by dominating geoeconomics, and Islam’s fertility has spawned populations of young men and women with nowhere to go and nothing to lose.

September the 11th 2001 was the day that Islam focused the world’s attention on the dissatisfaction of its peoples when a suite of suicide pilots caused US planes to ram the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon in an epic that most people had only expected to see in old Japanese movies involving King Kong and a giant turtle.

As for the outcome; be it international war, unexpected alliances, civil war or implosion of States, we can be fairly sure that if war does break out between the US and the Islamic oil empire, it will not be the final conflict, since many other nations and tribes wait in the wings, preparing to seize power or to scavenge.  But further down the track the question of how to go on living without abundant fossil energy will arise for all those who survive in the short-term.  It seems inevitable that human slavery –  which has never actually disappeared from the world – will at the very least expand its tragic role in the panoply of ‘energy solutions’ that will remain to be tested by the first world in the decades after the decline of the petroleum interval. 

Posted in Energy Slaves | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Antonio Turiel: Explaining Peak Oil the Easy Way

Explaining Peak Oil the Easy Way

Preface. Turiel writes an excellent blog “The oil crash” at http://crashoil.blogspot.com. Turiel explains eloquently why the amount of oil will decline even though there are vast pools of oil left underground.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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What is Peak Oil?

Hubbert’s curve shows the theoretical extraction from a single oil well or all oil wells in the World. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

A recurring topic in these discussions is the confusion between resources and production. Let me explain. In the world today there exist enormous, I might even say vast, resources of liquid hydrocarbons (a more appropriate name than oil, because it involves many diverse substances which are not completely equivalent).

If we take a look at just conventional crude oil, there is enough to supply current consumption for about 30 years.

If we include the extra-heavy oils (bitumen), there is enough to cover current consumption for a century.

Intuitive conclusion: there is no problem with oil, or at least not an urgent one. Right?

This is how the mass media sees it, and that is the reason why I decided to create The Oil Crash blog.

What is the reality?

The reality is that it does not matter how much there may be in the subsoil, but the rate at which you can extract it. In other words, what is the production going to be? I will give you an example.

Imagine you are thirsty and want to drink some water. I tell you that there is a glass of water available.

Possibility 1: There is a glass full of water. You take it and you drink it. This is what the world has done with oil since the 19th century up to the first oil crisis in 1970.

Possiblility 2: The water is spread over a smooth surface. You take a straw and, with a lot more effort than in the previous case, you manage to drink the water. This is what the world has done with oil from 1970 to 2000.

Possibility 3: The water is mixed with sand. You have to heat up the sand in a watertight container, condense the water which might evaporate and which ends up in the glass via a distillery, and then you must wait for it to cool down. The process is not perfect, part of the water never evaporates from the sand and part is lost because it comes out of the end of the distillery in the form of gas or it evaporates from the glass because it is still quite hot, and so you recover 2/3 of the original glass. Moreover, the process is really slow and creates a lot of heat, so you feel even more thirsty and the process never takes your thirst away. This is what the world has done with oil from 2000 until 2010.

Possibility 4: There is no liquid water, but I tell you that you can condense it in the air. It is a very slow and inefficient process, but you are thirsty and you have to find water from somewhere. The problem is that you have to keep drinking but the relative humidity of the room keeps going down. There is still a lot of water in the air, but it is extracted more and more slowly each time. You could build a mega-machine in order to “dry out all the air” in one go, but you don’t actually have the resources to do that, so in fact you have to make do with what you have. This is what is happening with oil since 2010.

Obviously, in the real world we have a mixture of the 4 possibilities, from simple oilfield extraction (possibility 1) to the ludicrously expensive oilfield extraction (possibility 4), however as time goes by the simple oilfields are running dry and we are finding ourselves left with the more complicated oilfields.

From time to time you come across economists who tell you, OK, that’s true, but by investing more money and with advances in technology those possibility 4 oilfields will be made profitable and quick. That is a lie. The problem is not the economic profitability of the oilfields but the energetic profitability (in other words, how much energy is gained for every unit of energy expended in obtaining it). If you spend more energy than you manage to extract, then forget it, this extraction will not be energetically profitable and will not therefore be economically profitable for obvious reasons. If you only gain a little bit of energy, then the extraction will certainly not be economically profitable, because there are other costs. In order for an oilfield to be worth extracting, practically, you have to gain much more energy than you spend. And as for technology, the thermodynamics set the limits on the yield given by the processes, limits which you cannot go beyond, and we are already far too close to those limits. There are no big improvements to hope for (there will be improvements, undoubtedly, but they will not be big).

This is the situation we are in now. The liquid hydrocarbon deposits which we have left are bad quality and it is difficult to extract the oil from them. For this reason, oil production will not now increase and will probably fall sharply in the next few years. Oil is not going to finish in 30 years, nor 100, nor 200: it will be here for many more centuries. What will happen is that we will have less of it available as each year passes. When I give a talk I always say that the situation is similar to a person who keeps having their wages reduced. In the beginning they earn £2,000 a month and they’re fine, unworried. Next year their wage is lowered to £1,800 a month and things are still fine. In the next year their wage is lowered to 1,600 and the person starts to get annoyed. The following year it’s lowered to 1,400, and the next it’s lowered to 1,200, then 1,100, then 1,000, then 900, then 850, then 800, then 775… They never stop receiving their wages, but with what they are earning, life gets more and more difficult. This is our situation: our energy wage is going to get smaller and smaller with each year and we will have to learn to live with less and less.

Posted in Flow Rate, Peak Oil | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Shale gas is only good for plastics, not transportation fuels

The oil industry is making more plastic because electric cars have cut gasoline use, but because shale “fracked” gas is so light plastic is about the only use. It is not a transportation fuel that can save us from the coming peak oil energy crisis. 

But the plastics boom may be abruptly stopped in its tracks. The fracking industry may not last as long as many believe (Miller 2019) for geological reasons. Fracking may also fail the pandemic financial crash since most companies are in debt. 

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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Gardiner, B. 2020. A Surge of New Plastic Is About to Hit the Planet as major oil companies ramp up their production. wired.com

Petrochemicals, the category that includes plastic, now account for 14 percent of oil use and are expected to drive half of oil demand growth between now and 2050, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says. The World Economic Forum predicts plastic production will double in the next 20 years.

And because the American fracking boom is unearthing, along with natural gas, large amounts of the plastic feedstock ethane, the United States is a big growth area for plastic production. With natural gas prices low, many fracking operations are losing money, so producers have been eager to find a use for the ethane they get as a byproduct of drilling.

“They’re looking for a way to monetize it,“ Feit said. “You can think of plastic as a kind of subsidy for fracking.”

Shell is building a $6 billion ethane cracking plant—a facility that turns ethane into ethylene, a building block for many kinds of plastic—in Monaca, Pennsylvania, 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. It is expected to produce up to 1.6 million tons of plastic annually after it opens in the early 2020s. Pennsylvania granted the Shell plant a tax break valued at $1.6 billion—one of the biggest in state history—and officials in Ohio and West Virginia are wooing firms eager to build more ethane crackers, storage facilities, and pipelines.

Since 2010, companies have invested more than $200 billion in 333 plastic and other chemical projects in the US, including expansions of existing facilities, new plants, and associated infrastructure such as pipelines.

If you aren’t going to use plastics, what are you going to use instead?” Alternatives like steel, glass, and aluminum have negative impacts of their own, including carbon footprints that can be greater than plastic’s. It makes cars lighter and therefore more efficient, insulates homes, reduces waste by extending food’s life, and keeps medical supplies sanitary, among many other uses.

Alter, L. 2019. Oil industry is spending billions on increasing plastics production. Treehugger.com

The increase in the production of petrochemicals, spurred by the abundance of shale gas as feedstock and the demand for ethane – a key component in plastics – has prompted energy companies to continue investing billions of dollars in the petrochemical sector. “The global petrochemical sector continues to expand exponentially as developing nations’ demand for petrochemical/chemical products continues to increase,” says Petroleum Economist.

Consultants note that oil producers are pivoting to plastics, away from gas or diesel, and that demand for petrochemical feedstocks will increase by 50%. Petrochemical manufacturers are building 11 new ethylene plants on the Gulf Coast, with capacity for polyethylene growing by 30 percent. The director of the trade association says, “You are going to see over $200 billion in investment in the Gulf Coast specifically related to petrochemical manufacturing.”

Harbors are being dredged, methanol complexes are being built, giant warehouses for pellet storage are under construction. “The Port of Greater Baton Rouge had its fortunes boosted recently with the announcement that ExxonMobil will spend $469 million to add a polypropylene manufacturing unit to its vast greater Baton Rouge petrochemical complex.”

Another $9.4 billion manufacturing complex on the Mississippi River will produce MDI or methylene diphenyl diisocyanate, which goes into our favorite products: polyurethane, spray-foam insulation, furniture, and textiles.

References

Miller, A. 2019. David Hughes’ Shale Reality check 2019. Postcarbon.org

Posted in Natural Gas | Tagged | 2 Comments

1688 Tons of material to build just 1 windmill

Preface.  The 2.3 MW wind turbine in this video weighs a lot more than the 900 tons I list later in this post, that’s just what I was able to hear in the video and it leaves at least half the weight out.

Do watch the video here. Clearly wind turbines aren’t renewable when you consider the vast amounts of material and energy required.

As you’ll see in 47 Reasons why wind power can not replace fossil fuels , a 2 MW wind turbine actually weighs 1688 tons. 1300 tons concrete, 295 tons steel, 48 tons iron, 24 tons fiberglass, 4 tons copper, .4 tons neodymium, .065 tons dysprosium and more (Guezuraga 2012; USGS 2011).

And 2 MW is puny.  Imagine what these must weigh:

  • The offshore 12 MW Haliade-X offshore wind turbine will stand 260 meters (850 feet) tall with 107-meter-long (350 foot) blades.
  • the onshore Enercon E-126/7.5 MW wind turbine has a hub height of 135m (443 feet), a 127m (417 ft) diameter rotor, and provides a swept area of 12,668m² (3 square acres).

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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MidAmerican Energy Company – From the Ground Up: Building our energy future, one turbine at a time

The pictures from the video capture how low the EROI of wind power must be when you can see the embodied fossil fuels used to build a wind turbine.

MidAmerican Energy announced they were about to build the tallest wind turbine in the US, a 2.3 MW 554 foot tall (with 173 foot blade extended) about the same as the Washington Monument. It will be 337 feet ground to hub, use 395 cubic yards of concrete, 63,400 pounds of reinforcing steel, and generate power when winds are 7 mph or higher, producing the most wind at 29 mph.  Important figures such as cost, capacity, maintenance, and so on not (Remer).

MidAmerican Energy is owned by Warren Buffet, who has this to say about why he builds wind farms: “I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate,” Buffet told an audience in Omaha, Nebraska recently. “For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” (Pfotenhauer).

Yet it doesn’t begin to capture all of the energy inputs to wind turbines. Notably, transmission is left out of the picture, and the natural gas plants to balance intermittent energy, the mining of the ores for iron and steel, or crushing of rocks to make cement/concrete, the fossil fuels in the tons of epoxy, and so on to make the 900 short tons of material (it is probably more like 1300 tons given other peer-reviewed publications on materials used in 2 MW turbines, not all of the materials used were included in this short video).

Most wind power will be forever stranded, because it’s too far from cities to run transmission lines to. If you look at the state level wind maps in the Wind Energy Resource Atlas of the United States List of Maps (RREDC) it appears as if cities have been placed as far from commercial wind power as possible. But no diabolical force is to blame. The distance is due to cities arising near good, flat farmland, yet the best wind is on the ridges of highlands. To get around this, wind turbines taller than the St. Louis arch at peak blade tip have been proposed for the Southeast and other areas without commercial wind (February 18, 2015. Mapping the Frontier of New Wind Power Potential. National Renewable Energy Lab.).

You’d need 32,850 wind turbines to replace the Cubic Mile of Oil consumed globally every year, and a grand total of 1,642,000 turbines to replace oil over the next 50 years, which may be conservative given that the wind isn’t blowing all the time so that triple or more would be needed on a national grid with massive energy storage batteries.

A wind turbine lifespan is only 20 years, so rinse and repeat!

Each windmill in this video:

  • Takes 3 weeks to build from excavation to operation
  • requires 40 to 100 geo-piers installed for stability, weight unknown
  • Excavate 10 feet deep 100 feet wide
  • Set 96,000 pounds of reinforcing steel rebar = 48 tons
  • 53 concrete trucks pour foundations. If each truck can haul 8 cubic yards at 2538 lbs/yard * 53 = 1,076,112 pounds = 538 tons
  • Move 1,500 cubic yards of soil @ 2,200 lbs per cubic yard = 3.3 million pounds = 1,650 tons
  • 3 blades : each 173 feet long and 27,000 pounds for 81,000 pounds = 40.5 tons
  • 8 truckloads to deliver turbine components
  • Nacelle: weight 181,000 lbs = 90.5 tons with the generator, gearbox, and rotor shaft
  • Hub: weight unknown
  • Base tower height 53 feet 11 inches, weight 97,459 lbs = 48.7 tons
  • Mid tower height 84 feet 6 inches, weight 115,587 lbs = 57.8 tons
  • Top tower height 119 feet, weight 104,167 lbs = 52 tons
  • Final tower height to blade tip when fully extended 442 feet

References

Guezuraga, B. 2012. Life cycle assessment of two different 2 MW class wind turbines. Renewable Energy 37:37-44.

Pfotenhauer, N. May 12, 2014. Big Wind’s Bogus Subsidies. U.S. News & World Report

Remer, J. November 17, 2015. MidAmerican Energy’s New Iowa Wind Farm to Feature Tallest Onshore Turbine Ever in the US PowerEngineering.

Rosenbloom, E. 2006. A Problem With Wind Power. aweo.org

USGS. 2011. Wind Energy in the United States and Materials Required for the Land-Based Wind Turbine Industry From 2010 Through 2030. U.S. Geological Survey.

12 truck 26 40-100 geopiers installed for stability

33 excavate 10 feet deep50 96000 pounds of reinforcing steel 53 up to 53 concrete trucks to pour foundations 101 1500 cubic yards of soil backfilled and leveled 107 3 blades each 173 feet long 112 and 27000 lbs each 122 8 truckloads to deliver turbine components 135 more turbine components 137 jacking up the turbine 148 nacelle the size of a school bus 159 Hub 216 base tower height 53 feet 11 inches 229 base tower weight 97459 pounds 235 160 bolts around the bottom 246 mid tower height 84.5 feet 251 midtower weight 115,587 pounds 320 three blades 400 top tower height 119 feet 427 nacelle weighs 181000 pounds 453 rotor diameter 354 feet 520 nacelle contains generator gearbox rotor shaft 522 nacell part 2r

Posted in Wind | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Plant BioInvasion threaten future crops

Preface.  Our industrial agriculture is utterly dependent on fossil fuels, which require 10 calories of energy for every food calorie produced.  Invasive weeds will make growing food even harder when fossils are gone, and since pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides are also made out of fossils, there won’t be an easy way to get rid of invasive plants despite old-fashioned weeding.  Here are just a few examples.

Alice Friedemann www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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Katz, B. 2019. Monster Invasive Tumbleweed Is Outgrowing Its Parent Species. Scientists once thought the hybrid Salsola ryanii would not be able to survive the hot, dry conditions of the West. They were wrong. Smithsonian.

Tumbleweed are invasive plants that can wreak havoc upon native ecosystems, agriculture and property. They compete with crops, can disturb oil and gas pads, spread forest fires, and even cause traffic accidents.

A new tumbleweed species, Salsola ryanii, can grow 6 feet high, is resistant to glyphosate, and is a hybrid of two other invasive tumbleweeds, which may help it become even more invasive in the future since it grows more vigorously than either of its parents.  Each tumbleweed produces over 100,000 seeds a year.

More invasive plants:

Apr 23, 2002 Caspian Environment Struggles As Nations Jockey Over Energy Riches.  ABC news.

Scott Dogget. Dec 28, 2004 In a chokehold: California’s native landscape is losing ground as aggressive imports run wild.   Los Angeles Times.

Aug 26, 2005  Non-native Seaweed Threatens Hawaiian Species. National Academy of Sciences.

Carrie Madren. July 15, 2011. A Wild, Weedy Scourge: Fast Spreading Cogongrass Threatens Forests in the U.S. South.  The federal government is spending millions to combat a nasty plant that is spreading like wildfire.  Scientific American.

Aquatic and Invasive plants website, University of Florida

Posted in 2) Collapse, BioInvasion | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Peak Phosphorus

Preface:  “Why worry about phosphate supplies? Won’t we find a substitute by then? Phosphate is the backbone of DNA and RNA. The universal energy “currency” within cells is based on the conversion of ATP to ADP, adenosine triphosphate and adenosine diphosphate. Our teeth and bones are made of the mineral apatite. Substitute that. The next element below phosphorous in the chemical periodic table is arsenic. Not a promising place to start” (Deffeyes 2005).

No other element can substitute and it can’t be synthesized.

Even if there’s lots of sun, water, and all other elements a crop needs, lack of phosphorus limits a plant or animal from using them. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that phosphorus is the most important limiting nutrient.

Recycling most of the phosphorus isn’t possible

Modern agriculture is practiced as if we had unlimited supplies.   Every truck load of food hauled from the farm to cities uses up phosphorus that will never return.  If society did go to the trouble of extracting phosphorus from urine and feces, how do you send it all back to all the places the imported food came from?  What little gets recycled now is sewage sludge dumped on nearby farms, where it accumulates, potentially over saturating the soil.

Alice Friedemann www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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Carrington, D. 2019. Phosphate fertiliser ‘crisis’ threatens world food supply Use of essential rock phosphate has soared, but scientists fear it could run out within a few decades. The guardian.

Phosphorus is essential to agriculture, increasing yields up to 50%, with 80% of phosphorus used in fertilizers to grow crops, and much of the rest in animal feed.  At current rates of use, a lot of countries are set to run out of their domestic supply in the next generation, including the US, China and India. Morocco and the Moroccan-occupied territory of Western Sahara host by far the largest reserve, with China, Algeria and Syria the next biggest, together representing more than 80% of global rock phosphate.

Phosphate use has quadrupled in the last 50 years as the global population has grown and the date when it is estimated to run out gets closer with each new analysis of demand, with some scientists projecting that moment could come as soon as a few decades’ time.

A new study, published in the journal Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, states: “The continued supply of phosphate fertilisers that underpin global food production is an imminent crisis.”  It notes that an estimate of the remaining years of rock phosphate supply fell from 300 to 259 in just the last three years, as demand rose. “If the estimated remaining number of years supply continues to decline at this rate, it could be argued that all supplies will be exhausted by 2040,” the scientists wrote.

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How much phosphorus is left and what other risks are there?

Recent estimates of peak phosphorus are 2027 (Mohr) and 2033 (Craswell), but you can find dozens of estimates, The most optimistic estimates lead to phosphorus running out within 200 years (Cordell).

Morocco has 85% of the remaining reserves (mainly in the Western Sahara). Morocco is potentially unstable, as are these five nations with another five percent of reserves: China, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, and South Africa.

Also vulnerable are the nations that need to import nearly all of their phosphorus, such as Europe, Brazil, and India. The United States has about 25 years of phosphate reserves left.

Dary, Patrick, Phosphorus: is a paradigm shift required (Bardi 2014).

We can’t live without phosphorus: agriculture depends on it to enrich their soils. Phosphorus is second only to nitrogen as the most limiting element for plant growth.  Crop yields on 40% of the world’s arable land is limited by phosphorus availability (30). Nitrogen can be extracted from the air, but phosphorus can’t, it only exists in Earth’s crust, mainly phosphate rock converted to a soluble form for fertilizer, after which much of it is lost, 20% absorbed by plants the first years, some of it disappears in runoff, or locked in the soil in chemical forms plants can’t access.  Much of it is exported within food crops.

Production in the U.S. has been declining 4 to 5% a year since about 1980.

And like all minerals, if phosphorus ever gets very expensive, rising prices will cause a reduction in demand, and that eventually stops rising production.  Industry won’t extract resources so expensive they’re impossible to sell.  Consequently, there’s a limit to the low-grade resources the industry can exploit. Economists assume that technology will always come to the rescue, lower costs of extraction and restoring both demand and industry profits. But this is a leap of faith: technology has monetary and energy costs so there are limits to what it can do. So the phosphate rock production won’t end due to a lack of rock.  But since it depends on the energy derived from oil to extract, transform, and transport, when oil declines, it will too.

References

Bardi, Ugo. 2014. Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth Is Plundering the Planet. Chelsea Green Publishing.

Cho, Renee. 2013. Phosphorus: Essential to Life—Are We Running Out?

Cordell, D. et al. 2013. Phosphorus vulnerability: A qualitative framework for assessing the vulnerability of national and regional food systems to the multi-dimensional stressors of phosphorus scarcity. Global Environmental Change,  DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.11.005

Craswell, E.T. et al. 2010. Peak phosphorus—Implications for soil productivity and global food security. Paper read at the 19th World Congress of Soil Science, Soil Solutions for a Changing World, August 1-6, Brisbane, Australia.

Deffeyes, K.S. 2005. Beyond Oil, the view from Hubbert’s Peak. Hill & Wang.

Huva, A. 2013.  Much Ado about Phosphorus. ReadTheScience.com

Blodget, H. 4 Dec 2012. Henry Blodget. A Genius Investor Thinks Billions Of People Are Going To Starve To Death — Here’s Why. Business Insider.

Elser, J. 20 2010.  Peak Phosphorus. It’s an essential, if underappreciated component of our daily lives, and a key link in the global food chain. And it’s running out. Foreign Policy.

Faludi, J. 25 Dec 2007.  Your Stuff: If It Isn’t Grown, It Must Be Mined. WorldChanging

Mohr, S, et al. 2013. Projections of Future Phosphorus Production. Philica.

Vaccari, D. A. June 2009. Phosphorus: A Looming Crisis. This underappreciated resource–a key part of fertilizers–is still decades from running out. But we must act now to conserve it, or future agriculture will collapse. Scientific American.

Walan, P. et al. 2014. Phosphate rock production and depletion: Regional disaggregated modeling and global implications. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 93: 178-187.

Watson, A. J. December 23, 2016. Oceans on the edge of anoxia. Environmental crises can tip the ocean into O2 depletion. Science.

Woods, H. 3 Apr 2008. World’s phosphorus situation scares some scientists. The Coloradan.

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The rich live longer than the poor. At least 14% of wealth is hidden in tax havens

Preface. No surprises here. With peak oil close at hand, I can’t see universal healthcare and other safety nets enacted, just more and more taken away.  It is so shameful the U.S. doesn’t take care of its people, it is the richest nation that ever existed on earth or ever will.  Check out all the countries that do provide health care to their citizens at wiki here,  including many  poor nations you wouldn’t expect such as Algeria, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa, Tunisia, Argentina, Brazil, and too many more to list.

Plus with evangelicals voting corrupt Republican autocrats into office, definitely not.  They’re half of those who vote for him, and 82% would vote for him in 2020 and 99% of them are against impeachment.  Here’s why: “58 percent of white evangelicals believe that Jesus definitely or probably will return to Earth by 2050.”  This is why they don’t care if Trump is evil, destroys the environment, denies health care, and helps the rich get richer.  It doesn’t matter if the end times are near (Morris 2019, Krasny 2019).

So eat, drink, and be merry as the apocalypse or more likely Peak Everything approaches!

Alice Friedemann www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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Fadulu, L. 2019. Study Shows Income Gap Between Rich and Poor Keeps Growing, With Deadly Effects. New York Times.

Greater levels of income and wealth leads to greater longevity. The expanding gap between rich and poor is not only widening the gulf in incomes and wealth in America. It is helping the rich lead longer lives, while cutting short the lives of those who are struggling, according to a study released this week by the Government Accountability Office.  About 75% of rich Americans who were in their 50s and 60s in 1992 were still alive in 2014, but just 50% of poor Americans made it to 2014.

It’s not only that rich people are living longer but some people’s life expectancy is actually shrinking compared to their parents, for some groups of people.

Powers, L. April 6, 2016. Panama Papers only a glimpse into ‘astonishing’ wealth stashed offshore. CBC News, Canada

Some estimates suggest from 8 to 14% of global wealth is kept in tax havens

The provocative revelations coming out of the so-called Panama Papers are just a glimpse into the murky global network that’s keeping “absolutely astonishing” amounts of money out of public coffers.

The 11.5 million files taken from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca show how the financial elite exploit a secretive system to manoeuvre wealth anonymously and ensure the taxman doesn’t take his cut.

The firm is “the world’s fourth biggest provider of offshore services,” according to the Guardian, with about $42 million in yearly revenue. The documents contain information about more than 214,000 shell companies, trusts and foundations — usually used to hold or transfer financial assets while obfuscating the identity of their real owner — that were registered with the firm.

“That gives a sense of the tremendous scope of this in terms of the flows of money into these largely mysterious companies, and this is only one firm,” says Nicholas Shaxson, an investigative journalist and author of Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World.

It’s difficult to delineate what constitutes a tax haven but it’s generally agreed that, depending on the criteria, there are between 70 and 92 of them worldwide. And there’s an estimated two million shell companies registered with offshore firms in these states.

“For a long time, people thought of tax havens as an exotic sideshow of the world economy. Now it’s clear they are absolutely central to it. We’re talking about absolutely astonishing, mind-boggling amounts of money,” Shaxson says.

Estimates of how much wealth is currently stashed offshore vary considerably, a reflection of the opacity of an industry that some economists contend has grown exponentially in recent decades.

Gabriel Zucman, author of The Hidden Wealth of Nations and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, puts the figure at least $7.6 trillion.

But the Tax Justice Network, an international research and advocacy organization, says the number is far greater. The group estimates that as of 2010, there was between $21 and $32 trillion kept in offshore holdings. That would represent between eight and 13 per cent of total global wealth.

Resource drain

Perhaps most troubling, according to one economist, is that somewhere in the ballpark of $1 trillion is illegally funneled out of developing nations each year into mysterious shell companies.

It’s a system that bolsters kleptocracy and corruption, says Matt Salomon, chief economist with Global Financial Integrity.

“It’s a real resource drain in countries where the money is needed most. At the same time, wealthier nations are standing by as this is happening, insisting that they support development in these places,” he says.

“It’s possible that the $1-trillion figure only represents a drop in the bucket since the data is so murky.”

Many of the dealings facilitated by offshore firms are entirely legal and are encouraged by major financial institutions the world over. Canada’s biggest lender, RBC, was named in the Panama Papers, having used Mossack Fonseca to set up at least 370 shell companies for clients.

There’s a searing public anger over a system that so blatantly favours the wealthy and operates with near impunity, says Shaxson. It’s putting pressure on governments to finally crack down on tax dodgers that cost countries billions each year.

Canada alone loses between $6 and $7.8 billion annually to offshore tax havens, according to a report in the Toronto Star. In response, the federal government dedicated $440 million over four years in the 2016 budget to probe tax evasion and what the Canada Revenue Agency called “aggressive tax avoidance.”

Even before the Panama Papers prompted public outrage though, more than 100 countries since 2014 had committed to increasing transparency around the financial holdings of foreign customers.

The U.S. is among the countries resisting these changes. States like Delaware, Nevada and South Dakota allow for levels of anonymity and secrecy that “rival any of the countries we usually think of as tax havens,” says James Henry, former chief economist at the consulting firm McKinsey.

‘The level of anger is higher than ever’

“It’s insufficient to just say ‘offshore tax havens’ because the industry has expanded so aggressively to countries around the globe,” adds Henry, now a fellow at Columbia and Yale.

Despite big promises from governments, real reform will not come easily. Tax havens and all the perks that come with them “are the projects of some of the world’s wealthiest people,” says Shaxson.

There’s a lot of money to be made by interests with considerable political clout, Henry notes, and the very nature of the business makes it difficult for so-called crackdowns to be effective. Financial institutions rarely face any significant consequences, and past investigations have ended up completely toothless.

“Look, for decades, governments have known about this, law enforcement have known about this and the response has been pretty pathetic. I think the reasons for that are pretty clear at this point,” Henry says.

“But the level of anger is higher than ever, and it will probably only intensify as more stories come out of the leak.”

Related stories:

And there’s no need to go to Panama to hide money as this article points out: Here Is Rothschild’s Primer How To Launder Money In U.S. Real Estate And Avoid “Blacklists” 

References

Krasny, M. 2019. The religious right’s steadfast support of President Trump. KQED.org

Morris, A. 2019. False idol – why the Christian right worships Donald Trump. Rollingstone.

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A conveyor belt of ocean water that loops the planet and regulates global temperatures could be heading for a tipping point

Preface. The conveyor belt (AMOC: Atlantic meridional overturning circulatin) may be slowing down. If it stops, floods, increased sea level rise, and disturbed weather systems.

The recent IPCC report on climate change in oceans projects that, while the AMOC will weaken substantially during this century, a collapse by 2100 is unlikely. However, at our current rate of carbon output, its models give even odds of a shutdown by 2300.

Though of course the IPCC model could be wrong and a tipping point reached sooner than that. We just don’t know. Maybe more data over time will help with better predictions. If the conveyor does stop Europe could become as much as 10 degrees F cooler and the monsoon cycles vital to Asian and South American crops disrupted. Floods, droughts, and hurricanes would increase, sea levels rise along the U.S. East coast along with heat waves. Marine ecosystems will be harmed, and if the conveyer shut down affects the jet stream, cause more heatwaves and cold snaps in North America and Europe.

But the IPCC model assumes we’ll be burning fossil fuels at our current rate until 2400, while many geologists and other scientists believe we are within 5 to 20 years of peak fossil fuel production. Fossils will decline rapidly after peak because we’ve already gotten the easy, close, and shallow deposits, and any lowering of the standard of living and less affordable oil triggers social unrest, and eventually war as shortages grow greater, causing production to decline for other than geological reasons.

I’ve excerpted perhaps a third of the article, for details go to the original source.

Alice Friedemann www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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Katz, C. 2019. Why is an ocean current critical to world weather losing steam? Scientists search the Arctic for answers. National Geographic.

Fram Strait and the waters to the south, in the Greenland, Norwegian, and Irminger seas, make up the control room of a global “conveyor belt” of currents that stretches the length of the planet. Only in this region and one other, in the Antarctic, does water at the sea surface become heavy enough—dense with cold and salt—to sink all the way to the seafloor and race downhill along the deepening ocean bottom. That sinking powers the conveyor, known as the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, or AMOC—which in turn regulates temperatures and weather around the world.

A new report warns that the AMOC is one of nine critical climate systems that greenhouse-gas-fueled warming is actively pushing toward a tipping point. Crossing that threshold in one of these systems could trigger rapid and irreversible changes that drive other systems over the edge—leading to a global tipping cascade with catastrophic consequences for the planet. The analysis, released last week in Nature by an international group of leading climate scientists, says the tipping point risks are greater than most of us realize.

The AMOC conveyor belt may already be showing signs of sputtering as a result. A network of ocean probes across the mid-Atlantic, between the Bahamas and Africa, has recorded a 15 percent drop in the current’s flow over the past decade. A recent modeling study suggests that the slowdown began a half-century ago as planet-warming carbon emissions started to soar. The IPCC, projects that the conveyor will weaken as much as a third by 2100 if emissions continue at their present rate. An enfeebled AMOC could trigger a host of changes, including floods, increased sea level rise, and disturbed weather systems.

Waters east of Greenland are getting not only warmer but also less salty. These melting Greenland glaciers, melting sea ice in the Arctic, and rivers swollen by increased precipitation in Siberia have all contributed to a large flush of fresh water into the Fram Strait—a 60 percent increase over the first half of this decade.

Whether those forces are the cause of the conveyor’s current sluggishness isn’t certain. But at some point, if the water here gets too fresh, or too warm, or especially both, it will become too light to sink, say de Steur and other ocean scientists—jamming the works of one of the most fundamental forces in the global climate system. Temperatures in the polar water flowing into the Fram Strait have climbed nearly 1 degree F over the past 17 years, while the Atlantic water has warmed nearly half a degree. If the trend continues, it could dampen deepwater formation and throttle the conveyor belt’s engine just like freshening will.

Other key components of Earth’s climate works that may be heading toward a tipping point include summer sea ice, which models predict will disappear as early as 2036, permafrost, now rapidly thawing across wide swaths of the Arctic, the vast Greenland ice sheet, the Amazon rain forest, and more.

So far there’s been no change in the deepwater formation. But the warming and freshening she has observed here on past voyages are worrisome, and if things continue as they are, at some point it’s going to have an impact.

Historical climate models find that the conveyor belt has slowed significantly in recent decades. And paleoclimate evidence shows the AMOC is currently the weakest it’s been in at least a millennium. The system has been slowing for at least 50 years—in line with the rise in humans’ carbon output.

The recent IPCC report on climate change in oceans projects that, while the AMOC will weaken substantially during this century, a collapse by 2100 is unlikely. However, at our current rate of carbon output, its models give even odds of a shutdown by 2300.

An abrupt brake on the current around 950,000 years ago sent the planet into a long series of ice ages. More recently, Europe was plunged into a 2,000-year cold spell known as the Younger Dryas around 13,000 years ago, after the current sharply weakened. Although it’s not certain what caused those conveyor breakdowns, melting ice sheets are believed to have played a major role.

Even short of a shutdown, the effects of weakening ocean circulation would be felt around the globe. Because the Gulf Stream warms Northern Europe by as much as 10 degrees F, a drop in the heat flowing north would make European winters colder.

The changes in the ocean’s heat uptake and transport would make the South Atlantic hotter, shifting the bulk of the planet’s heat southward and disrupting monsoon cycles vital to Asian and South American crops, according to the IPCC.

Floods and droughts would increase on both sides of the Atlantic, along with more frequent hurricanes along the southeastern United States and Gulf of Mexico. A backed-up Gulf Stream could raise sea levels along the U.S. East Coast, driving more warm water—and possibly steamier temperatures—ashore.

Marine ecosystems and fisheries would suffer. On top of that, muddled ocean circulation could knock the already wobbly jet stream further off kilter, triggering more summer heatwaves and winter cold snaps across North America and Europe.

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Toxic Loans Around the World Weigh on Global Growth

Preface.  Obviously endless growth on a finite planet is impossible.  Clearly the main “benefit” of debt is being able to rape and pillage the planet immediately.  The accumulating debt can never be paid off, because energy is required to grow GDP (they’re locked in a death embrace) and death begins when oil declines, so will GDP, and most debts won’t be repayable.  All of this debt allows us to extract resources NOW at the expense of future generations.

Here’s a recent article about debt, though not as good as it could be, since as usual, it’s energy and resource blind, but it’s probably clear to most people who read it that this can’t end well: December 2019 The Way Out for a World Economy Hooked On Debt? Yet More Debt (Bloomberg).

February 5, 2016 The Chart of Doom: When Private Credit Stops Expanding

Alice Friedemann www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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Eavis, P. February 3, 2016. Toxic Loans Around the World Weigh on Global Growth. New York Times.

Beneath the surface of the global financial system lurks a multi-trillion-dollar problem that could sap the strength of large economies for years to come.

The problem is the giant, stagnant pool of loans that companies and people around the world are struggling to pay back. Bad debts have been a drag on economic activity ever since the financial crisis of 2008, but in recent months, the threat posed by an overhang of bad loans appears to be rising.

China is the biggest source of worry. Some analysts estimate that China’s troubled credit could exceed $5 trillion, a staggering number that is equivalent to half the size of the country’s annual economic output.

Official figures show that Chinese banks pulled back on their lending in December. If such trends persist, China’s economy, the second-largest in the world behind the United States’, may then slow even more than it has, further harming the many countries that have for years relied on China for their growth.

But it’s not just China. Wherever governments and central banks unleashed aggressive stimulus policies in recent years, a toxic debt hangover has followed. In the United States, it took many months for mortgage defaults to fall after the most recent housing bust — and energy companies are struggling to pay off the cheap money that they borrowed to pile into the shale boom.

In Europe, analysts say bad loans total more than $1 trillion. Many large European banks are still burdened with defaulted loans, complicating policy makers’ efforts to revive the Continent’s economy. Italy, for instance, announced a plan last week to clean out bad loans from its plodding banking industry.

Elsewhere, bad loans are on the rise at Brazil’s biggest banks, as the country grapples with the effects of an enormous credit binge.

“If you have a boom and then a bust, you create economic losses,” said Alberto Gallo, head of global macro credit research at the Royal Bank of Scotland in London. “You can hope the losses one day turn into profits, but if they don’t, they are a drag on the economy.”

In good times, companies and people take on new loans, often at low interest rates, to buy goods and services. When economies slow, these debts become difficult to pay for many borrowers. And the bigger the boom, the more soured debt that is left behind for bankers and policy makers to deal with.

In theory, it makes sense for banks to swiftly recognize the losses embedded in bad loans — and then make up for those losses by raising fresh capital. The cleaned-up banks are more likely to start lending again — and thus play their part in fueling the recovery.

But in reality, this approach can be difficult to carry out. Recognizing losses on bad loans can mean pushing corporate borrowers into bankruptcy and households into foreclosure. Such disruption can send a chill through the economy, require unpopular taxpayer bailouts and have painful social consequences. And in some cases, the banks might find it extremely difficult to raise fresh capital in the markets.

Even so, the drawback of delaying the cleanup is that the banks remain wounded and reluctant to lend, damping any recovery that takes place. Japan, economists say, waited far too long after its credit boom of the 1980s to force its banks to recognize huge losses — and the economy suffered for years after as a result.

Now many banking experts are beginning to worry about China’s bad loans.

Fears that the country’s economy is slowing have weighed heavily on global markets in recent months because a weak China can drag down growth globally.

Many of these concerns focus on China’s banking industry. In recent years, banks and other financial companies in China issued a tidal wave of new loans and other credit products, many of which will not be paid back in full.

China’s financial sector will have loans and other financial assets of $30 trillion at the end of this year, up from $9 trillion seven years ago, said Charlene Chu, an analyst in Hong Kong for Autonomous Research.

“The world has never seen credit growth of this magnitude over a such short time,” she said in an email. “We believe it has directly or indirectly impacted nearly every asset price in the world, which is why the market is so jittery about the idea that credit problems in China could unravel.

Headline figures for bad loans in China most likely do not capture the size of the problem, analysts say. In her analysis, Ms. Chu estimates that at the end of 2016, as much as 22 percent of the Chinese financial system’s loans and assets will be “nonperforming,” a banking industry term used to describe when a borrower has fallen behind on payments or is stressed in ways that make full repayment unlikely. In dollar terms, that works out to $6.6 trillion of troubled loans and assets.

“This estimate really isn’t that unreasonable,” Ms. Chu said in the email. “We’ve seen similar ratios in other countries. What’s different is the scale, which reflects the massive size of China’s credit boom.” She estimates that the bad loans could lead to $4.4 trillion of actual losses.

Although there is not enough official data to come up with a precise figure for bad loans, other analysts have come up with estimates of around $5 trillion.

Given the murkiness of the Chinese financial industry, other analysts arrive at estimates for a “baseline” figure for bad loans. Christopher Balding, an associate professor at the HSBC School of Business at Peking University, said that an analysis of corporations’ interest payments to Chinese banks suggested that 8 percent of loans to companies might be troubled. But Mr. Balding said it was possible that the bad loan number for China’s overall financial system could be higher.

The looming question for the global economy, however, is how China might deal with a vast pool of bad debts.  After a previous credit boom in the 1990s, the Chinese government provided financial support to help clean up the country’s banks. But the cost of similar interventions today could be dauntingly high given the size of the latest credit boom. And more immediately, rising bad debts could crimp lending to strong companies, undermining economic growth in the process.

“My sense is that the Chinese policy makers seem like a deer in the headlights,” Mr. Balding said. “They really don’t know what to do.

In Europe, for instance, some countries have taken years to come to grips with their banks’ bad loans.

In some cases, the delay arose from a reluctance, at least in part, to force people out of their homes. Even though Ireland’s biggest banks suffered huge losses after the financial crisis, they held back from forcing many borrowers who had defaulted out of their homes. In recent years, the Irish government has pursued a widespread plan that aims to reduce the debt load of financially stressed homeowners. Such forbearance appears not to have weakened the Irish economy, which has recovered at a faster rate than those of other European countries.

Still, the perils of waiting too long are evident in Italy, which in January announced a proposal to help banks sell their bad loans. Some critics of the plan say it resembles a government bailout of the banks, while other skeptics say the banks might not use it because it appears to be too expensive.

“The big problem in the Italian system is that they acted very late,” said Silvia Merler, an affiliate fellow at Bruegel, a European research firm that focuses on economic issues. “They could have done something smarter — and they could have done it earlier.”

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