Fossil and Nuclear Energy Reading List

[ Books and articles related to fossil fuels and nuclear energy.  More comments after the list.  Alice Friedemann  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 ]


  1. Charles Hall, Energy & the Wealth of Nations: Understanding the Biophysical economy,  2011
  2. M. Klare. The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources. 2013.
  3. Charles. Hall. Hydrocarbons & the Evolution of Human Culture. 2003. Nature 426.
  4. J. Perlin, A Forest Journey: The Role of Wood in the Development of Civilization, 2005.
  5. C. Ponting, A New Green History of the World: The Environment & the Collapse of Great Civilizations, 2007
  6. R. Heinberg. The End of Growth. Adapting to our New Economic Reality. 2011.
  7. W. Youngquist, Geodestinies: The Inevitable Control of Earth Resources over Nations & Individuals, 1997
  8. D. Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, 1993.
  9. G. Hardin, Living Within Limits: Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos, 1995
  10. D. Pimentel, Food, Energy, and Society, 1996

Energy Returned on Energy Invested

  1. P. Prieto & Charles A. S. Hall. 2013. Spain’s Photovoltaic Revolution. The Energy Return on Investment. Springer.
  2. D. Murphy. The Net Hubbert Curve: What Does it Mean? 2009.
  3. J. Lambert. EROI of Global Energy Resources Preliminary Status and Trends.  State  University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry. 2012.
  4. C. Hall. What is the Minimum EROI that a Sustainable Society Must Have? 2009.
  5. D. Murphy, Energy return on investment, peak oil, and the end of economic growth, 2011.

Peak Oil

  1. Kerr, R. Peak oil began 2005 Science Magazine: Peak Oil Production May Already Be Here. Outside of OPEC’s vast resources, oil production has leveled off, and it’s looking like it may never rise againScience. 25 March 2011. Vol 331: 1510-11
  2. Murray, J. Peak Oil began 2005 Nature Magazine: Oil’s tipping point has passed.   26 January 2012. Nature vol 481: 433-35.
  3. Fantazzini, Dean; et al. 2011. Global oil risks in the early 21st century. Energy Policy, Vol. 39, Issue 12: 7865-7873
  4. A. Friedemann. Why do political and economic leaders deny Peak Oil and Climate Change? 2012.
  5. German peak oil report: Armed Forces, Capabilities and Technologies in the 21st Century Environmental Dimensions of Security. PEAK OIL Security policy implications of scarce resources. Bundeswehr Transformation Centre, Future Analysis Branch. 2010.
  6. K. Cobb. The only true metric of energy abundance: The rate of flow. 2013.
  7. R. Hirsch.  Peaking of World Oil Production.  Department of Energy. 2005.
  8. T. Patzek. Oil in the Arctic. 2012. 
  9. R. Patterson. March 5, 2015. Peak Russia + Peak USA means Peak World
  10. M. Simmons. Twilight in the Desert: the coming Saudi oil shock & the world economy. 2005
  11. K. Deffeyes. Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert’s Peak. 2005
  12. K. Deffeyes. Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage. 2005

Peak Coal

  1. Wang, J. September 4, 2013. Chinese coal supply and future production outlooks [peak likely in 2024]. Energy 60: 204-214.
  2. R. Heinberg. The End of Cheap Coal. Nature 468. 18 Nov 2010.
  3. A. Friedemann. Coal: why it can’t easily substitute for oil. 2011.
  4. T. Patzek. A global coal production forecast with multi-Hubbert cycle analysis.  Energy. 2010.
  5. R. Heinberg. Blackout. Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis. 2009
  6. A. Friedemann. Peak Coal is already here or likely by 2020 — if true — IPCC 100 year projections too high? 2013.
  7. New York Academy of Sciences. Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal.  2011 pp 73-98

Peak Natural Gas

  1. D. Hughes. Oct 27, 2014. Drilling Deeper. A reality check on U.S. government forecasts for a lasting tight oil & shale gas boom.  PostCarbon
  2. B. Powers. Cold, hungry, and in the Dark: Exploding the Natural Gas Supply Myth. 2013
  3. D. Hughes. April 28, 2015. Has Well Productivity Peaked in the Nation’s Largest Shale Gas Play?
  4. SBC. October 2014. Factbook Natural Gas. [20-40% of recoverable resources are low EROI Sour Gas] SBC Energy Institute
  5. R. Heinberg. Chapter 5 of How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future: The Economics of Fracking: Who Benefits? October 2013.
  6. A. Friedemann. Shale Oil and Gas Will Not Save Us. 2012.
  7. A. Friedemann. Natural Gas pros and cons. 2011.

Peak Uranium

Coal-To-Liquids (CTL) can’t replace oil

Tad Patzek, et al.,  Potential for Coal-to-Liquids Conversion in the United States, 2009, Natural Resources Research 18.

Gas, tar sands, etc., can’t replace oil

  1. Höök, M., Tang, X. 2013. Depletion of fossil fuels and anthropogenic climate change: a review. Energy Policy, 52: 797-809
  2. Höök, M., et al. 2014. Hydrocarbon liquefaction: viability as a peak oil mitigation strategy. Philosophical Transactions. Series A: Mathematical, physical, and engineering science, 372
  3. Höök, M. & Aleklett, K. 2010. A review on coal-to-liquid fuels & its coal consumption. International journal of energy research Vol. 34 10:848-864
  4. Gray, D., et al. August 1, 2012.  Topic Paper #8 Production of Alternative Liquid Hydrocarbon Transportation Fuels from Natural Gas, Coal, and Coal and Biomass (XTL). National Petroleum Council
  5. NPC. 2012. Natural Gas. Topic Paper #21. An Initial Qualitative Discussion on Safety Considerations for LNG Use in Transportation. National Petroleum Council

Nuclear Power

Nuclear Waste


  1. A. Friedemann. Peak Soil: Why Cellulosic and other Biofuels are Not Sustainable and a Threat to America’s National Security. 2007.
  2. German National Academy of Science (Leopoldina Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften).  Bioenergy — Chances and LimitsPage 30-56 English Version. 2012.
  3. A. Friedemann. Dozens of reasons why algae will never replace oil. 2011.
  4. A. Friedemann. Analyzing energy breakthroughs: a skeptical look at seaweed ethanol. 2011.

Tar Sands a.k.a. oil sands

  1. Nikiforuk, A. 22 May 2013. Difficult Truths about ‘Difficult Oil’. As we work down the hydrocarbon pyramid, energy gets messier and much more costly.
  2. Nuwer, R. Feb 19, 2013. Oil Sands Mining Uses Up Almost as Much Energy as It Produces. InsideClimate News.
  3. A. Friedemann. Why Oilsands (a.k.a. tarsands) can’t replace oil. 2011.

Kerogen a.k.a. Shale Oil

  1. A. Friedemann. Shale Oil Overview. 2011.
  2. R. Udall. The Illusive Bonanza: Oil Shale in Colorado. 2005.

Methane Hydrates

  1. A. Friedemann. Why we aren’t mining methane hydrates now. Or ever. 2014.
  2. C. Nelder. Are Methane Hydrates Really Going to Change Geopolitics?  The Atlantic.  2013.
  3. Office of Naval Research Science & Technology. Fiery ice from the Sea. 2002.

IPCC projections too high


An Energy slave unit equals the average output of a man doing 150,000 foot-pounds of work per day 250 days per year. In low-energy societies, nonhuman energy slaves are horses, oxen, windmills, riverboats. Now, the average American has more than 8,000 energy-slaves at his or her disposal and these slaves can work under extreme conditions: no sleep, 5,000° F, at 400,000 pounds per square inch pressure, etc.” Buckminster Fuller.

Oil is the master resource that unlocks all of the others. Don’t have fresh water?  No problem, just use oil to drill down 1,500 feet and pump it up.  Can’t find any fish? No problem, build a large ship and go to the ends of the earth to capture the last schools of fish with high-tech sonar and spotting planes.   It’s hard to think of a problem that can’t be solved by oil.  The only good thing about its coming diminished RATE OF FLOW is that the harm it does, like climate change, biodiversity loss, ozone depletion, acidic oceans — you name it — will decline as well.

RATE OF FLOW, RATE OF FLOW, RATE OF FLOW.  Peak oil is often mis-characterized as RUNNING OUT OF OIL.  What’s going to happen is that there will be a lot of “resources” — not economically viable, and expensive reserves with low quality oil that can only produce limited amounts, unlike conventional which flows effortlessly at first.  It’s a lot like being a billionaire but only allowed to take out $1,000 a month.

Anything which generates electricity is not a solution, because heavy-duty transportation runs on oil.

The bad news is, we can never replace fossil fuels with alternative energy resources. One of the many reasons is SCALE.  Oil is the densest form of energy on the planet next to uranium.  To replace one cubic mile of oil, which is what the world burns every year, you’d need to build 200 dams every year for 50 years (10,000 total), or 2,600 Nuclear plants per year for 50 years (130,000 total), or 5,200 coal plants a year for 50 years (260,000 total), or 1,642,000 wind turbines per year for 50 years (82,100,000 total), or 4,562,500,000 rooftop PV per year for 50 years (22,812,500,000 total).

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7 Responses to Fossil and Nuclear Energy Reading List

  1. RobM says:

    I’m wondering if there is a mistake in your concluding math. Humans consume about 18TW of which about 1/3 is oil which equals 6TW. Taking nuclear as an example at 1GW per plant, we would need 6000 plants to replace oil, not 130,000. It won’t surprise me if you are correct and I’ve made a mistake here.

    • david higham says:

      Yes.The last paragraph is incorrect. The wikipedia article ‘Cubic Mile
      of Oil’ has been inadvertently stated incorrectly here. A reading of that article will explain the correct numbers. For example,the wikipedia number is 52 nuclear plants for 50 years,giving a TOTAL
      of 2,600. (not 2,600 per year).

      • energyskeptic says:

        The chart clearly states that you must build 52 nuclear plants per year for 50 years OR four three-gorges dams per year for 50 years OR… The OR’s are important. Presumably you could build smaller numbers of each proportionally as well. However, since my book “When Trucks Stop Running” shows that we can’t have a 100% electric grid and that heavy-duty transportation can’t run on electricity, it doesn’t matter. But I like the Cubic Mile of Oil a lot because most people have no idea how powerful oil is or the scale we’re using it at. No matter how techno-optimistic, this should give pause to anyone who thinks a transition is easy, or even possible.

    • energyskeptic says:

      I don’t ever say 130,000. Goldstein says 10,000 regular plants, Mesarovic 24,000 breeders. I should check their calculations. I first wrote this in 2006.

      Goodstein, D. April 29, 2005. Transcript of The End of the Age of Oil talk

      Mesarovic, Mihajlo, et al. 1974. Mankind at the Turning Point. The Second Club of Rome Report. E.P. Dutton, 1974 pp. 132-135

  2. Bill Fischer says:

    1 BOE = 1.6282 MWh
    World oil production 95Mb/d=154.679MWh/d=6.44MW(h/h)
    US oil production 19.396Mb/d=1.316MW

    If we could freely substitute electricity energy for oil energy, we would only need 6400 1GW nuclear plants worldwide, 1300 in the U.S, to replace current usage. (For US, that would be only one every other week for 50 years. Are we not already building and commissioning close to that? Is fake media simply failing to report it. Somebody tell Fox.) However, the key word here may be “replace”. As Alice has shown so well, especially regarding trucks and other heavy equipment, electricity does not equal oil.

    • energyskeptic says:

      Exactly. Electricity can’t substitute for oil in transportation. Or coal and natural gas and oil in manufacturing – there is no electrical process for blast furnaces to make cement and steel & iron, etc. If there were an electrical process, it needs to run 24 x 7 x 365 for 20 years. Not gonna happen without massive energy storage, and there’s no technology in sight to do that. Or for natural gas fertilizer, which is how we can grow 5 times more food to feed 7.5 billion people.

  3. Trmist says:

    Wow that many books on such a dreary subjects is impressive. I have read a lot of non-fiction feeding my desire to understand what’s happening in the wider world. However I often get discouraged with projections and the great toll all us will pay in the transition to a more modest energy lifestyle. You mentioned giving up on reading fiction in the prior post. I recently embraced speculative fiction as the genre provides insights on how things might play out. We are in quite a predicament, almost hopeless. My goal is to make choices that will ease the burden for those I care about after peak oil asserts itself. Thanks for sharing you knowledge and findings.