Far out power #1: human fat, playgrounds, solar wind towers, perpetual motion, thermal depolymerization

Preface. Plans for hydrogen, wind, solar, wave and all the other re-buildable contraptions that use fossil fuels in every single step of their short 15-25 year life cycle and hence are non-renewable, are just as silly as the ideas below,  yet these  schemes with negative energy return that can’t make themselves without fossil fuels are written about in respectable scientific journals, unlike the proposals below.

I’ve been writing about this since 2001, now Michael Moore has made a film called “Planet of the Humans” that explains this as well.

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: Collapse Chronicles, Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report


Liposuction fat

Mr. Buthune thinks the use of human fat as an energy source has some potential.  “There’s an interesting business model: link a biodiesel plant with the cosmetic surgeons,” says Mr. Bethune. “In Auckland we produce about 330 pounds of fat per week from liposuction, which would make about 40 gallons of fuel. If it is going to be chucked out, why not?” (Schouten 2005)

At an Exxon conference, the Yes Men pulled a prank of giving a presentation of making a new fuel, Vivoleum, out of humans killed by climate change. Hundreds of candles made of human hair that smelled like dead people were handed out (Yes Men 2015).

Auckland, New Zealand, adventurer Peter Bethune plans to break the round-the-world powerboat speed record in a boat powered by biodiesel fuel partly manufactured from human fat. The lean Mr. Bethune had about three ounces of fat extracted from his body yesterday in a lipsuction procedure, and he is seeking volunteers to donate more (Schouten 2005).

Playground power

The only place I could find this actually existing is in Ghana, Africa, where Empower Playgrounds provides merry-go-rounds to schools that generate and store electricity as they are spun around (Brownlee 2013).

Perpetual motion

Violates all the laws of physics and thermodynamics, even the patent office got wise and won’t accept any applications (Wikipedia, Park 2000).

Thermal depolymerization

Garbage and landfills turn can be turned into biogass.  But as energy declines, there will be less and less garbage, not only because there won’t be the fuel to take it to a landfill, but people will be burning anything they can get their hands on to cook and heat with.

Solar Wind Towers (Slav 2019)

More than 30 years ago a giant tower was built in Manzanares, Spain, to produce electricity in a way that at the time must have seen even more eccentric than it seems now, by harnessing the power of air movement. The Manzanares tower was, sadly, toppled by a storm. Decades ago, several other firms tried to replicate the idea, but none has succeeded. Why?

The idea behind the so-called solar wind towers is pretty straightforward. The more popular version is the solar updraft tower, which works as follows:

On the ground, around the hollow tower, there is a solar energy collector—a transparent surface suspended a little above ground—which heats the air underneath.

As the air heats up, it is drawn into the tower, also called a solar chimney, since hot air is lighter than cold air. It enters the tower and moves up it to escape through the top. In the process, it activates a number of wind turbines located around the base of the tower. The main benefit over other renewable technologies? Doing away with the intermittency of PV solar, since the air beneath the collector could stay hot even when the sun is not shining.

But the cost of building one is simply too expensive, and investors are wary of the problems related to the very tall height required (the taller the better).


Brownlee, J. 2013. A Merry-Go-Round That Turns The Power Of Play Into Electricity. fastcompany.

Park, R. 2000. Perpetual Motion: still going around. Washington Post.

Schouten, H. 2005. Earthrace biofuel promoter to power boat using human fat. calorielab.com

Slav, I. 2019. The fatal flaw in a perfect energy solution. oilprice.com

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4 Responses to Far out power #1: human fat, playgrounds, solar wind towers, perpetual motion, thermal depolymerization

  1. Just yesterday afternoon my wife and I watched Michael Moore’s movie “The Planet of Humans.” It undoubtedly is one of the most amazing documentaries I have ever viewed! If any of your readers have yet to view it I strongly encourage them to do so.

    So, this morning when I go to energyskeptic what should I see but exactly the same treatment of our energy predicament as in the video – namely that neither solar, wind, biomass or playground rides are going to “save the day” for us.

  2. Michael Moore just released a new must watch documentary on why green energy is not green. Given his stature with the environmental movement you might expect this to shift their focus to population and consumption reduction. On the other hand, Varki’s MORT theory predicts that beliefs will not change because humans evolved to deny unpleasant realities. Let’s watch what happens over the next few months. I predict MORT will prevail and beliefs will not change.

  3. JevonsMoore says:

    William Stanley Jevons has warned about Peak Coal since the 19th century – even calling for stopping the export of finite British coal to keep some of it for future generations.

    I’ve been writing about this since 2001 – Alice Friedemann ” – and countless others, too, but saying then renewable energy an energy-sink has been no less than a heresy and it could put anyone in deep trouble, even killed – all the last 40+ years.

    now Michael Moore has made a film called “Planet of the Humans” that explains this as well” – blaming over-populated peasants being behind the destruction of the planet – releasing the film in the time of this deadly pandemic – and everyone is comfortably sharing it like hot cakes, and not google, not the climate change movement, not anyone else are stopping it?!

    When cheap fossil fuels energy is allocated to create cascaded, suspiciously-sequenced staged perception – of course fossil fuels win over substance – as the medium becomes more important, powerful, rapid and forceful than the message and the degree of truth in it.

    The Western Civilisation has failed to balance its Control and substance to what it burns of one-off finite energy reserves – in the process of maintaining that Control – even if the quality of the message it controls degrades to garbage – yet kept propagated via an incredibly energy-intensive satellite and ground networks all over the world 24/7 – ‘free of charge’.

    This far, The Western Civilisation ended today playing chess with itself – pretending nobody becomes confused, nobody suffers and the one-off gold-grade energy reserves burned in the dodgy show-off process are ok to sacrifice.

    The Western Civilisation has been no more than a race between its Control and the masses over fossil fuels, so Control always has the lion share of excess energy, the masses end up with nothing – all along!

  4. Don Stewart says:

    Have you seen Art Berman’s article on the end of the oil age? It seems to me that he is pointing to the inability of more abundant gasoline from tight oil to offset the decline in diesel…oil is not necessarily oil. Which brings us around to the scenarios you laid out in When Trucks Stop Running.

    Don Stewart