Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Energy Is Wealth

The graph is from Wiki Media based on data from the International Energy Organization [pdf].

I think the graph maker intended that the KW measure be averaged over 24/7/365 which would make sense (which is to say multiply by 24*7*365 to get the KWh total). Leave it to an engineer. In any case that is not the only one out there. Watts Up With That has a nice one with tons of oil equivalent.

What does this mean (generally)? Anything that lowers the supply of energy is a bad thing. Anything that lowers consumption is a bad thing. Efficiency tends to take care of itself. Engineers are always looking for cost effective ways of increasing the efficiency of use. But according to Jevons Paradox increasing efficiency INCREASES consumption. Dang.

Howard T. Odum in his book Environment, Power and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy discusses what energy flows mean for the bioisphere. I haven't read this edition but the previous edition Environment, Power, and Society, was excellent.

Anther book on the subject is The Second Law of Life: Energy, Technology, and the Future of Earth As We Know It. The product description makes a very good point.
Even actions we take to improve the environment may actually do more damage than good. For example, recycling is considered environmentally, socially and politically correct. Under the influence of entropy, however, it is a prolific waster of energy; we must look at entire systems, not just parts.
A point also well made at Energy, Efficiency, and Technology Magazine.
My friend Terry and I had each finished off a bottle of beer. I looked around for a recycling bin while Terry just pitched his bottle in the trash.

Was Terry indifferent to the environment? Nah. He works at one of the biggest breweries in the U.S. and knows first-hand what happens to recycled glass. “We can’t use recycled glass for making bottles. It’s just too brittle. So glass put in recycling bins generally ends up in landfills anyway,” he explains.

Terry knows what he’s talking about. Canada’s National Post reports that all the glass collected last year by recycling programs in Calgary, Edmonton, and several other Canadian cities ended up landfilled because there were no buyers for it. The situation is similar for plastic. Reports are that Germany has millions of tons of recyclable plastics piled up in fields because nobody wants the stuff. And it is literally more expensive to collect some recyclables than to just pitch them. San Francisco’s Dept. of Waste figures it pays $4,000/ton to recycle plastic bags for which it receives $32/ton.
And it is not just money/wealth that is affected by energy flows. It also affects politics as discussed in A thermodynamic explanation of politics.
There are major evolutionary implications in the ability of a species to distribute itself across space and time, not to mention the curious thermodynamics associated with this distribution. That is, species that can modulate their thermodynamic properties in response to environmental changes dramatically increase their probability of survival. In humans, there is no better example of thermodynamic modulation than conservatism and liberalism.

One of the more prominent biogeographic variations between conservatives and liberals is population density. The conservative-liberal asymmetries in population density are easily seen in the voting patterns of urban, suburban, and rural environments. As a general rule, the greater the population density, the more liberal the population.
Well isn't that interesting. Politics may have more to do with energy consumption habits than right and wrong. Dang. Right and wrong may in fact be defined by energy consumption levels.

So who is correct? No one. It depends on where you live. Now can we all get along?

Update: 6 Myths About Oil.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


kurt9 said...

So they really do just throw it out.

My wife thought this when our trash collection company replaced the old recycle bins, where we separated news papers, bottles, and cans; with a single new one where we put all of the recyclable in together.

linearthinker said...

My neighbor's small business is forced by county ordinance and waste collector's exclusive monopolistic rapacious contract with the county to maintain two receptacles, trash and recyclables. When their trucks arrive to empty the bins, they don't even attempt to conceal the fraud. It all goes in one truckload. Fresno County, California.

I never signed on to the crooked program and deal with trash in my own way. Not by nighttime dumping or anything illicit, btw. I'm told I have to keep evidence of my disposal methodology for household garbage since I'm in the category called "self haulers." I don't bother, and if challenged, I'll take them to court under provisions of "innocent until proven guilty." How many new faces do you imagine the public works staff has had to add to tally and enforce all the "self haulers?" If I signed onto the collection scheme ripoff, my fees would nearly equal my whole property tax burden.

Lying, rent seeking, smug, progressives bastards and incompetent bureaucrats.

Their day will come.

M. Simon said...


Nice to see you around.

I'm doing my best to shine some light on these frauds.

linearthinker said...

As a general rule, the greater the population density, the more liberal the population. Well isn't that interesting. Politics may have more to do with energy consumption habits than right and wrong. Dang. Right and wrong may in fact be defined by energy consumption levels.

So who is correct? No one. It depends on where you live. Now can we all get along

Well put, Simon. I keep to myself, save a lot of stuff others disdain. Old metal, parts, wood scraps and odd pieces. It all comes in handy sometime, as any farmer or rancher will tell you. I'd brag about my low total carbon footprint if I didn't think the whole thing was a scam. I wish to hell I could crank out way more carbon dioxide than I do. It would be a noble undertaking.

As the urban elites migrate from places like Santa Monica, they bring their damned attitudes with them. Things are changing up here in the hill, and not for the better.

linearthinker said...

> ...up here in the hills...<

linearthinker said...

I knew bad things were coming when my favorite junk yard was forced to put up a high wooden fence to screen the view from the Hwy 49 as a spinoff of Lady Bird Johnson's campaign to beautify America. That old yard was a gold mine. Should'a been preserved as a national asset. Don't get me started on Cash for Clunkers. What a sin that was. Those videos of perfectly serviceable cars and pickups being crippled by "technicians" at the dealerships? Utter auto-pornography? No, worse. That gives a bad name to porn. Those videos were snuff films.

linearthinker said...


M. Simon said...

CfCs made me sick to my stomach. I'm at the bottom of the auto food chain and all I saw were prices for me going up.

M. Simon said...

The Fabulous Ruins Of Detroit

RavingDave said...

I think there is a relationship between "liberalism" and wealth, not just population density. People become stupid only when they can afford to.

Our national follies are funded by the over flowing cups of taxes collected from the taxpayers.