free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 329. THE SOLUTION: ELECTRIFICATION + CONSERVATION

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


It's becoming increasingly clear that electrification of transport (combined with conservation) is the near-term solution to peak oil. Yes, there are liquid alternatives (ethanol, biodiesel, CTL, GTL), and they will help take the edge off petroleum decline, and play a role in niche applications where liquid fuel is essential. But these liquids all have problems:
  • Corn ethanol has adverse effects on food supply/prices, and requires subsidies. Cellulosic ethanol isn't real yet. Biodiesel is retreating due to costs and policy changes
  • Nobody, anywhere is actually investing to expand CTL. Also, CTL is wasteful: It's twice as efficient to burn coal to drive EVs than to liquefy coal to drive ICEs.(Source and Source)
  • GTL is small scale, and firms/governments are pulling out of projects due to costs, not starting new ones. Source
The inescapable conclusion is that ethanol+biodiesel+CTL+GTL will not be able to compensate for even a 1% decline in liquids production (=i.e. about 0.9mbd/year). GTL at current prices costs US$ 15 billion for a massive 0.26mbd facility which takes 7 years to complete Source.

Simply put, the Hirsch Report solution:

isn't going to happen.

Therefore, there will be a shortage of liquid fuel, and we'll soon see the decline of the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine). ICE vehicles will be replaced by EVs (Electrical Vehicles) running on power from the grid. Even Rick Wagoner, the Chairman and CEO of GM sees the writing on the wall:
"There is no doubt demand for oil is outpacing supply at a rapid pace, and has been for some time now," Mr Wagoner said. "As a business necessity and an obligation to society we need to develop alternative sources of propulsion."

He added: "So, are electrically driven vehicles the answer for the mid- and long-term? Yes, for sure. But … we need something else to significantly reduce our reliance on petroleum in the interim."Source
Mr. Wagoner is right, and the "something else" is going to be conservation. This gives what I call the E + C Solution (Electrification + Conservation).

Electrification = Hybrids + PHEVs (Plug-in Hybrids) + NEVs (Neighborhood Electric Vehicles) + Small EVs + Full-size EV cars + Electric bikes/scooters + Segways + Electric motorcycles + Electric buses + Electric trucks + New electric trains + Electrification of existing diesel train lines


Conservation = Walking + Bicycles + Mopeds + Scooters + Motorcycles + Carpooling + Van pooling + Telecommuting + Riding the bus + Riding the tram/train/subway + Moving nearer to work + Sleeping at/near work + NGVs + Ultralight/Ultraefficient conventional vehicles + Buying a used compact car as a second vehicle + Buying a moped etc. as a second vehicle + Converting oil-fired generation to coal/nuclear + Jacking up CAFE standards + Increasing downtown parking rates + Lowering speed limits + Compressed work week + etc.

The E+C Solution will be the default solution when liquids finally peak because it is the most practical and efficient.
  • EV fuel (electricity) is plentiful. All of the alternatives -- coal, gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar -- produce EV fuel, and have the potential to grow.
  • There is no need for large scale investment in conversion plants (a la GTL or CTL) or distribution infrastructure (a la ethanol or hydrogen). A Nov. 2007 DOE study concluded that a massive shift to PHEVs could be handled by the existing grid:
    For the United States as a whole, up to 84% of U.S. cars, pickup trucks, and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) could be supported by the existing [electric power generation] infrastructure, although the local percentages vary by region. Using the LDV fleet classification, which includes cars, pickup trucks, SUVs, and vans, the technical potential is 73%. This has an estimated gasoline displacement potential of 6.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, or approximately 52% of the nation’s oil imports.(Source(pdf))
  • EVs come in a wide range of species. Electric bikes/scooters/buses for those who aren't rich, high-end electric cars for those who are. No one is locked out by price.
  • Burning fossil fuels in generating plants rather than ICEs will greatly extend our fuel supply due to the greater well-to-wheels efficiency of the electric motor. (See Who Needs Gasoline? - The Incredible Potential of Plug-ins and EVs)
by JD


At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 1:26:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure about cellulosic ethanol not being "real;" with the university of Nebraska just finishing a 5-year study indicating CE offers a 540% return on the total energy invested, it's hard not to believe it's going to boom. Plus they expect that to increase as new strains of switchgrass offer greater yields, and the conversion process becomes more effiecient. On top of that, they estimate even more effieciency because CE plants could be made to run on energy made as a byproduct of the process.

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 1:38:00 AM PST, Blogger Tvrdy said...

How come you don't post about new production record for December (87 mbpd according to EIA)? There is a deafening silence on OilDrum about it.

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 2:18:00 AM PST, Blogger JD said...

I think you mean the IEA. I saw that this morning. Hate to say "I told ya so"... LOL

There is a deafening silence on OilDrum about it.
No doubt. It's gotta be pretty hard for that crew to swallow. I'll wait for the confirm before I really rub it in, but it looks like we're gonna have to change that PEAK OIL DIAPER yet again in the near future.

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 3:12:00 AM PST, Blogger FR said...


Another prong *could* be simple fuel efficiency. It's not hard to have a vehicle fleet that averages 40 mpg, which is roughly the average in Europe. That would drastically decrease our oil demand, but the major reason it won't happen is the inconvenient fact that auto companies are run by a bunch of assholes.

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 3:43:00 AM PST, Blogger Tvrdy said...

Yes, IEA says 87 mbpd, not EIA. And projected production for 2008 is 87.4 versus 85.4 in 2007. That's strong increase, imo.
I can see repeated posts with title "Do IEA numbers really matter" on TOD and paired with "C+C versus All liquids" debate.
Just for the record, I know PO will come eventually and I made significant lifestyle changes because of it (commuting by bike or public transportation, eating less meat etc.) but I am always amused by people predicting imminent production crash when there are strong indicators that it could go even higher than today. And it will.

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 4:15:00 AM PST, Blogger JD said...

Absolutely right, tvrdy. A lot of people were taken in by the bogus imminent collapse rhetoric. They've been in deep denial about the potential for further growth.

The real beauty of the new growth is the delay it introduces into the whole peak oil equation. Every year of delay is a year for alternatives to grow stronger.

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 4:53:00 AM PST, Blogger clif said...

I don't disagree with you about people are going to have to accept conservation ........

However it won't be VOLUNTARY conservation by the vast majority of the American people, but what they are forced to do by either market forces, or even some sort of a return to the 1970's rationing schemes.

And the American people have a strange way of reacting to being forced to do anything.

I also don't think a lot of Americans are gonna give up the 'Merican Dream of owning the biggest gas guzzler they can as a status symbol either.

Reality can force them, but when confronted with reality, Americans seem to wanna believe in the myths they hold dear for long after it is productive or reasonable.

Interesting times ahead.

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 5:25:00 AM PST, Blogger RN said...

I'm from a small EU country (Portugal) and I can tell you that I'm driving a brand new BMW with a diesel engine that covers 100 miles with 2.9 gallons of fuel.

Is this lower quality of life when compared to the Amercian consumer?

Don't get me wrong, there are millions of americans fully aware of how bad yours/our society is managing itself and I strongly identify my way of thinking with those people, but if the most part still believes that all the problems can be solved by invading Iraq and then Iran, killing millions just to preserve your/our extravaganzas, then... what should the rest of the worl think about it?

By the way, are you aware of the fact that Germany and France actually decreased their oil consuption last year? And would anybody be foolish enough to say that the people from these countries are poorer or live in worst conditions than the average american?

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 5:44:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good article - this makes sense to me. And I agree with Cliff's comments. The "mind shift" is going to be the hardest part for Americans. Once they get past that, conservation will have a big impact.

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 8:28:00 AM PST, Blogger clif said...

The "mind shift" is going to be the hardest part for Americans.

Ask Jimmy Carter to tell you about that one.

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 10:59:00 AM PST, Blogger Fred Hapgood said...

> For the United States as a whole,
> up to 84% of U.S. cars, pickup
> trucks, and sport utility
> vehicles (SUVs) could be
> supported by the existing
> [electric power generation]
> infrastructure ...

I do so hate the use of "up to" in contexts like this.

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 12:32:00 PM PST, Blogger clif said...

> For the United States as a whole,
> up to 84% of U.S. cars, pickup
> trucks, and sport utility
> vehicles (SUVs) could be
> supported by the existing
> [electric power generation]
> infrastructure ...

as soon as enough are built,

and the people facing a recession find the finances to buy new vehicles,

good luck on both of them happening any time soon.

I don't see it happening in the next 5 years.

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 12:43:00 PM PST, Blogger al fin said...

What the increase in IEA oil production numbers means, is that there is enough oil still in the ground to provide time to convert to electric transportation, and renewable liquid biofuels.

Cellulosic butanol is better than cellulosic ethanol, but ethanol infrastructure is more mature and will deliver sooner. In the long run, renewable butanol + renewable longer chain hydrocarbons,including diesel, will supply energy for the new "flex-fuel" pluggable hybrids like the GMVolt.

Not peak oil. Plateau oil, with ups and downs. Price has dropped from $100 to $90. Speculators will learn not to react so wildly as they lose money by betting on panic.

The only way for peak oil doomseekers to come down to earth is for them to be forced to put their money where their mouths are.

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 1:12:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


If you believe in the potential of electric vehicles you should check this out.

If they reach even half of what they claim it would be excellent.

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 7:57:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"as soon as enough are built,

and the people facing a recession find the finances to buy new vehicles,

good luck on both of them happening any time soon.

I don't see it happening in the next 5 years."

How many millions of cars and homes were bought this year?

don't forget about the C part of the E + C solution.

thank you.

At Friday, January 18, 2008 at 4:44:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


New production record? Ahh, that's going to screw up those classic 'peak of 2005 but everything is fine' arguments! :D

Seriously though, it's great that you're commentating again. PO had gotten rather boring of late. Too bad the cronies over at can't handle any real discussions.

Keep it up.

And yes, I agree and have always believed that the future will be electric. It seems clear when one considers the exponential trends in technology.

Conservation can get us far, but accelerating technology should ultimately provide for unparalleled abundance (just consider the exponential trends in installed PV capacity for example...)

At Friday, January 18, 2008 at 4:45:00 AM PST, Blogger clif said...

How many millions of cars and homes were bought this year?

1. More then next year.

2. How many of those cars were electric?

3. Where are the auto corps WITH an electric car to sell enough to even make a slight dent in the ICE sales of GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Daimler Benz, Chrysler, Volvo, Saab, ET AL; I don't see them.

I do see a few individuals trying to create that BUT the manufacturing capability, logistical network and sales force to get them to all 50 states and the costumers in those states does NOT exist, which means this year:

4. Not many more electric vehicles will be sold then last year.

5. NOW with the credit crunch, sub-prime meltdown, but even more importantly, issues with the industrial sector getting enough credit to build new facilities and infrastructure to expand their production, in this economic enviroment.

Until THAT exists in concrete, steel and reality, all the talk about things are here to save us is TALK.

6. I already commented about the "C" part, and good luck with that against the meme Ronald Reagan drilled into the American psyche.

7. Good luck going into the car culture and saying you need to sell your American dream gas guzzler, and buy an Aptera. I would, but I like Motorcycles, and could use it, most Soccer moms, and people who need to haul more then 2 bodies can't.

8. Good luck going into the 4 wheel drive pick up culture and saying essentially the same thing, give up your machines and drive a Prius, let alone a Aptera.

Some won't because they don't want to give up what they think is fun, and some won't because they need the 4 wheel drive or pick up.

9. Good luck getting the vast majority of this society which doesn't buy NEW, but because of economic circumstances are forced to Buy Used, into anything which isn't being produced in large numbers before 5 years also.

The idea of getting the USA out of 12 MPG SUV's to use less gas is noble, but the reality of the situation we face is not really open to that in this time, and like I said, I do not see it changing that much in 5 years.

A decade possibly, two decades, they will have little choice.

However I am not so optimistic to believe we have two decades for the changes needed to happen.

The fact that we won't use what is not there I can admit easily. Will enough people change until they have NO choice but change, I am not so sure.

Look at the housing bubble, and think about this situation.

When the housing bubble was expanding, a few people were saying that it was NOT Good,

But they were called "doom sayers" or other things by those invested in the status Quo, who were making money from the expanding bubble.

When it became unsustainable last spring, people tried to say something MUST be done, but those invested in the status Quo, poo pooed that saying everything is just fine.

In July and August when the unraveling begun, people said things were going to get bad, but talk of a soft landing was the going meme, by those who had denied the problem while it expanded, and when the bubble had grown far beyond any reasonable expectation of it's being sustained.

This fall, as things got worse, and the truths began to come out, the happy talk continued even when the truths of write downs and possible insolvencies or bankruptcies of some financial institutions and builders.

Now that things are in a better perspective the powers that be on wall street want something done?

Well where were they when it was apparent this was going to happen last year?

BTW the majority of people who have gotten caught in this mess, never thought their way all the way through it. If they had, they wouldn't have tried to do something that on paper doesn't work out if you do the math.

NINJA loans (No Income, No JOB or assets) were just unquestionably wrong on both the banker and borrower's part. But they did them by the hundreds of thousands if not more.

With that type of mind set controlling the financial centers, and the resistance of the auto industry to do anything about it, at least up to now. Add to that the fact major oil corps refuse to admit there is a very significant problem, mix in financial problems stir and then, good luck.

My view of what is going to happen with the energy crunch of not enough oil to go around to all that want to use it, is akin to what happened with the intercept which warned about 9-11:

It was translated on 9-12.

At Friday, January 18, 2008 at 3:01:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JD - I largely agree with your perspective on this (I've had a roughly similar view for some time). However, there is still one fly in the ointment, which is that the best battery technologies by far are lithium, and it's not clear that lithium scales. See The trouble with Lithium. So we may still be short a few more inventions on the way to a viable future.

At Friday, January 18, 2008 at 3:43:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leveraging the existing grid to make use of wasted capacity and electricity is a no-brainer:

At Friday, January 18, 2008 at 11:05:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least Peak Oil has its own video game now :-). Matt Simmons must be doing a little happy dance in his office

At Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 1:59:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


There's some recent promise on that front with nanowires.

At Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 4:03:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gotta say I like #329's line of thinking..PHEVs powered by a grid boosted by solar, wind, geothermal, and even clean coal....
Scientific American says we can go solar for $420 bil. in subsidies,,,,peanuts next to the cost of the war in Iraq.....
My own guess is that we have seen Peak Demand for fossil oil already...the doomers are wrong...we are obtaining world economic growth while fossil oil consumption slowly declines..
we will likely move to a cleaner and more-prosperous world...
and if the Thug States who control oil ever modernize, we will have plenty of oil....
The big problem: Thanks to declining demand for fossil oil, we may see a price collapse in 2008...then we go back to profligate ways...

At Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 12:10:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patrick: that particular invention (though undoubtedly cool if they can commercialize it) doesn't help the lithium abundance problem since it works by packing more lithium into the battery, not by reducing the amount of lithium required for a given charge.

At Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 6:01:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Ah, thanks for the clarification. I thought you were referring to difficulties scaling up the batteries to the capacity necessary to power the car practically.

At Tuesday, January 22, 2008 at 3:37:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the solution: thinking instead of moaning... an example:

At Friday, January 25, 2008 at 1:23:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stuart, Don't buy into the Lithium Shortage crap. That study was written by a guy who's a JHK lover. Plenty of Lithium mines have not even been explored yet, but will in the future. Not even to mention that Lithium is recyclable.


At Sunday, February 3, 2008 at 8:46:00 PM PST, Blogger Rowdy said...

"I would, but I like Motorcycles, and could use it, most Soccer moms, and people who need to haul more then 2 bodies can't."

When people have to, they do. Take a trip to Vietnam where (even with heavily subsidized fuel) most people get around on motor scooters. Young families can fit on one scooter (so cute!), Mum, Dad and the two kids!

Mind you, the average American or Aussie porker might find it a little difficult. Yet another reason to shift the flab!

At Thursday, February 7, 2008 at 10:04:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Don't forget about lead-acid.

The fact is that conventional lead-acid is perfectly cost-effective in something like the Chevy Volt, and that the Firefly Energy battery looks very likely to improve lead-acid greatly.

At Monday, February 18, 2008 at 7:00:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


In the worst case scenario where lithium cannot be scaled up we can always use lead acid.
As in the ultrabattery which is a combination between a lead acid battery and an ultracapacitor.
This has already been tested in an EV which has been running on a UK racetrack for over 100,000 miles.
It works and it is cheaper than lithium ion.
So I'm not worried about scaling up battery production.
It will happen.

At Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 12:47:00 AM PST, Blogger Rod Adams said...

Electrification of transportation is an important concept for future prosperity. Don't just think about personal vehicles, but about long proven technology like electrified rail roads, subways and inner city trams. It is even well proven to integrate electricity to send power to rubber tired buses using overhead wires - I rode on a dual powered bus in Boston that used diesel when outside of the wired routes.

I must admit that I was surprised to find that in the article plus 29 comments, there were only 2 mentions of the word "nuclear", even though it is really the only power source that can provide emission free, reliable electricity now. It is also the only source of electricity with enormous growth prospects - its fuel source has just barely been touched in the fifty years that it has been available.

We are still way down on the learning curve of just how much energy we can get from a mined kilogram of uranium and we have not even begun using thorium.

Finally, when you open your energy aperture to include atomic fission, you get the potential for directly powering ships - which currently use about 6% of the world's energy supply. With high speed ships, you have the potential for economically replacing a significant portion of air travel - imagine a ship that can speed from New York to Miami in a single day, avoiding the I-95 corridor. (50 knots would do it.)

Rod Adams
Adams Atomic Engines, Inc.

At Monday, August 25, 2008 at 11:37:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there should be about 600,000 miles electrified rail lines in the US, though that would make sense & that's why they don't exist.

At Saturday, August 30, 2008 at 10:10:00 PM PDT, Blogger Moionfire said...


I think you should also talk about urban planning, especially the problem of sprawl and unwalkable communities in the USA.

No amount of electrification and conservation will help without also fixing our towns and cities to be more efficient and liveable without cars.

At Friday, September 19, 2008 at 5:20:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oil does not come from dinosaurs, but from rocks, deep within the earth. This is the view point in Russia. Oil will never run out since it is replenished in the basins.

At Sunday, October 12, 2008 at 6:51:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Oil does not come from dinosaurs, but from rocks, deep within the earth. This is the view point in Russia."

The vast majority of Russian oil geologists disagree with you; as does the experimental evidence(e.g. isotope ratio, sedimentary source rocks and fossilized microorganisms and algae from the relevant period).

At Friday, January 9, 2009 at 8:58:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me what Obama was talking about yesterday re: making the electrical grid in the US more efficient?
Anyone of the opinion that we can save ourselves with conservation and a wee bit more nucealr power? Is clean coal really possible? All of this would have to be by federal or state mandate, how's that going to go over? Any hope of folks no longer blindly trusting "markets" to determine best/efficent outcomes? I have a whopper doubts as to the latter. At some point some entity is going to have to get paternal around here or nothing is going to change. What kind of shocks do you folks think will be necessary to bring people around to a different use pattern in the US?

At Friday, November 27, 2009 at 7:17:00 PM PST, Anonymous Bungo said...

Ok Listen up. wind power WILL save us. I have carfully done the sums and have totally debunked peak oil. Oil will not peak, only the amount we will ever need will.

1 ton of oil = 42 GJ
1 barrel of oil = 5.83 GJ
1 kw/h = 3.6 MJ
1 GW = 277.78 kw/h
1 barrel of oil = 1,619.46 kw/h

Wind Power = Clean, free energy.
2008 Capacity = 121 GW
Average power output = 33%
Real 2008 Capacity = 40.33 GW
Growth rate: 30% per annum
2020 estimated capacity: 8,740 GW

Let's look at how much energy we got from wind in 2008.

40.33 GW = 11,202.86 kw/h per second * 86,400 = 967,927,104 kw/h per day /1,619.46 = 597,685 boe per day. That comes to over 218 million boe per annum.

Now let's look at the 2020 scenario if wind keeps on expanding at 30% per annum.

2,913.33 GW = 809,264.8 kw/h per second * 86,400 = 69,920,479,360 per day /1,619.46 = 43,175,181.46 boe * 365 = 15,758,941,230 boe per annum.

At Monday, February 8, 2010 at 3:47:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Ok Listen up. wind power WILL save us. I have carfully done the sums and have totally debunked peak oil. Oil will not peak, only the amount we will ever need will."

Correct. But it's not only wind. Taking the bus ALONE will save us.
Peak Oil = Peak Gasoline Powered Cars. Nothing more.


At Friday, February 26, 2010 at 6:07:00 PM PST, Blogger Unknown said...

what about pollution? Erosion of the ozone layer is a long term problem no?
If that is the case, oil, biofuel, even EV vehicles will not solve this problem (which are mostly powered by fossil fuels).


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