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Can Solar Energy Replace Oil?. Hubbert Peaks Forum Ron Swenson. The Pretenders. IEA, EIA Shell, BP Saudi Aramco Lynch, Adelman Yergin Lovins. The Pretenders (closer to home).

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can solar energy replace oil
Can Solar Energy Replace Oil?

Hubbert Peaks Forum

Ron Swenson

the pretenders
The Pretenders


Shell, BP

Saudi Aramco

Lynch, Adelman



the pretenders closer to home
The Pretenders (closer to home)

“The Commission does not embrace the view that world oil production has peaked —

The National Commission on Energy Policy

the hubbert peak
The Hubbert Peak

We know it’s coming … but what can we do about it?

a flurry of books on the subject
A flurry of books on the subject …

hubbert s peak
Hubbert's Peak

“At the moment, solar and wind power are developing in specialized areas. Neither is an immediate, large-scale solution to the energy problem.”

Kenneth S. Deffeyes

beyond oil
Beyond Oil

“Solar electrical generation is not yet competitive for large-scale facilities... To my surprise, solar cells to produce 60 watts cost $1,000.”

Kenneth S. Deffeyes

the party s over
The Party's Over

“Photovoltaic electricity is still expensive.”

Richard Heinberg

the end of oil
The End of Oil

“Solar energy technology 'is still too expensive by a factor of four to compete with nuclear and by a factor of three to compete with natural gas,' says Paul Maycock...

“Solar faces two related obstacles -- prohibitive costs and a [bad] reputation...”

Paul Roberts

oil addiction the world in peril
Oil Addiction: The World in Peril

“But all of them combined -- sun, wind, and water -- could never produce enough energy to replace the astronomical amounts of fossil fuel the West is accustomed to consuming now.”

Pierre Chomat

global solar energy balance
Global Solar Energy Balance

oil jihad destiny
Oil, Jihad & Destiny

“Solar power technology, however, is still in the stone age.”

Ronald R. Cooke

the long emergency
The Long Emergency

“Active solar power ... works, though not nearly as well as fossil fuel…

“Alternative energy sources ... are … implausible … without the subsidy of oil. The only remaining alternative is nuclear energy.”

James Howard Kunstler

over a barrel
Over a Barrel

“... The amount of solar energy that falls on a car yields very marginal performance.

“Current technology for solar-generated electricity results in costly power.”

Tom Mast

i think they re trying to tell us something
I think they´re trying to tell us something …

But wait….

Economics is an instrument of Policy

the energy cost of energy

3% decline per year

Useful Lifetime 25 Years

The Energy Cost of Energy


Net Energy Analysis


Cumulative new energy from investment

Annual contribution from alternate energy source

the energy cost of energy1


Available (net) Energy after Investment

The Energy Cost of Energy



Net Energy Analysis


Cumulative new energy from investment

consequence of delayed investment








0 10 20 30 40


Consequence of Delayed Investment

Net Energy Production

begin investment before decline

Begin investment during decline

thermodynamics of coal
Thermodynamics of Coal


  • Greenhouse gases
  • Ravaged land
  • Water contamination
  • People displaced
  • Extraction uses oil


thermodynamics of oil
Thermodynamics of Oil

It depends …

  • Pennsylvania?
  • Saudi Arabia?
  • Off-shore?


  • Ravaged land/oceans
  • Greenhouse gases
  • Water contamination


thermodynamics of tar sands
Thermodynamics of Tar Sands


  • Greenhouse gases
  • Ravaged land
  • Water contamination
  • Extraction uses natural gas
thermodynamics of nuclear
Thermodynamics of Nuclear

Plus …

  • Depletion
  • Low grade ores → Greenhouse gases to process
  • Wastes guarded for 10,000+ years


… How do we value a 1,000(?) year wasteland?

thermodynamics of hydrogen
Thermodynamics of Hydrogen

A possible solution for special applications?


  • Promote nuclear?
  • Promote natural gas?
  • Deliberate distraction?
  • Earnest ignorance?
thermodynamics of pv
Thermodynamics of PV
  • EROI: 5 years
  • Life: 50 years
thermodynamics of thin film pv
Thermodynamics of Thin Film PV
  • EROI: 6 months
  • Life: 25 years
thermodynamics of wind
Thermodynamics of Wind
  • EROI: 3 months
  • Life: 25 years
thermodynamics vs economics
Thermodynamics vs. Economics

… in the long run …

Thermo-dynamics wins!

Policy can´t defeat Mother Nature.

solar economics a brief history
Solar Economics: A Brief History
  • Thomas Edison
  • Bucky Fuller
  • Hazel Henderson
  • Hermann Scheer
  • Richard Smalley

thomas edison
Thomas Edison

“I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait 'til oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”


bucky fuller
Bucky Fuller

“More with Less”


hazel henderson
Hazel Henderson

“The US oil, coal and automobile lobbies are still trying to hold back the future information-based, Solar Age.  They should start investing more in this cleaner, greener future.”


colin campbell
Colin Campbell

“Photovoltaics … will be economic … when there is serious production.”


hermann scheer
Hermann Scheer

“Solar technologies are … potentially the most economic solution.”


richard smalley
Richard Smalley

“Think TeraWatts”

2004 → Our Energy Challenge

solar industry response
Solar Industry Response?

Goal 50% US electricity by 2025

Target 200 gW by 2030 = 10%


  • Federal government procurement $100 m/year
  • R&D investment $250 m/year by 2010
  • “Enact, modify, establish, boost, support, increase, strengthen, grow…”

swenson s law
Swenson´s Law

To avoid deprivation resulting from the exhaustion of non-renewable resources, humanity must employ conservation and renewable resource substitutes sufficient to match depletion.

the conclusion is simple
The conclusion is simple:

We are not doing enough.

To spend our depleting energy capital resources effectively, we must first understand the Thermodynamics (EROI) of the alternatives.

Economics or Thermodynamics: Which will we choose?

can solar energy substitute for oil
Can Solar Energy Substitute for Oil?


Think TeraWatts