Monday, November 14, 2016


If we don't turn the lights off, the lights are going to go out.


Solar and wind energy capturing devices are extension of the fossil fuel supply system and the global industrial infrastructure.  This has been a theme in many of my essays.  Imagine beginning at the earth resources –the mine and the well- and the subsequent flow of these products. This creates a tremendous picture in motion of "energy" and resources flowing around the world.

I have provided essays with videos and charts from the industries themselves that show the manufacturing of various parts of solar and wind energy capturing devices.

All the things in our world have an industrial history.  Behind the computer, the T-shirt, the vacuum cleaner is an industrial infrastructure fired by energy (fossil fuels mainly).  Each component of our car or refrigerator has an industrial history.  Mainly unseen and out of mind, this global industrial infrastructure touches every aspect of our lives.   It pervades our daily living from the articles it produces, to its effect on the economy and employment, as well as its effects on the environment. 
There are those that promote large installations of these devices and those supporting small, individual, distributive systems. 

How will we use this electric energy? This must be one of the mantras for survival now and tomorrow. Imagine beginning at an earth resource –the mine, the well - and the subsequent flow of these materials. This creates a tremendous picture in motion of "energy" and resources flowing around the world.

There are multiple questions that a realistic assessment of the future of these devices requires.  Each of these questions, asks about the future of “renewable” devices.

As stated above with charts and videos available, at present solar and wind energy collecting devices including their auxiliary components and the majority of tools and toys in our techonogical environment are extension of the fossil fuel supply system and the global industrial infrastructure.

First and foremost:
What do we need the energy for?
Not, why: What do we want this electricity for. 
This must be one of the mantras for survival now and tomorrow.

When it comes time to replace these devices:
Where will the energy and resources come from?

To replace components of these systems:
Where will the energy and resources come from?

As we need to manufacture the tools and toys we want the electricity for:
Where will the energy and resources come from?

Will we sequester/store the energy to provide for these future needs?
How will we do that?
Will dedicated devices be built simply to facilitate replacement?

Who will manage these dedicated devices?

What will stop society from using this sequestered energy?

Will the need to protect this sequestered energy create an even more constrained and draconian social environment?

How will this electricity be equally shared globally compared to the present unequal energy availability?

How will we mine and transport all these raw resources:
the basic material for fabrication, the actual devices, the various auxiliary equipment, the tools and the toys?

In 1975 because of the oil embargo there was a great interest In “simple” living.  I lived off the grid at that time, with no electricity.  I did have a car. I taught a night continuing ed class at one of the local college.  In my naivete (and arrogance), I thought I knew what simple living was (not in anyway like the 3 billion or more people in the world that lived that way not by choice but by circumstance.)

Having said the above, there was an exercise that was interesting.
The first class I suggested that for a couple of days whatever they touched, they would ask:

     What is it made of? 
     Where does it come from?
     Do I need it?
     Can I make it myself?
     How much energy is in it?

This has charts of various electrical energy requirements.

So I sit here at my computer looking out the window.  It is cool outside so the window isn’t open.  During the summer, with the window open the screens keep the bugs out. I would have a small fan blowing air around the room.  I ask how do I get these comforts and devices from a total “renewable” world?

How to manufacture window insect screen
1.24 minutes

Stainless steel wire mesh manufacturing
(stainless steel weaving machine)
.56 minutes

Float Glass Manufacturing.
4.08 Minutes

How a CPU is made 
10:15 minutes

How Electric Motors are made

4.50 minutes

Electric fan production process
2.14 minutes

We haven’t even considered growing food !

Big farming machines
1.38 minutes


Horse Plowing
1.43 minutes

“Modern” farming is an energy sink that can't go on.

These works talked about it decades ago.
Energy Basis for Man and Nature by Howard T. Odum and Elisabeth C. Odum
The Fires of Culture by Carol E Steinhart.
Or recently


This is, I believe, an attempt to maintain business as usual - a one time shot.
The remaining fossil fuels would be wiser used to insulate homes, clean up nuclear waste, clean water, and clean up industrial waste for the next generations to come instead of one time electrical devices


  1. Nice article.

    I love documentaries like "How it is Made" and "Modern Marvels". The fossil energy infrastructure behind everything we rely in modern life is mind boggling, and mostly invisible to most people.

  2. Yes, nice article. You don't have a reblog button on your site. I'd like to post it to my blog. Would you mind if I copy/pasted it there?

  3. Yes! Emergy is a good lens through which to evaluate the enormous embedded energy in the simplest of our devices, and how much wind and solar it would take to fully replace fossil fuels. (It ain't happening! ) Thanks for digging up the videos on various "simple" commodities and reminding us how high a house of cards we've built on fossil fuels.

    I struggle with deciding how much personal change I can make, and what is a reasonable level to shoot for. Even knowing that solar is not renewable, and highly dependent on the fuel driven industrial ecosystem, I still plan to put some PV on the house next year.

  4. Steve - I agree it is struggle how deeply to prepare. Most of us aren't able or willing to move way down the energy/resource use pyramid.
    I have solar although bought it before realization and research, I still would put up some just as a buffer. Hand tools of all kinds are very important. Take care.