Energy Supply

Energy and the UK OBR Fiscal Sustainability Report

The second Fiscal Sustainability Report published by the UK Office of Budget Responsibly appears to make no reference to energy other than to falling North Sea Revenues. Important though this is, it is the statement that productivity will continue to increase at the long run 2%, without justification, that is the critical issue.

Productivity has been, and is, intensely energy dependent and here is significant discussion about the amount of easily won energy moving forward from this point, and the value of the useful net energy it yields; not least within the International Monetary Fund.

Energy use and GDP are historically closely correlated and projections that ignore this are suspect at best and probably meaningless.

This a strategic mistake as it fails to focus the available National creativity on the search for energy and resource intensity reduction in UK economic activity at system level.

At the moment, all efforts are aimed at marginal energy and resource intensity improvements at micro level.


See also Energy, economy and the impending rite of passage


The end of Democracy?

In light of the energy debacle caused by the entirely foreseeable result of the selling off of our utilities, readers might like to read my April 2005 piece below. It meshes with my 2007 letter in Professional Engineering Journal,  here.


“Engineers are supposed to be mathematically literate but a simple understanding of compound interest is all that is needed to see that the current predictions of growth are the pipe dreams of economists.

    Take a chess board and put one unit on the first square, 2 on the second and 4 on the third and continue doubling up. The time to each doubling is 70 divided by the rate of growth i.e. 7%/annum is equal to 10 years.

    Add the squares together 1+2+4 = 7 i.e. the sum of all previous doublings is less than the value on the next square – 8

    Oil was first commercially exploited in 1859 and we are now at around 30 billion barrels/year and on the 32nd square. At the present rate of growth, ignoring aviation rates, we will need more oil in the next 20+ years than in the previous 150!

    Even if this amount of oil exists, finding, extracting and applying unknown technologies to turn the poor quality, heavy, and polluted crude we obtain into useable product is clearly not possible on this time scale.

    And that’s without the climate crisis and the fact that we need a fair amount of the remaining oil to create a low carbon economy.

    Now create a Google alert for ‘Oil Supply’ and watch the world unravel.”

Sustainability and the Energy Gap

We live at a time when we will soon see the peak in oil production, this being widely predicted by reliable and independent sources. After, the expected outcomes range from economic meltdown to a rapid and orderly transition to nuclear and renewable sources.

Unfortunately for the developed western economies a number of things will almost inevitably conspire to disadvantage us this century.

  • Our democratic system.
  • The demographic fact that the WWII bulge of children is now retiring.
  • That UK has had over a century of ‘education for industrial and environmental decline’.
  • That an ingenuity/innovation gap exists.
  • The transition of control in the western companies from engineers to accountants and finally lawyers.
  • The continuing reductionist/compliance approach to organisational management.
  • Engineering contract optimism on cost and time.
  • The planning regime.

These factors have already led to the loss of our manufacturing base (now occurring in the US) and are currently threatening our infrastructure.

Our propensity to educate for industrial and environmental decline for more than a century has led to the situation where there is an insufficient science and engineering base to maintain and extend the infrastructure built up over the 20th century. This is made more critical by the retirement of the post WWII generation, who build up the electrical infrastructure and the nuclear generation capacity.

We are nearly at the mercy, as a society of not being able to support the quality of life that has been created for us by previous generations.

Putting this together we now find ourselves in a critical national position with regard to the ‘energy gap’ just acknowledged by Professor Sir David King. The short political timeframe and the planning regime has led to the deferment of decisions on the mix of energy we need, leaving us at the mercy of foreign sources of energy and reliant on a number of aging nuclear power stations.

We have to make all professionals, especially teachers, aware of the critical need to encourage able students to take up science and engineering, that their own future security and comfort is dependent on it – not that it is just a good idea.

This is the essence of Education for Sustainable Development as it now applies to the UK (Europe and the US) and is central to the delivery of the new UK Sustainable Development Strategy.

This Century, assuming no doomsday, we will enter a more sustainable world, but the western democracies will probably have a far lower quality of life, even lower than a more equitable share of current resources would indicate.

Derek Deighton

Coordinator, North West Engineering Institutions, Sustainability Joint Venture

Is Britain is preparing for Peak Oil the only way she knows how:

It has to be asked if the Riots this week have not been a Godsend to the governing elite in allowing them to prepare for the outcomes resulting from the ongoing. but unspoken, reduction in the Energy and Resource Intensity of SystemUK. This comment from Twitter today

Comment: Britain is preparing for Peak Oil the only way she knows how: Calling on the armed forces, and arming the police.

Read more

Peter Oborne speaks elequently today of the failings of the ruling elite in government and business and it reminded me of my letter to him at the Daily Mail in July 2008 relating to an article, again about the state of the UK and the military.


Dear Peter

          I am impressed with your article in the Mail today and I copy below part of the email to my MP I copied to you a short while ago.

“I don’t blame a particular person or party but we have a systemic failure of proactive action.

          The society we have created has replaced personal duty with personal freedom to the point that senior service personnel are now pointing out the incongruity of the reward those who are attempting to protect our way of life are receiving, referenced to others

          I want to be wrong, but soon, senior officers will be questioning the ability of our political system to deliver the actions needed to transition society to the low carbon future we will inherit, as I have said, by design or negligence.”

          The concept of political neutrality has been core of our armed services for centuries and British service personnel have been treated abominably on many occasions down these centuries

          It has been clear to me for years that our failure to be proactive and think holistically would lead to the point in history we find ourselves. I copy below my comment from 2002, which predicts the situation in which an outcome such as knife crime could develop.

          We are powering into energy oblivion and someone will need to take action, and Senior Officers must be aware that their ability to maintain a strategic and tactical capability will be seriously compromised by the time the new carriers and JSF are due to come into service

          This from the current edition of Business Week

“However, it appears that for at least the next five years, and possibly longer, the Saudis are likely to produce less crude than promised, according to fresh data on the kingdom’s oil fields obtained July 9 by BusinessWeek. Saudi officials have said they would increase production capacity to 12.5 million barrels a day next year, from the current 10 million barrels a day, and could even ramp up to as much as 15 million barrels a day if the market demanded it. As proof to a skeptical audience, the normally highly secretive Saudis were a bit more open, escorting journalists on a visit to their new Al Khurais field (, 6/23/08), east of Riyadh, and disclosing some field data.”



The Jevons Paradox

……………The Jevons Paradox


But there is one aspect of Jevons’s argument—the Jevons Paradox itself—that continues to be considered one of the pioneering insights in ecological economics.8 In chapter 7 of The Coal Question, entitled “Of the Economy of Fuel,” Jevons responded to the common notion that, since “the falling supply of coal will be met by new modes of using it efficiently and economically,” there was no problem of supply, and that, indeed, “the amount of useful work got out of coal may be made to increase manifold, while the amount of coal consumed is stationary or diminishing.” In sharp opposition to this, Jevons contended that increased efficiency in the use of coal as an energy source only generated increased demand for that resource, not decreased demand, as one might expect. This was because improvement in efficiency led to further economic expansion. “It is wholly a confusion of ideas,” he wrote, “to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth. As a rule, new modes of economy will lead to an increase of consumption according to a principle recognised in many parallel instances….The same principles apply, with even greater force and distinctness, to the use of such a general agent as coal. It is the very economy of its use which leads to its extensive consumption.”……………….

The extensive article, worth reading is at

Fears of oil spike if climate pledges fail

Fears of oil spike if climate pledges fail

 By Javier Blas and Sylvia Pfeifer in London: Published: November 3 2010 22:30

The global energy watchdog will next week throw its weight behind calls for governments to implement pledges to fight climate change and cut fossil fuel subsidies, warning that a failure to do so would significantly inflate oil prices………….

Full article at …………….

Britain’s energy consumption drops as people try to save money

We are now feeling the effects of following the Oil Curve rather than keeping ahead of it – the wrong way to balance the One Planet Equation


Britain’s energy consumption drops as people try to save money

29th October 2010

Green living

Over 50% of people are using less energy than they did a year ago in a bid to save money. That’s according to new research that shows as winter sets in and energy consumption is predicted to skyrocket, people are prepared to do whatever it takes to save power- with nearly three quarters of people citing financial hardship as the main reason.

And their efforts should be well rewarded as the research reveals each household could save £250 every year by making some simple energy saving changes.

But it’s not just the little things like installing energy efficient light bulbs and draft excluders that people are now doing, with many considering making big changes to their homes to save money and energy in the long run.

Over a third would now consider a home survey to see if renewable energy could be installed in their property while 40% would pay more to do up their home if it made it more energy-efficient.

Belt-tightening is also affecting what househunters are looking for when buying a house with energy efficiency now high on homeseekers’ wish lists…………………

full article at

Google is doing what the government can’t

Google Is Doing What the Government Can’t?

Andrew Winston Environmental Strategist, The Huffington Post, October 28, 2010

…………….As many pundits have lamented, we seem to have completely lost our ability to consider, invest in, and complete big infrastructure projects. This does not bode well for our future.

But just when I was thoroughly discouraged, Google announced recently that it would invest heavily in a truly innovative energy infrastructure project. The tech giant and some other investors are proposing a $5 billion “transmission backbone” for offshore wind farms along the East Coast. This new 350-mile line would connect Virginia to, yes, New Jersey, and allow for much easier, cheaper development of offshore wind (it would also, as a side benefit, get some cheaper energy already produced in Virginia up to the northern states).

This is in no way the first time that Google has made noise about clean tech. A few years ago it announced its intention to invest a billion dollars to help make renewable energy cheaper than coal. The company has also put in place one of the largest corporate solar installations in the world.

But why would Google invest so much in these kinds of projects? It’s easy to dismiss it as the socially-minded whim of a cash-rich company. But that’s not giving the company much credit for being a smart operator. Given the resource-intensity of its giant data centers — there’s a persistent, believable rumor that Google is the largest energy user in the State of California — trying to bring the cost of renewables down is a great hedge strategy. What growing enterprise wouldn’t want to rely increasingly on energy with zero variable cost?…………………

full story at