Peak Oil News: Burning Buried Sunshine: Human Consumption Of Ancient Solar Energy

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Burning Buried Sunshine: Human Consumption Of Ancient Solar Energy

By Jeffrey S. Dukes

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Abstract. Fossil fuels developed from ancient deposits of organic material, and thus can be thought of as a vast store of solar energy from which society meets >80% of its current energy needs. Here, using published biological, geochemical, and industrial data, I estimate the amount of photosynthetically fixed and stored carbon that was required to form the coal, oil, and gas that we are burning today. Today’s average U.S. Gallon (3.8 L) of gasoline required approximately 90 metric tons of ancient plant matter as precursor material. The fossil fuels burned in 1997 were created from organic matter containing 44 × 1018 g C, which is >400 times the net primary productivity (NPP) of the planet’s current biota. As stores of ancient solar energy decline, humans are likely to use an increasing share of modern solar resources. I conservatively estimate that replacing the energy humans derive from fossil fuels with energy from modern biomass would require 22% of terrestrial NPP, increasing the human appropriation of this resource by ~50%.


At 7:01 AM, December 21, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

During the long (or short) process of conversion from tons of high water content biomass to carbon sink, enormous quantities of off-gasses go to atmosphere. These are usually more than 20 times more likely to cause greenhouse effect in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. So the natural process of generating carbon-concentrated fuel, by today's technical standards is inefficient and polluting.

That process or cycle is not a viable one for humans - we have to eliminate the middle steps and go more directly to the sun. Wind, hydroelectricity, ground heat (so-called geothermal), and some future solar electric cell technology are better courses.

Hydroelectricity and tides offer interesting approaches in that there is as much or more influence of gravity (magnetic influence) as solar. It may be possible to use this in a number of ways. As a simplistic example, to use solar energy to raise a weight above ground during day or summer or both, then let gravity pull the weight back to ground through an energy-capture mechanism is one possible approach.

There are a number of interesting cistern-ground water options for facilitating ground water or geo-thermal heat control.

For what it's worth ....

At 1:10 PM, December 21, 2005, Anonymous roberta kelly said...

This is worth much, to me. We have a property in Castle Rock, Washington. Mt. St. Helens is not that far away, however, it is enough distance that we do not worry about hot lava (; other than the fact that the soil is incredibly rich from the ash of years ago.

We have a stream and timber and land to grow plenty of food. Lovely small house, and it has two fireplaces - one with a wood stove insert that heats the entire house.

Wind, H2O, solar, and geo-thermal are definite options.

I feel so betrayed by this foolish group of people who are in control and I mean all of the assholes, not just the stupid republicans.

They all know and yet they cannot get their heads clear enough of the guilt they have for thinking the war game would give US the right to keep consuming like pig hogs.

Anyway, rant rant. I just want the means and ways to get ourselves ready and I want the tax breaks and incentives it will take to do so!

Thank you for ALL ideas because I honestly do not know much other than "harvesting rain".

Respectfully, Roberta Kelly

We are going to sell all of our art and let go of our life dream to begin getting ready and helping others to do the same. A home energy model seems appropriate?

At 9:33 AM, December 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't get ready to soon. We still have lots of carbon in the crust of the earth. Already coal, tar sands, and natural gas shipped from the Middel East to North America. Artic gas and oil still need to be extracted.

Sure the global warming effect will be moving faster all the time.

I don't think all the conversions are as bad as computed above. If I burn wood from my local area that is doesn't require 400x carbon by weight. Or my home garden producing potatoes vs buying from my grocery store if far cheaper.

Growing one own provides free health club exercise....

How would one replace all of those fancy metal wood stoves after the collapse of industrial society???

Something to consider.


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