Solar Now Produces a Better Energy Return on Investment Than Oil

The future is not good for oil, no matter which way you look at it. — Motherboard


Solar — it’s not just a clean power source producing zero emissions and almost no local water impact, it’s also now one of the best choices on the basis of how much energy you get back for your investment. And with climate change impacts rising, solar’s further potential to take some of the edge off the harm that’s coming down the pipe makes speeding its adoption a clear no-brainer.

In 2016, according to a trends analysis based on this report by the Royal Society of London, the energy return on energy investment (EROEI) for oil appears to have fallen below a ratio of 15 to 1 globally. In places like the United States, where extraction efforts increasingly rely on unconventional techniques like fracking, that EROEI has fallen to 10 or 11 to 1 or lower.

Meanwhile, according to a new study by the Imperial College of London, solar energy’s return on investment ratio as of 2015 was 14 to 1 and rising. What this means is that a global energy return on investment inflection point between oil and solar was likely reached at some time during the present year.


(Rising solar cell conversion efficiencies, expanding production bases, and better supply chains are helping to drive solar energy return on energy invested higher. Image source: Commons.)

How much energy you get back for each unit invested has often been seen as a viability factor for modern civilization. And returns higher than 5 to 1 were often thought of as essential for the maintenance and progression of present high standards of living in advanced societies. However, in the past, alternatives like wind and solar were at first criticized for perceived low rates of energy return. In the end, it appears that these criticisms have turned up false.

The higher energy returns for solar come as module efficiency, supply chain efficiency, and production and installation efficiency are all on the rise. And as solar is a technology-based energy source, we can expect these returns to continue to increase as production bases widen and as innovation drives modules to continue to improve their ability to collect power from the sun. For oil, the story is quite a bit more grim. Falling production in conventional wells has resulted in more reliance on hard to extract oil — and this makes pulling oil out of the ground much more expensive from an energy investment standpoint.

Record Rate of Solar Installation

Solar’s sharpening edge vs oil as an energy source came during a year when new installations boomed globally. Annual installations are expected to hit a record 70 gigawatts (GW) around the world in 2016 — ahead of early predictions for 65 GW of new installations earlier this year. China, the U.S. and India all likely saw record rates of solar adoption. Falling prices have helped to push the surge even as energy policies within many countries remain favorable to solar. In the Middle East and South America, new solar purchase agreements continued to break records for lowest cost. In Abu Dhabi, one solar project moved ahead with a 2.42 cent per kwh price tag. In Chile, a separate project broke ground at 2.91 cents per kwh. These prices are considerably lower than new oil or gas plants and are a primary driver for rising rates of adoption.


(Under Democratic President Barack Obama, solar energy expanded at a very rapid clip. This was partly due to a mostly positive policy environment at the national level and due to widespread support by various executive branch agencies like the EPA and the Department of Energy. That said, from 2013 onward, falling solar prices and better solar economics have become a larger driving force for market expansion. Reactive policies coming from the Trump Administration may put a wet blanket over this rate of solar growth. However, it is likely only to slow solar’s rise. In any case, given the amazing benefits provided by solar power, efforts made to slow this transition by Trump and others in his administration should be seen as a protectionist, nonsensical, and amoral top-down defense of the harmful fossil fuel industry. Image source:

Higher energy return on investment ratios for solar is one of the primary drivers enabling such low overall power prices. And the impact is starting to ripple through global markets which are steadily embracing transformation (as in California) or are responding in a reactionary/protectionist manner in an attempt to slow solar’s advance (as in Nevada). Favorable energy economics are just one of solar’s many benefits — including less water use, lack of requirement for a centralized grid in undeveloped regions, low cost, zero air pollution, and in providing a mitigation for the rising problem of global climate change (which is primarily driven by human fossil fuel burning). And those seeking to remove policy support for continued rising rates of adoption for solar will not only be denying basic economic realities, they’ll be supporting the irrational continuation of an inherently harmful set of industries.


Implications of the Declining Energy Return on Energy Investment for Oil

PV Energy Payback and Net Energy

Solar is Already Producing More Energy Than Oil

World to Install 70 GW of Solar in 2016

World Record Breaking Price for Solar in Ahbu Dhabi

Hat tip to Climatehawk1

Leave a comment


  1. marcel_g

     /  December 20, 2016

    +1 I check green tech sites almost daily just to get a bit of good news to counter the constant stream of bad climate news.

    • It’s climate destruction vs innovation. Which one wins out depends on the level of our response. It’s one reason why I try to publish at least a few of these each month. To open up the frame a bit and let people know that we have this option. That we’re not just spectators but participants.

      To this point, Krugman is pretty down on Trump/the republican assault on democracy. But we should be pretty clear that this backsliding by Republicans in the US is more a move back toward gilded age political systems which were probably at least as corrupt as those we are looking at now. That said, it might be that the action by legislature in North Carolina is completely without precedent. One also wonders if someone like Trump would ever willingly give up power (his behavior during the election points toward ‘no’). That said, we may be looking at the need of active rebellion/resistance at many levels to counter this nonsense. Krugman is right in that institutions that do not resist cannot save us. But if the US’s institutions at large put up an effective resistance then the case may turn out differently. At the very least, they can lay the groundwork for a counter-force. It’s rough that we’ve gotten to this point. But I honestly think that Krugman is more depressed than need be. He should plug himself into some system and get to work to change things by building up a network of people with an active bent toward response/resistance.

      • We “innovate” since we are Homo sapiens. Where is “innovation” different from BAU?

        • False equivalency argument here, Alexander. I would have hoped that you had learned by now not to fall into that particular logical fallacy pit-trap.

          BAU = continued fossil fuel burning. Innovation = move to renewables and sustainability.

  2. climatehawk1

     /  December 20, 2016

    Tweet scheduled. Thank you for the hat tip, much appreciated.

  3. Nancy

     /  December 20, 2016

    Installing solar – on your home and/or business – helps defeat Trump’s agenda which is all about fossil fuels. A dollar invested in a solar array is a dollar less for Rex T.

  4. redskylite

     /  December 20, 2016

    Thanks for this heartwarming post, looks like the power revolution is in full progress and difficult to stop now. Energy sites make good reading and are a cure for the “Climate Change Blues”, although far too late to console those unfortunates that have already been deeply affected and forced to migrate or worse.

    Here’s a great use for Solar in Western Australia.

    A Western Australian company’s innovative shark detection system, powered by solar energy, will help protect City Beach in Perth this summer.

    • Well, I must say that solar shark detection makes me feel a little bit safer as a surfer — both due to its lowered impact on the ocean (carbon emissions are wrecking ocean ecosystems) and due to, well, something to help prevent those rare but terrifying ‘jaws’ type incidents. Of course, Australia has some rather aggressive whites in the water. For some reason they seem to get a higher incidence of attacks there.

  5. redskylite

     /  December 20, 2016

    And kinda linked to the last topic of temperatures in the Arctic, two interesting recent papers on the “Younger Dryas” period when a warming phase suddenly reversed back into an icy glacial period.

    I seem to remember that I was taught that the most likely cause of the sudden drop in temperatures was a slow down of ocean currents caused by the melting of the vast Laurentide Ice Sheet. Although the Greenland ice sheets are not as huge, I wonder if history will repeat itself in the future. And what will happen to the Southern Ocean currents and Southern Hemisphere climate when the East Antarctic ice sheet starts breaking up big time, which seems more likely in the latest reports.

    “Prior to the Younger Dryas, the climate had gradually warmed from glacial conditions to near modern temperatures, and the massive ice sheets in North America were in full retreat; however, approximately 12,900 years ago, temperatures rapidly plummeted and returned to glacial conditions for about a 1200 year long period. Also about this time, the mammoths and mastodons became extinct in North America.”

    • So when the glaciers start to go down, you get this local atmospheric cooling due to the fresh water lens effect. Depending on rate of ice loss, this can wag the global climate system in the atmosphere. But to be very clear, as this happens, the oceans are gaining heat more rapidly. If you hit enough melt to equal 2-3 feet per decade of sea level rise, it can basically counter the radiative forcing in the atmosphere as the ocean gains heat more rapidly. But that is an insane clip. In my opinion, what we’ll tend to get in practice is these wild swings as glacial melt pulses (cooling the atmosphere and warming the deep ocean), then you get a period of relative spikes back to warming before the next big glacial melt pulse. As a result, climate swings and storms have the potential to be quite radical in the period that I’ve been calling phase 2 climate change where the glaciers really start to go down.

      • redskylite

         /  December 20, 2016

        Really appreciate your insight and knowledge, and your precious time. Just read an interesting article on the same subject in EOS (Earth & Space Science News) and although unfortunately I won’t be around towards the end of this century, it doesn’t mean that I do not bear any responsibility to my descendants and successors, for the world they inherit. Another science article that states that we can influence that now (today).

        “Major Ocean Circulation Pattern at Risk from Greenland Ice Melt

        The current warming trend could mean the collapse of ocean’s global conveyor belt, which would have far-reaching effects on climate around the world. But this collapse could still be avoided.”

  6. redskylite

     /  December 20, 2016

    R.S – And just to point out a spelling error in your great narrative “In Ahbu Dhabi, one solar project moved ahead with a 2.42 cent per kwh price tag.” Should be Abu Dhabi (I had the good fortune to live in that great Emirate for fifteen years).

  7. The biggest problem I see is storage, one that is cheap, along with the basic investment even though that continues to fall. Since the majority population of this country is living month to month at near or below the poverty line with zero savings much less the ‘extra’ cash to use, there needs to be some kind of massive outside investment. Maybe ending all fossil fuel subsidies and dedicating that $30b+ to those communities and impoverished citizenry who won’t ever be able afford alternative energy?

    If the majority poor aren’t in this equation the entire idea of getting off fossil fuel will continue to be near useless. This is one idea from a few months ago.

    An effective and low-cost solution for storing solar energy

    How can we store solar energy for period when the sun doesn’t shine? One solution is to convert it into hydrogen through water electrolysis. The idea is to use the electrical current produced by a solar panel to ‘split’ water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Clean hydrogen can then be stored away for future use to produce electricity on demand, or even as a fuel.

    But this is where things get complicated. Even though different hydrogen-production technologies have given us promising results in the lab, they are still too unstable or expensive and need to be further developed to use on a commercial and large scale.

    The approach taken by EPFL and CSEM researchers is to combine components that have already proven effective in industry in order to develop a robust and effective system. Their prototype is made up of three interconnected, new-generation, crystalline silicon solar cells attached to an electrolysis system that does not rely on rare metals. The device is able to convert solar energy into hydrogen at a rate of 14.2%, and has already been run for more than 100 hours straight under test conditions. In terms of performance, this is a world record for silicon solar cells and for hydrogen production without using rare metals. It also offers a high level of stability.

    Enough to power a fuel cell car over 10,000km every year

    The method, which surpasses previous efforts in terms of stability, performance, lifespan and cost efficiency, is published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society. “A 12-14 m2 system installed in Switzerland would allow the generation and storage of enough hydrogen to power a fuel cell car over 10,000 km every year”, says Christophe Ballif, who co-authored the paper.

    High voltage cells have an edge

    The key here is making the most of existing components, and using a ‘hybrid’ type of crystalline-silicon solar cell based on heterojunction technology. The researchers’ sandwich structure – using layers of crystalline silicon and amorphous silicon – allows for higher voltages. And this means that just three of these cells, interconnected, can already generate an almost ideal voltage for electrolysis to occur. The electrochemical part of the process requires a catalyst made from nickel, which is widely available.

    “With conventional crystalline silicon cells, we would have to link up four cells to get the same voltage,” says co-author Miguel Modestino at EPFL.”So that’s the strength of this method.”

    A stable and economically viable method

    The new system is unique when it comes to cost, performance and lifespan. “We wanted to develop a high performance system that can work under current conditions,” says Jan-Willem Schüttauf, a researcher at CSEM and co-author of the paper. “The heterojunction cells that we use belong to the family of crystalline silicon cells, which alone account for about 90% of the solar panel market. It is a well-known and robust technology whose lifespan exceeds 25 years. And it also happens to cover the south side of the CSEM building in Neuchâtel.”

    The researchers used standard heterojunction cells to prove the concept; by using the best cells of that type, they would expect to achieve a performance above 16%.

    RS: I have replied to your Dec. 15th ‘7 point’ “breadth of evidence and data” rebuttal on my 1st reply to your Rex Tillerson/CIA post.

    I hope it clears up any misconceptions about my alternative viewpoints you might have had to my first reply.

    • So to this point, briefly, there are numerous storage options:

      1. Pumped water hydro storage is often the most basic.
      2. Wind has various mechanical storage options (flywheel based etc).
      3. Batteries which are dropping in cost along with wind and solar. Higher likelihood for breakthroughs as this links in to the electrical vehicle chain.
      4. Hydrogen… Which is probably the least efficient and cost effective of these. Part of the issue with hydrogen is that it is difficult to contain — requiring high energy refridgeration or sealing vessels that haven’t been developed yet.

      Battery storage appears to be more and more widely used due to falling costs. In addition, a number of renewable providers are using pumped water storage as well. These appear to be the more practical options.

      A final option is molten salt thermal storage. But that tends to be mated more with thermal solar.

      Compressed air has had various interests involved as well.

      In the end, though, it looks like batteries have the best synergies and development potential through mass production/technical innovations.

      • Joe Clarkson

         /  December 20, 2016

        If solar is ever to become a base-load energy source, storage quantities will need to be enormous, lasting several weeks at least. This can be accomplished far more cheaply with sensible heat storage (the molten salt you mentioned is one example) than with chemical storage in batteries.

        Even cheaper than molten salt is high temperature pebble bed storage, which has been experimented with in Germany (Julich), but has never made it into any commercial systems.

        This failure of commercialization has always been a surprise to me, since large air/steam heat exchangers (HRSGs) are common industrial energy equipment and would fit right in with a CSP-to-pebble-bed collection and storage system. It would be hard to find a cheaper storage medium than rock and some storage formats don’t even need a container.

        • It appears that the stated requirement for storage can be mitigated by large inter-connected grids with diverse renewable generation systems to level out intermittency. Otherwise, capacity factors for wind + solar are rather higher than simply wind or simply solar. Add hydro as dispatchable service and various others and you tend to lower your storage requirements.

          That said, I think that storage won’t be as much of an issue RE cost as time moves forward. The chemical batteries are getting cheaper all the time and large systems like you describe have the potential to further reduce costs for integrated grids. In any case, we are much further out from behind the 8 ball on renewable energy costs overall than we were even 4 years ago. And I don’t think we should at all discount the potential dual use and re-use of EVs and EV batteries as storage. An EV has a huge battery that could run a home for days, for example, and after market EV batteries for resale as storage devices are still likely to retain 80 percent of their charge. This dual use/ re-use combines with modularity to provide significant storage benefits and the synergy between solar, wind and EVs is a very strong one.

      • marcel_g

         /  December 20, 2016

        Robert, for dry climates where pumped hydro isn’t feasible due to lack of water or evaporation rates, there is also the rail technology that’s being developed- electric locomotives haul weighted rail cars uphill to store the energy, then use the weights rolling downhill the use the locomotives as generators.

        One of many new technologies that could work out. And Rocky Mountain institute has shown that the amount of storage needed for a decarbonized grid is a lot less than previously thought,

      • Transmission is also a useful form of energy “storage”–transmit the excess electricity generated by wind or solar in a given region to somewhere else where it can be used. This is what’s happening with the wind-generated electricity in north Texas (being shipped to Dallas and Houston), and my understanding is that it’s usually less expensive than actual storage options. Texas has done a significant build-out of new transmission, that is projected to pay for itself (through reduced fuel costs) in 7-10 years.

        • Yes. In many cases due to time delay in the lines you can effectively use the grid like a battery. It takes slick management. But it can be done.

          In any case, I think that it’s not inevitable that centralized grids fight with decentralized power systems so long as utilities don’t fight too hard to keep their fossil fuels. It’s when fossil fuel interests attempt to dominate that the impetus for off-grid, modular, micro-grid, or independent power systems rise. And we have already seen some of this as a response to bad policy in Nevada.

    • Hydrogen is itself an indirect greenhouse gas, but not a very potent one, because it impacts the hydroxyl radical concentration in the atmosphere:

      “If a global hydrogen economy replaced the current fossil
      fuel-based energy system and exhibited a leakage rate of 1%, then it would
      produce a climate impact of 0.6% of the current fossil fuel based system.”

      Zero point six percent of the current fossil fuel based system seems pretty acceptable to me. If the leakage was 10%, the impact of a global hydrogen economy would be 6% of the current fossil fuel based system, according to the authors of this paper.

      It all seems pretty tolerable, especially compared to fossil fuels, unless more information has been generated since 2006, the year the above paper was written.

      Issues of efficiency and economics are separate issues.

      Methane in natural gas also impacts the hydroxyl radical.

  8. Solar is good.

    I’ve been using wind generated electricity for years.

    There are several green choices even though a lot of propaganda says otherwise.

    The grids we have are very wasteful (lots of energy loss … ‘leaks’ as the energy travels from the power generating source to our homes and businesses).

    Solar is better in the sense that the grid can be avoided when the panels are on the roof of a home or business.

    • Thanks for the comment here, Dredd. Would just like to add that the grid does provide for various renewable energy optimizations. And that larger grids can be leveraged to manage intermittency. As CH 1 notes below transmission loss isn’t too bad. We can than Tesla and direct current for that.


      • But … not that much energy leaks. It’s around 7%, and my understanding is, that’s regardless of the size of the grid. The reason is that higher voltage is used to transmit electricity for longer distances.

        Nowhere near the inefficiency created by burning fossil fuels, when half or more of the energy is wasted.

  9. Ryan in New England

     /  December 20, 2016

    This doesn’t relate to renewable energy, but I just had to post a link. This is not the first time I’ve read something in the mainstream media AFTER Robert had written about the very same topic.

    Robert, you have an impressive talent for staying right at the forefront of what we know about climate change, and what we can see occurring all around us. And while the science may take time to officially verify that certain events are a result of anthropogenic forcing, you are not restrained in the same way, which I find to be incredibly useful. One example I immediately recall is the article in late June regarding the jet stream crossing the equator. You pointed out (with noted cautions) that this appeared to be a rare anomaly, something we hadn’t witnessed before, and were criticized by some for making a big deal out of it and tying it to climate change. Well, as the science later confirmed, this was a very big deal and Robert was right to point it out in a post.

    Here we are again. Robert has recently written a post about Foehn winds bringing melting to Antarctica, and shortly after we have a National Geographic article about scientists in Antarctica witnessing that very thing. I should point out this melting is not in reference to the melt ponds Robert pointed out in his post, but I still found the article to be eerily prescient.

      • humanistruth

         /  December 20, 2016

        The tiny bit of jet stream crossing the equator in Robert’s June 28th post has been dwarfed by wider crossing events lately, some days in both the Atlantic and Pacific. I wondered why it wasn’t discussed.

        • So that particular event stood out, at least to my eye, due to the appearance of the northern hemisphere polar jet to link up with the subtropical jet, which then crossed the Equator, which in turn linked with the SH polar jet. The overall effect was of an apparent high amplitude planetary wave pattern that reached into high latitudes in both hemispheres while also crossing the equator.

          It’s true that subtropical jets can and do cross the equator. But such a high latitudinal transition linking with a trans-equatorial air flow, as we saw during June looked a bit odd to me. Now, of course, as we saw, this became highly controversial.

          I have written about similar patterns during last winter which some studies have associated with a flip in the upper level equatorial wind patterns.

          RE transitional winds… We do have a large latitudinal transition currently taking place in the SH and crossing the equator. Since we are nearing SH summer, this is the time of year when we’d tend to see meanders and trans equatorial patterns. But the high amplitude wave west of South America does look a bit large and odd. It’s just not something that would ping the radar unless it started to hold on for a long time or produced a related persistent weather pattern.

          In addition, I’m holding fire a little until more concrete information comes out. I want to be careful not to accidentally feed into any misinformation memes and these gray areas can be rife with them. But if anything fits a pattern appears to have a high impact on global weather, then I’ll absolutely post about it. Given the current media environment, only very low ambiguity and high risk events will make the final cut.

    • 🙂

      Had help from you guys on this one (h/t to Shawn). Investigation revealed a likely foehn wind event.

      We all keep each other sharp.

      RE gravity waves… I think there’s a lot we don’t know about the atmospheric circulation changes taking place. So the article was speculative/analytical. Sometimes you have to open wide the discourse and even take some flack if you’re going to make headway. That’s what I was trying to do to help the conversation along. What I see as one potential result is that Francis appears to be much better regarded in the science. And this makes me smile.

  10. Spike

     /  December 20, 2016

    Do you have investment platforms for citizen financed renewables in the USA? Here in the UK there are a few. and I have put some savings into one called Abundance Generation. They invest in commercial type solar, small wind turbines and some biomass projects.

    • So here’s an aggregator for crowd funded renewable energy investment programs:

      They’re also related to the divestment from fossil fuels movement.

    • JPL

       /  December 20, 2016

      Spike (and the rest of humanity…), if you want some info on divestment, give this site a look:

      This is not exactly what you were asking for, but, as the home page says, ‘Pick your location and learn how to divest in your part of the world’

      Cool site!


      • Absolutely. I’d also like to add that is an excellent organization to support if you’re looking for an agency to produces effective strategic and tactic actions aimed at reducing fossil fuel emissions and preventing or lessening the sting of catastrophic climate change. started the global divestment campaign and it keeps making headway.

  11. coloradobob

     /  December 20, 2016

    Climate change is wreaking havoc on indigenous people in Alaska

    These numbers have resonance for people who require dependable rhythms in the environment in order to survive. In remote Alaskan communities, the stores sell goods priced to reflect their journey – $20 for a pizza, $15 for a gallon of milk. If you can’t butcher a 1,000-pound walrus because there is no sea ice to support both of you, then you might well be left hungry.

    “The window of opportunity for hunting continues to shrink,” Metcalf said. “The communities are worried about this because food insecurity is something we are now having to tackle every single day.” …………………. In 2013, the island’s two main communities managed to catch just a third of the walruses they normally do. Last year, Gambell, the largest settlement, snared just 36 – down from the 600 it could expect just a few years ago.

    • So the changes to the Arctic are profound. Not only do we see how the animals have been impacted, but traditional hunters are losing a key food source. But even worse is a likely issue of northern fisheries loss for places like Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Canada. Some of these fisheries are the most productive in the world. But with warming, these fish will lose many of their food sources. In addition, ocean acidification — which is ramping up at this time — presents severe challenges to local marine wildlife and food chains. Once the glaciers start going down and we add more ocean stratification to the mix, the blow to ocean health becomes pretty extraordinary. In so many ways, climate change is bad news for the Arctic. We need to be very clear that we should be working against these changes. To embrace them would be to step faster and faster into a much harsher world.

  12. coloradobob

     /  December 20, 2016

    With global-warming deniers in Washington, outside scientists are setting up an anonymous hotline for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s employees to report political meddling. Fearing deletion, academic researchers are backing up U.S. data. Insiders are considering jobs outside government.

    • So scientists need to support each other and the public needs to support scientists. I like this hotline idea. And I hope that it provides legal advice in the event of harrassment and abuse. In addition, I honestly think agencies should hire a lawyer, an investigative journalist, and a private investigator or have one of each on call for both internal and external abuses. In particular, new agency heads whose goals run against stated agency missions should be held under a high level of scrutiny for potential instances of malfeasance or singling out individuals or otherwise acting in an unethical/illegal manner.

  13. coloradobob

     /  December 20, 2016

    Global warming: Arctic lakes melting earlier each year, says study

    London: Arctic lakes, covered with ice during the winter months, are melting one day earlier each year, according to researchers, including one of Indian origin, who monitored 13,300 lakes using satellite imagery.
    Scientists from the University of Southampton in the UK showed that due to warming temperatures ice is breaking earlier each spring, based on a 14-year period between 2000 and 2013.

  14. Reblogged this on R. Harrison, Author and commented:
    Solar power is a go!

  15. June

     /  December 20, 2016

    This emerging technology may help reduce the impact of all the extra air comditioning that will be coming in a rapidly warming world.

    Solar cooling systems take heat out of summer’s hottest days

    …Currently, such systems are still the exception. “It hasn’t got into the mainstream yet,” says Ken Guthrie, who chairs the International Energy Agency’s Solar Heating and Cooling Program.

    Nevertheless, several solar cooling technologies are making their way to market. While off-the-shelf systems for most are still years away, a handful of businesses have already opted for purpose-designed solar cooling systems, which experts hope will convince others to follow their lead.

    • Thanks for this, June. It’s also worth noting that the same technology provides for solar condensers that produce water in arid regions which may help to mitigate some climate change related drought impacts.

  16. Thank you for the solar cooling info.

  17. Ailsa

     /  December 20, 2016

    Thanks for the good news Robert. A tiny niggle, second para should be ‘In 2016, according *to* a trends analysis…’

    Happy Solstice and keep up the good fight.

  18. Ailsa

     /  December 20, 2016

    And a couple of questions about the Scribbler site: I have got a slightly different look coming up – there is no longer a ‘latest posts’ section on the right hand side, which I miss, and there is a ‘log in’ option in a new list on the right hand side, which I am wondering what it is about? Could you enlighten us? Thanks

    • So I tend to do all my posts in big blocks. And many others had the same habit. As a result, latest posters tended to fill up the list and it ended up being a less helpful notification than I originally intended. I’d like to work the setting so that I could highlight the latest post and then if there were multiples from the same poster over a short time, link them by hovering. That way, there would be more variety in the side-bar. Or maybe even a combo of top threads/recent posts. I’ll fiddle with the setting to see if we can get something that is more broadly representative.

      The log-in is for administrators and writers.

  19. Vic

     /  December 20, 2016

    This is from the International Energy Agency’s latest World Energy Outlook report.

    I wonder how much of that post 2009 bounce was due to the failure of Copenhagen COP15.

  20. Nancy

     /  December 20, 2016

    Finally, something to be grateful for this holiday season – Obama just banned Arctic drilling, and Trump will have a tough time undoing the ban. After the last few weeks of climate depression, this is the best news. Canada’s Trudeau announced a similar ban.

    • Fantastic! Obama is really delivering in his final days. I’ve also heard that he’s going to go on the road post-Presidency to work on legislative action to remove Gerry Mandering and voter suppression.

  21. Reblogged this on Invisible Mikey and commented:
    (I expect this author has to fend off the illogical arguments of “Watts Up With That” fans on a regular basis, but I like his work.)

  22. Ryan in New England

     /  December 20, 2016
  23. Genomik

     /  December 21, 2016

    Irony that Saudis are building solar so they can sell more of it. Sort of like Afghanistan stopping its citizens from using opium so it could all be sold to the West in another addiction.

  24. Very pleased to read you report! Well done. I wonder if the data reflect only oil or oil plus gas. A growing emphasis on gas production, and there are large volumes of it, and much more to come, might change the efficiency comparisons. I worked on Das Island, offshore to Abu Dhabi, but my interests were in concrete in a natural gas liquefaction plant, not hydrocarbons per se. Pipelines on the floor of the Arabian Gulf are like spaghetti.

  25. Does anybody but me think it would be a good idea to figure out how to build, ship, maintain and repair solar panels and wind generators without any fossil fuel inputs, before the fossil fuel extraction business goes under? As far as I have been able to determine, this has not yet been achieved.

    Example: steel was first made using biochar as a source of carbon. But this will not scale to industrial levels of output, for obvious reasons. Therefore, we need to be able to make steel without coal. Or, figure out how to build durable infrastructure without industrial quantities of steel.

    • The thermal capacity can be provided by 100 percent renewables. That’s the largest portion of the energy requirement. All you need after that is some source for the carbon, which isn’t hard to come by in the necessary volume. In any case, steel manufacturing is a vanishingly small portion of overall fossil fuel based carbon emissions. And as the energy chain becomes more renewable, that small portion continues to shrink.

  26. Hi Robert-

    I do so hope you are right, Robert.

    When fields are exploited, individual wells follow an exponentially declining production curve. More wells are drilled, until a plateau is reached, and then fewer wells are drilled. Adding all the individual exponentially declining curves and the trapezoidal curve together (or multiplying them together) what you get is an overall production curve that peaks and then declines. I wonder if it is possible to be more profitable just by collecting oil from the peak part of the production curve. Or maybe that’s wrong I don’t know.

    What I’m worried about with the Arctic oil deposits is that they will just “high grade” them, like some predatory prospectors during the gold rushes used to do – grab the best deposits, take the easy oil, and move on.

    I do so hope that clean energy kicks the oil corporations asses, but I worry that it won’t do that in the Arctic and in Russia. For one thing, if Putin is lining his own pockets with oil money, he’s going to do anything he can to support the oil corporations in Russia, even picking the pockets of the Russian people to keep the Russian oil enterprises going.

    I worry about the probably massive leakage from Russian natural gas operations adding methane to the atmosphere. Russia may still believe that it will be an overall climate winner
    benefiting from higher temperatures, too.

    This whole thing is just terrible. If solar energy can save us from this bad dream, I hope it does so.

    • The place to hit the Russians might be in their overseas customers for their oil and gas. Perhaps their customers could persuade them to use their natural gas to generate electricity, deep inject the CO2, and just export the electricity via, for example, high voltage DC power lines.

      Boycotts of Russian gas and oil might get their attention, or stipulations from their customers that the natural gas be produced without massive leakage, along with international inspections to verify this. Some mechanism to put a price on Russian carbon emissions and then apply that to the prices they get for their gas and oil might persuade them, dunno.

      I need to look into Russian solar options. They do have a lot of land and a small percentage of it is desert, I think, along the southern border.

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