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[The Apollo Alliance calls for “New transit system starts, maintenance of the nation’s passenger train system, development of regional high speed rail networks, and improvements in the nation’s roads and highways…” FTW seconds the call for railroad infrastructure. But investment in “roads and highways” is a mistake. It feeds our dependence on trucking (and the car culture), just when we urgently need to relocalize food production and link localities by rail. That’s where public money should be put – not into a sinkhole for heavy sour crude products in need of a market. With the 2005 Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, $244 billion has just gone to a pie which will be carved in three unequal pieces called “highway, transit and rail.” We’ll see where the cuts fall.

As was recently pointed out at the Petrocollapse conference in NYC, the right analogy for U.S. survival is no longer Apollo 11; it's Apollo 13. They had their emergency dropped in their laps with no foreknowledge; we wasted ours when we politically killed President Carter. Now we're all in that busted spaceship, improvising. -JAH]

The Demise of Business as Usual

An Apollo Project For Energy Can Succeed, But Not In A Market Economy


Thomas L. Wayburn
PhD in Chemical Engineering


© Copyright 2005, From The Wilderness Publications, www.fromthewilderness.com. All Rights Reserved. This story may NOT be posted on any Internet web site without express written permission. Contact admin@copvcia.com. May be circulated, distributed or transmitted for non-profit purposes only.

Arithmetical and Logical Absurdities in THE APOLLO JOBS REPORT
The following is a discussion of “New Energy for America, The Apollo Jobs Report: Good Jobs and Energy Independence for America,” published by the Apollo Alliance. The large number of absurd statements in this document can be attributed principally to (i) the notion that growth within a finite world is sustainable into the indefinite future, and (ii) the idea that one can conserve energy by increasing economic activity.

On page 3, we read “The American economy will not grow its way out of problems thirty years in the making without real political leadership.” It is absurd to imagine that we can grow our way out of our fundamental problem which is growthitself. Our problems began in prehistory probably, but certainly no later than the dawn of the industrial revolution.

“The new Apollo Project is based on the recognition that clean energy can be the next great engine of jobs and growth …” begins the next paragraph. The absurdity of “jobs and growth” in a finite world has been discussed. The Apollo Project could have a similar effect upon the economy as, for example, war, by stimulating the economy (temporarily) with government spending at the expense of increased debt — except that the result of the spending would not be wasted as it would be if it were spent on war.

On page 8 we read, “… the industries necessary to meet the goals of Apollo on average pay higher wages and provide better benefits... Increased investment and access to capital can be used as tools for economic development, increasing local investment within communities, stabilizing basic industries to retain jobs, and creating new markets that build entirely new industries. By reinvesting in our industrial jobs base and focusing on new construction and new infrastructure and public investment, these jobs can also help create and retain good union jobs that ensure family supporting wages.

Let me remind the reader that most of our problems stem from the lavish lifestyles of Americans, which, as Mr. Cheney pointed out, “are not negotiable”. These remarks promise even higher standards of living, which, as this study shows, would not “reduce national energy consumption by 16%”, as stated on page 8 of The Apollo Jobs Report, but would increase energy consumption exponentially if the promises could be kept.

Also on page 8 we read, “Transportation infrastructure improvements will also create substantial employment in sectors with good pay and benefits. New transit system starts, maintenance of the nation’s passenger train system, development of regional high speed rail networks, and improvements in the nation’s roads and highways will all generate significant numbers of jobs in basic industries.

Infrastructure investments also guarantee that spending is made locally, directly stimulating the domestic economy, supporting small business and regional labor markets.” While these remarks seem to encourage mass transit, they may, in fact, merely encourage travel. Moreover, as Steven Koonin points out in “ A Physicist's View of the World's Energy Situation ”, more efficient transportation will, almost certainly, result in more travel even if standards of living do not rise. However, with more money to spend, it is difficult to imagine that Americans will spend less time in their cars or make shorter trips.

On page 33 we read, “Finally, efficiency offers real savings to consumers, meaning that working families have more money to spend on other goods and services within their local economies rather than spending money on expensive energy imports that drain local resources.” Once again, in a final example of absurdities in The Apollo Jobs Report, the Alliance seems to be unaware of the energy associated with all “goods and services” or is pretending to be unaware of it. In fact, when Americans buy domestically-made products in 2005, they are purchasing approximately 2.8 kilowatt-hours per US dollar; when they purchase $50 foreign oil, they purchase approximately 34 kilowatt-hours per US dollar! Despite its advisability, energy independence per se will lower the (average) American standard of living.

Synopsis of Computations
The spreadsheet calculations for this study are described in detail in the computational section of “On the Conservation-within-Capitalism Scenario” where the assumptions determining the energy supply are discussed. After verifying the limits on wind and solar power, we assume that the bound of 45.7 quads per year from renewables computed by Pimentel et al. is reached quickly with an Apollo-like effort. But, because the ingenuity of man is boundless, the energy from renewables is increased slightly each year thereafter.

The rate at which energy and other imports are repatriated is established by the growth in GDP of 1.4 trillion US dollars promised by AA. The effect upon the energy budget is predicted by the methodology described above. The number of NPIs is calculated from the energy budget and from technical data in the nuclear literature. The land area required for NPIs is estimated from field data. The computational section ends with the determination of capital costs and their associated energy.

The five cases are: (i) the Reference Case with robust growth predicted by AA, (ii) the One-Percent Growth Case, (iii) the No-Growth Case, (iv) the No-Growth and No-Sales Case, and, finally, (v) the case of the Natural Economy. All five scenarios begin with a concerted effort toward conservation and renewable energy worthy of an Apollo Project and end with the results shown in Table 4 of “On the Conservation-within-Capitalism Scenario.”

The Reference Case
During the first ten years of the Apollo Alliance program, Americans would enjoy an increase in the average standard of living, as measured by energy consumed percapita corrected for conservation of about 3.09% per annum. The Reference Case shows that, if the AA promise of such growth were kept, the United States would need, by the year 2100, over 78,000 new nuclear power installations with an average capacity of 1000 megawatts electrical equivalence. The average rate of energy use per person would be an orgiastic 296 kilowatts, i.e., 21,623 kilowatt-hours/month measured as heat equivalents – approximately thirty times the current American lavish usage. Imagine the amount of motion, noise, and environmental destruction that would be generated by a person consuming energy at this rate. Most of this energy would be consumed by working people operating unimaginably expensive equipment – not the least of which would be the nuclear power installations themselves. But, this won’t happen. Such a rate of increase of energy consumption per person is unsupportable.

One-Percent Growth
In the One-Percent-Growth Scenario, Apollo-like efforts toward change are abandoned after thirteen years. Presumably, people who recoil at the thought of more than 78,000 new Nuclear Power Installations will not be especially comforted by the assurance that, by allowing growth to return to 20 th Century norms, only 12,000 need be built.

The No-Growth Scenario
Just as in the One-Percent Growth Scenario (above), Apollo-like changes occur from 2005 to 2018, by which time trade imports have been brought to zero. From 2018 to 2025, the exports are brought to zero, after which no further change in GDP occurs. The population is stabilized at 328,541,308—presumably because immigration is prohibited or is no longer attractive. The typical flow of money is expected to be from poorer toward richer, especially if no political changes are made to prevent this from happening or to equilibrate wealth by other means. With population and energy fixed at the 2018 figure, the additional nuclear capacity required to balance the energy budget due the loss of other resources is much less — but not zero. The No-Growth Scenario without fundamental political change amounts to a reversion to Feudalism. This is not a stable situation.

The No-Growth and No-Sales Scenario
First, Americans must understand that all economic activity results in the flow of embodied energy (emergy) and/or primary energy (exergy); next they should be asking themselves which economic activities are truly useful and which are harmful. One of the principal absurdities of American life is the amount of effort (energy) that goes into convincing people that they need something that, if it were not for this effort, they wouldn’t have missed. Sales and marketing is the third largest category of employment behind office work and government work.

Many conventional economies have discovered that, when public policy or some cataclysmic economic event eliminates a large number of jobs suddenly, many other jobs become superfluous through a sort of domino effect. Thus, in the No-Growth and No-Sales Scenario , energy demand can be reduced by at least 25%.

Energy in a Natural Economy
The energy consumed by an American-type, Capitalist-style, quasi-market economy in simply dividing up the pie is wasted and is not affordable in the shadow of Peak Oil. Whereas capitalism enriches a small fraction of the population, it more or less impoverishes most of the population relative to the mean. The poor in a rich imperialist country like the United States consume more real wealth than the poor in a Third World country, therefore their exploiters can keep them quiet with constant reminders as to how much better off they are than people elsewhere. Nevertheless, many people favor capitalism—presumably because they keep hoping that they will be one of the lucky ones who become rich even though their chances of doing so are negligible. As the circumstances attendant upon Peak Oil obtrude upon such people, they will be hard pressed to retain their propaganda-induced faith in a failed system (see “Psychology as a Tool of Political Repression”).

Great savings were achieved in the No-Growth and No-Sales Scenario by eliminating the profit motive and permitting the economy to shrink while retaining central planning. In a Natural Economy, as I argue in my book, we can do even better. On Sheet 2 of , the population is reduced to one-half of its present value by 2089. On Sheet 3 of , I have accounted for savings of nearly 50% of the energy demand by 2025. In the earlier paper, “Energy in a Natural Economy,” I justified the elimination of 75% of the energy demand. Therefore, the present result is conservative.

An energy budget in 2025 of 69.7 emquads or 2.34 TWyears/year would be greater than the current world average, but less than our current consumption of five times the world average. Moreover, we would be able to produce most of the 2.34 TW from renewable technologies and supply the rest with domestic gas for as long as it took to decentralize, de-urbanize, convert to small sustainable technologies, and progress further along the path to a safe, sustainable, natural society—in short, a family of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children living in relative accord with Nature and with each other. Scientists who believe that our love of natural beauty has evolved because of the ecological importance of leaving Nature undisturbed should favor the Natural Economy. Nothing from our evolutionary past or our genetic present precludes it.


Thomas L. Wayburn earned degrees in chemical engineering and mathematics in three different decades. He has been elected to a number of honor societies and, in 1987, won the Ted Peterson award for the best paper written by a student in computers and systems technology. This was the year in which a 1956 recording of Tom with legendary jazz pianist Lennie Tristano and bassist Peter Ind was released. He has worked as a chemical engineer, a jazz drummer, and a college professor of mathematics and chemical engineering thermodynamics and design. Lately, he has been writing papers based upon mathematical studies of energy and economics and keeping up a voluminous correspondence.

A 1997 resume can be found at http://web.wt.net/~twayburn/Resume97.html

Referenced Hyperlinks
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