Site logo


Coal, Oil & Gas. Wind, sunshine & weather. Nuclear fuels.

Stacks Image 1858
Great technologies evolve - the Bullet Train.
(1) Stephenson's Rocket, 1842, as Dinky toy.
Didcot power station
Longannet: Scotland's largest coal station on the Firth of Forth.
(2) Coal dominates electricity production.
Cadillac Escalade
Toyota Hybrid Concept. Cut waste and emissions.
(3) Awash with liquid fuels?
Australian Uranium Mine
Ujita: Uranium peaks if reactor fuels are not bred or recycled.
(4)Australian URANIUM
A steel blast furnace
World supplies of steel mirror the world economy.
(5)Steel Blast Furnace
Itaipu hydroelectricity on the Yangtse
Hydroelectricity plays a minor role int the EU DESERTEC plan.
(6)The largest Hydroelectri dam on the Yangtse river.
Windmills at Sunset
Chinese solar energy map. Tibetan plateau is high, clear and too windswept.
(6)Static windmills at sunset.

Click on the left side gallery to follow their story.The navigation links on the left take you to Openers for the Economics Avenue. The picture links to the right take you to all the Reports for Economics.

This website addresses all the major sources of energy on the planet. Only humans were able to start and control fires for warmth, cooking, and security. Fire also produced pottery,the metallurgy of gold, copper, bronze and iron, and the chemistry of many other materials.

Water and wind mills have existed for thousands of years and are now evolved by modern technology into significant source of electricity.

We have come to realise that all these resources are finite and all have environmental impacts.We are also aware that cleanup is far more costly than a system managed for minimum damage. We know enough to plan a future over millennia but are not smart enough to implement any plan which impedes near term profits. Fossil fuel use should be spread over several centuries, not all burned in this century.

Let us catalogue the resources for energy production and some options….

Fossil Fuels

(1) The big move to coal started as the heat source for steam engines, steel production and railways. Coal has been superseded by diesel and electric rail.

(2) Coal remains dominant for electricity power stations. This use should be cut by 80% by 2050 to avoid major global warming, but this policy faces a powerful coal lobby and a strong desire for electricity.

(3) Liquid fuels from oil have a much higher energy density and allowed for small, powerful petrol and diesel engines.

BP produces the most independent view of energy resources and how they are used. The rise of shale oil recovery has opened up a major new oil resource, though at a much higher cost than conventional oil wells. However, the claims, as always, are exaggerated and it will be 10 years before the true recovery levels will be known.

As discussed in the Markets section, Exxon sees a large rise in the use of fossil fuels to 2040, but at a price. The US is encouraged to continue wasting fuel on inefficient vehicles and transport systems.

Reports by Mott Macdonald and Poyry are quite thorough in their analysis of contributory factors.

Clean Fuels: Uranium, Thorium, and Hydrogen

(4) Finally, the discovery of the Fusion of heavy Hydrogens and the Fission of heavy elements revealed the highest energy density fuels in the universe. These will power humanity into and out of our own solar system.

It is often claimed that with current technology there is plenty of Uranium on the planet for this century. This is only true if the nuclear programme is small, with minimal impact on global warming. A recent Japanese paper (Ujita et al.) explores this and security issues to find that Uranium supply could peak by 2050.

In fact, Uranium and Thorium could produce all the world's electricity for thousands of years with advanced reactor designs. The world's largest energy source is already in storage as Depleted Uranium.

(5 ) Many metals have important roles in the production and use of energy. Steel is vital to our civilisation today. World steel production follows the global economy quite closely. The first global producer was Great Britain, bringing in the industrial revolution. The UK is now 18th in the global rankings.
The global production and price of steel mirror the world economy quite closely.

Reactor grade steel alloys need to be of high purity for strength and radiation resistance. The leading EU producer is the Finnish company, OutoKumpu.

We continue to get smarter about the extraction and use of materials - but maybe dumber about environmental and social impacts. A new electrolytic process for extracting very pure Iron from molten iron oxide has been announced by MIT. Can this be scaled up to the million tonne level or will it be limited to specialised steels for corrosive or nuclear environments?


6) Hydroelectricity plays a key role in supporting intermittent sources like wind and solar power. Hydro needs mountains and rivers to fill the dams and is weather dependent and varies by wet and dry years.

Pumped water storage can absorb excess wind and solar energy for short periods and release the energy when wind or solar drops. This is only a 'crossover' energy supply.

Hydroelectric dam sites in Europe have mostly been taken up and only small river opportunities remain.

(7) Wind and Solar power need the right locations, usually at sea, on high hills and mountains, or in deserts. Few people actually live there so the energy has to be transported by continental grids to users. Steel and Copper are major system costs but supply is not an issue.
Limits to growth
Hopeful Uranium prices
Agent modelling
Agent modelling is needed.
Wind Technology improves
Aussie Uranium
Shale Gas as LNG
Shale Gas as LNG?
opencast coal
Coal rules for decades.