A recent article in Nature reports Jeff Dukes' calculation that it takes 23.5 tons of ancient plant material to produce one liter of gasoline.
In 1997, he points out, we burned fossil fuels equivalent to more than 400 times the amount of plant matter produced on Earth in the same year.
Despite these inefficiencies, fossil fuels created over the past 500 million years have given us a relatively inexpensive fuel source for the past 250 years. "It is fantastic stored free energy from the past, but it's not sustainable," Dukes says.
Bucky Fuller called this energy stored in the form of fossil fuels Earth's "cosmic energy savings account". As he pointed out in Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth and elsewhere, our daily energy "income" from the sun is vast in comparison to the energy we can obtain from burning up our "savings". Humanity's current approach is prodigal, but even worse it misses out on the incredible daily opportunity to use far great amounts of energy our planet gets for free.
Fuller put it this way in his 1981 book Critical Path:
. . . cosmic evolution is also irrevocably intent upon making omni-integrated humanity omnisuccessful, able to live sustainingly at an unprecedentedly higher standard of living for all Earthians than has ever been experienced by any; able to live entirely within its cosmic-energy income instead of spending its cosmic-energy savings account (i.e., the fossil fuels) or spending its cosmic-capital plant and equipment account (i.e., atomic energy) . . . a spending folly no less logical than burning your house-and-home too keep the family warm on an unprecedentedly cold midwinter night.
Humanity's cosmic-energy income account consists entirely of our gravity- and star(99 percent Sun)-distributed cosmic dividends of waterpower, tidal power, wavepower, windpower, vegetation-produced alcohols, methane gas, vulcanism, and so on. Humanity's present rate of total energy consumption amounts to only one four-millionth of one percent of the rate of its energy income.
Over twenty years later, nothing has fundamentally changed--not our approach and not the potential.
[Nature article link via Macroscopic Labs]
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