Growth, GDP and energy consumption: the energy sources

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Energy and Economic Growth: A BRIEF SUMMARY! by Remi Guillet. 2ieme party: energy sources, fossil or not.

Read Part 1: energy consumption and economic growth, Part 3: taxes and economic solution?.

The use of fossil fuels in the world ...

A closer look tells us that in reality about 95% of the fossil "energy" matter is transformed into energy, the rest also having a very important role for growth and economic development because at the base of a transformation industry "Petrochemical" with multiple facies and often high added value: plastics, composites and other derivatives of the polymerization of naphtha extracted from petroleum ... going to the ultimate tars for our roads. Thus, a person born after 1980 has lived almost exclusively in a domestic environment made of plastic in all its forms!

But among the different forms taken by fossil energy, oil is undeniably the most sought-after form today, for its liquid form, its stability under normal atmospheric conditions of pressure and temperature, for its energy density (energy per unit volume and weight), the "storability" or ability to be shipped fuels that are extracted. Oil is par excellence the energy of land transport, maritime and even more air, covering up to 95% the energy needs of the world transport! (This also corresponds to 52% of total oil consumption and 23% of total global energy consumption).

To support our purpose and the strategic importance of oil, it is recalled that, until the mid 50 years, finding a natural gas field in place and instead sought oil was a curse ... and there was that burn the damn gas flare! (France was the first country in Europe to develop the natural gas with the Lacq field which started operation at the time).

oil use worldwide by sector

The uses of petroleum in the world (according 1999 data from the Energy Observatory)

The condition of the fossil energy reserves ...

The consumption of fossil energy is not renewed (at least in our time scale), it is a stock to be considered as a boon offered by nature ... a stock where you drew (and continues to do!) without counting! And since every tank has a bottom, this stock is exhausted and some now became anxious to know when the well will dry up, when the manna of operations will begin its decline, the time of peak - oil. In fact, if the issue is debated among experts all believe that children born today will live to adulthood, this time ... then the shortage and all that that will induce voltages of various types including geopolitical ... So basically, the peak oil in 15 30 years and years does not change the problem, nor for our generation, nor for the following!

But, from our point of view, and perhaps fortunately, the ecological constraint must reasonably force us to "changes of course" which will affect in particular our craze for oil well before the peak-oil ... (or other peak-gas) and peak-coal announced for later)

Here are some tips on stocks and their possible evolution (data collected on the site Manicore-Jancovici).

The "top" of the range of ultimate world fossil fuel reserves was 2005 at about 4 000 Gtep (4 000 billion oil-equivalent tonnes), broken down as follows:

a) About Gtep's 800 of "Proven" Reserves

Proven world reserves = fossil resources

* About 9 Gtoe fossil energy per year
** Eg oil shale and other natural bitumens

(b) 3 000 Gtep could be added to so-called "additional" reserves: these reserves consist of the extractable fraction of all the hydrocarbons contained in tanks to be confirmed (to be "discovered"), as well as in the tanks already discovered and which will be put into operation when the technique has progressed ...)
About other energy sources, today 4% of the total ... (tomorrow hedge substantially all of our energy needs!)

Nuclear power

One seldom speaks of uranium reserves: 100 years 1000 years or ...?

According to the French Society of Nuclear Energy: "Used in the current reactors, the uranium resource is, like the oil resource as it is appreciated today, at the scale of the century. On the other hand, thanks to fast neutron reactors, it could cover our needs over several millennia ... ".

What about "renewable"

Apart from the production of domestic hot water and space heating (via solar panels for example ...), renewable energies are primarily intended to produce electricity ... an often expensive electricity!

Comparison of electricity production costs

According to "primary" energy sources (in cts of € / kWh)

Table based on data from UNDP and DGEMP; costs that do not take into account "externalities" or indirect costs such as nuisances ...

Compare the cost of electrical energy according to its source, renewable or not

Val. low. the bF = in relation to the lowest value of the "bottom of the forks"

Val. low. of the hF = in relation to the lowest value of the "top of the range"

For example, the PV is between 25 and 125 € cents / kWh, it is therefore between 12,5 35,7 both Rb and Rh times.

Additional explanations: to facilitate the comparison of prices, the author reported each min / max range of cost 2 to the lower costs, high and low estimate.

That is to say:
- Rb, low estimate Lowest = 2 (reached for hydraulic)
- Rh high estimate Lowest = 3.5 (achieved for nuclear nuclear).

So this allows you to see at a glance if an energy has "chances" to be competitive with others. For example, photovoltaics is very far from being the case.

The often very open ranges are explained by the variety of sites, infrastructure costs (construction, operations, human resources ...).

Hydraulic energy

The best sites for traditional hydro (dams) are operated today. Among the great unknowns of today, we will discuss the uncertainty about climate change and its implications on the hydrology, the ability to obtain acceptance (Democratic) destruction of natural sites for this purpose!

then remain the hydraulic micro turbine or over water ... whose potential is huge!


This technique of producing electricity is to 12 36 times more expensive than traditional hydraulic or nuclear. It requires a large footprint. Its application is the problem of electricity storage ...
So, great hopes are based on lithium technology. Through batteries, photovoltaic and electric car so have linked destinies ... with the same tensions over the supply of lithium (in limited quantities and poorly distributed Bolivia, Tibet ...).

Wind and "hydraulien"

In this case, the production of electricity is to 2,5 3,7 times more than hydro or nuclear power. Moreover, we begin to understand the noise pollution caused by onshore wind. In the case of the submerged hydrauliennes technology, it is very likely that local marine ecosystems will be disrupted.
So both technologies to follow ...


Although wood is not the only "biomass" resource, trees and other forests are a dual issue. As a source of energy (and building materials), they also constitute the "terrestrial carbon sink", after the oceans *. So it is important to remember that an adult tree that is felled will only be replaced in terms of its photosynthetic capacity and thus the absorption of CO2 after several decades. And this remark takes the greatest importance when we are told that we have only 15 years to react and thus limit global warming to a few degrees (we are not precise about the number!).
So be reasonable does not it imply that, today, there is a worldwide moratorium of at least 15 years on deforestation?
* Although their warming upsets the increase, the oceans have their acidity increase with atmospheric content CO2 inducing a significant risk for the development of plankton and ultimately on the entire life chain. The major risk is runaway warming.


Biofuels are also expensive to produce. To launch them (make them competitive), many states are ready to tax them (see part 3: development on taxes, then we will have an idea of ​​the average cost of their production!). In addition, and for certain regions of the world and certain "sectors", the carbon footprint of the "biofuel operation" is very controversial!
But the recurring news on this theme reminds us of the most fundamental challenge of biofuel: with him and after the "Drink or Drive" time has come to Eat or Drive! ".

In reality, for its use as fuel, oil substitution sector remains to find. Thus, we turn now to the (micro) algae and ... "The algocarburant" inaugurates (already!) The third generation of biofuel. There is a strategic issue of the highest importance.

Other "future": the methane hydrates.

Methane hydrates are less publicized. However, already around the year 2000 we hear tell the Californian Institute of Oceanography Scripps (La Jolla) there was 3000 years of methane hydrate reserves in deep sub - marine (he s 'These 6 7 to water molecules under the conditions of temperature and pressure prevailing, a trap methane molecules).

This information is found today for example on the website "media library of the sea":
"... On our planet, the seabed and permafrost would contain some 10 000 billion tons of methane hydrates, twice the reserves of oil, natural gas and coal combined. Since these reserves are dispersed in sediments, they can not be extracted by conventional drilling, and harvesting and routing techniques need to be developed. It is estimated that the quantity of this resource in the sea around Japan alone is equivalent to 100 years of national consumption of natural gas ... ".

Then, we will add: Why not imagine, rather than "extract", "consume" these methane hydrates, in situ, by robots producing electricity on site while the O2 would also be taken on site eventually from the atmosphere, the CO2 released to the same depths dissolved by seawater and then retransformed by photosynthesis by the aquatic flora ... thus having little chance of reaching the atmosphere!

– En savoir plus et en débattre sur les forums: Energy and GDP Synthesis
- Read Part 3: taxes on energy in the world. Towards a new economic model?


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