Wednesday, September 14, 2005

ergamine interlude

Three excellent new books
The first is Oil Addiction – The World in Peril (ISBN 1-58112-494-5) by Pierre Chomat, an ex-oilman. He introduces the term Ergamine (or energy slave) to refer to the energy released by fossil fuels. One gram of oil gives as much energy as a manual labourer can deliver in a day’s work. He quotes some nice examples : a plane load of tourists, flying from California to see the Great Pyramid of Egypt, consume as much energy as was used in building it. Running a domestic clothes-washer consumes as much energy as it would take a crane to lift the house 23 feet into the air. He points out how Modern Man is barely conscious of the massive amount of energy he consumes in the daily life during this most exceptional epoch in history. He links this dependence with recent geopolitical events and the posturing of governments incapable of facing the reality of what unfolds.

I watched "The End of Suburbia" with some friends last week -- discussing it afterwords I brought up this example -- and got teased a little bit. Justifiably so, as I mangled it in re-telling. The example seems to ignore the energy inputs for the manual labourer and focuses on what they can deliver.

So taking in the whole equation -- tracking how much energy is exerted to grow the food that the labourers eat and so on, would increase the overall energy requirements to build the Great Pyramid.

I also enjoyed Jon's claim that the energy it takes to make a Big Gulp Slurpee (Cherry flavor) is more than the energy it took to build the great wall of China (correct me if I got the details of his arguement mixed up :-).


At 7:09 AM, September 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One gram of oil does NOT give anywhere near as much energy as a manual laborer can deliver in a day's work. Chomat is apparently unaware that in the field of nutrition what are commonly referred to food calories are actually kilocalories. A gram of oil therefore provides about 10 food calories, not the 10,000 he claims. That's enough energy to fuel his manual laborer for about two minutes, not an entire day.

The average person consumes tens of grams of fat/oil a day. If Chomat's claim was true we'd all be morbidly obese.

At 11:50 AM, September 14, 2005, Blogger ben said...

This does work out. The energy density of oil is about 45MJ/kg, or 45000J/g which equals 10 kilocalories. Moving 2000kg up a distance of 2m, which Chomat says is pretty much a days worth of work, is also 40000J.

Some discussion here about this as well

At 12:48 AM, September 15, 2005, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

Thanks for the comments.

I am definately interested in checking out Chomat's book at this point -- another oil guy trying to work his way out of purgatory, so it seems, and his phrase "the egosphere" to describe our western systems made me laugh.

Thanks for the clarification on energy conversions, Ben.

Another way to look at it -- if a car can generate 200 HP on a ~pint of gas for 10 minutes, Chomat seems to be roughly correct. (Also, most people don't realize that the Pyramids were built relatively quickly, within a span of 20-40 years.)

I'll probably post more after I check out his book.

At 12:51 AM, September 15, 2005, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

HP = HorsePower - One horse, dripping snot, pulling a plow.

At 10:02 AM, October 10, 2005, Blogger odograph said...

Hello, I just got a copy of Chomat's "Oil Addiction" and have playing with my recacluation of the "ergamine."

I agree that he, his editor, or his translator, got tripped up on the calorie thing.

My posts are The Wrong Calories? and Bike versus Biodiesel


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