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German Military Study Warns of a Potentially Drastic Peak Oil Crisis

Der Spiegel. A study by a German military think tank, leaked on the Internet, has analyzed how peak oil might change the global economy.

The study is a product of the Future Analysis department of the Bundeswehr Transformation Center, a think tank tasked with fixing a direction for the German military. The team of authors, led by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Will, uses sometimes-dramatic language to depict the consequences of an irreversible depletion of raw materials. It warns of shifts in the global balance of power, of the formation of new relationships based on interdependency, of a decline in importance of the western industrial nations, of the “total collapse of the markets” and of serious political and economic crises.

The study, whose authenticity was confirmed to SPIEGEL ONLINE by sources in government circles, was not meant for publication. The document is said to be in draft stage and to consist solely of scientific opinion, which has not yet been edited by the Defense Ministry and other government bodies.

(A hat-tip to Will!)

Comments

richard schumacher

"The document is said to be in draft stage and to consist solely of scientific opinion, which has not yet been edited by the Defense Ministry and other government bodies." We can expect it to be watered down and much less dire in its final government-approved form.

Will S

A Google translation of the latter portions of section 3.2 (tipping point scenario) pulls no punches;

(Full report draft in German)

Banks lose their business base. You cannot pay interest on deposits, because they can not find creditworthy companies.

loss of confidence in currencies. The belief in the value-preserving function of money is lost. It only comes to hyper inflation and black markets, then to a tauschwirtschaftlichen organization at the local level.

collapse of value chains. Labor processes are based on the possibility of trade in precursors. The processing of the necessary transactions without money is extremely difficult.

Unbound monetary collapse. If currencies lose their value in their country of origin, they are no longer exchangeable for foreign currency. International value chains collapse as well.

Mass unemployment. Modern societies are organized labor and have throughout their history ever differentiated (specialized). Many professions have to deal only with the management of this high degree of complexity and nothing more with the direct production of consumer goods. The suggested here to reduce complexity of economies would in all modern societies, a dramatic increase in unemployment.

State bankruptcies. In the situation described State Revenue break away. The possibilities of the debt are limited.

collapse of critical infrastructure. Neither the physical nor the financial resources for the maintenance of adequate infrastructures. The problem is compounded by the interdependence between infrastructure and with different subsystems.

famines. Ultimately, it will provide a challenge-to produce food in sufficient quantity and distributed.

Henry Gibson

There is no shortage of coal in the US to make liquid fuels from for the next hundreds of years.

There is not even a possible shortage of energy from fission. All of the energy that a person would use in a lifetime, including indirect energy used to provide products and services, can be suppied with the six pounds of thorium that would fit in a COKE can. This is also greater than the amount of radio-active atoms that the fission process would produce that is the "massive amounts of nuclear wastes". We know how to keep people safe from nuclear wastes and waste more money doing it than we do to keep them safe from stairways to say nothing of texting and talking being used in automobiles.

Fission energy can be used to make automotive fuels, and it is being done in France when there is surplus electricity available from the nuclear reactors, and it is sometimes not as expensive as gasoline. Surplus electricity is far more efficiently used in electric cars. Electric cars can be made affordable and popular with smaller batteries and tiny range extenders. The oil speculators do not want another example of France converting nearly all of its oil produced electricity to nuclear.

Peak oil and peak energy is a fraud perpetrated by speculators in the oil market with much money and unlimited activities. It only costs less than $5 dollars a barrel to get oil out of the earth in most places. But oil price speculators are limiting the production and using many other means to keep the market price high. The massive profits from speculators pays for all promotions of the idea of peak oil or peak energy either directly or indirectly.

The oil companies and countries doing business in the US should be called before congress to show how much it costs to get oil out of each of its wells in the US and abroad. It is clear to almost anyone that thinks that there is not a free market in oil. The present supply of oil to the world is well known to be limited by known and unknow agreements.

The US government is going along with these agreements by prohibiting the conversion of coal to gasolinerunder the pretext that it will keep the production of CO2 low. Coal to gasoline conversion would save the US economy much money and will also be always profitable if there is a tax put on the import of oil.

The CO2 footprint of imported oil cannot be determined and with all the spills and flaring of natural gas and transportation costs it may be well above the CO2 costs of making gasoline or methanol from coal. In any case the CO2 produced in the US can be captured and put into oil fields to improve production.

The US government should have loan funds to immediatly start the production of Methanol at Dakota Gasification which does sell much of its CO2 to be put into oil wells. Methanol can be converted to gasoline or Methanol can be burnt directly with more efficiency in engines and was required and used in some race cars until ethanol from food became more politically correct. I will just mention here hungry sleeping Mexican and Haitian children.

The US goverments actions about CO2 are fraudulent unless they extend to rules that power companies must order quickly built CANDU reactors and operate them.

Massive amounts of oil and money from oil has been used to send a famous person around the world to promote indirectly the idea that gasoline from oil is still OK but it is not ok to make gasoline from coal. His failure to promote nuclear energy, which can have an immediate effect in reducing the release of CO2 in China and the US, is evidence of his duplicity even if unintentional at first.

China built two CANDU reactors almost simultaneously in less than five years and it could have been completing many a year with government funding. They do not require rare large high pressure containers that can be made only by two or three steel producers in the world.

MR CO2, Al Gore, has had enough time to discover and tell all of his audiences that every live thing has radioactive "waste" potassium from long exploded stars built right into every cell, so live things can survive limited amounts of radioactivity, and that the live cell can repair the damage in most cases and the creature can survive the killing of a cell in most other cases just as it does with disease. There are populations that have lived in naturally highly radioactive areas for centuries and more without apparent damage. Living at higher altitudes exposes people to double or more the nuclear rays from the universe. These are far more than any you get from a nuclear reactor building a few feet away.

There is no possibility of peak energy when there is enough uranium, alone, in the ocean to last the human race at double the present energy consumption rates until the sun explodes in five billion years, and this does not include uranium and thorium found in minerals.

Uranium can be extracted from ocean water at less than 10,000 dollars a pound and it has been extracted from the earth at less than 8 dollars a pound. A pound will produce 10,000,000 kilowatt hours of heat or at least 2,500,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. The remaining heat can be used to heat or cool buildings. This amount of electricity is sold for at least $50,000.

The "waste" fuel rods now in storage could supply all of the US electricity for fifty years or more if new reactors were built to use them efficiently, but right now the fuel in them can be combined with "waste", reduced U235 uranium from enrichment plants, known as "depleted uranium" and used in CANDU reactors. China is now actually using this process as a test. It was just easier to mine fresh natural uranium and use it in the past in CANDU reactors when it sold for $8 a pound.

The US could repackage its stored fuel rods and depleted uranium and pay CANADA and CHINA and INDIA and ROUMANIA and ARGENTINA to take them at far less cost than building a facility to store them. The US government can also order its own CANDU reactors to use this new fuel and these reactors would supply power for all US government activities. These used fuel rods can be then processed to remove fission products and used again and again with more used fuel from light water reactors.

The RUBBIA REACTOR can use all of the uranium and thorium delivered to it with on site repurification of the fuel. All the fuel metal actually fissioned in a day is less than 20 pounds at even the largest reactors.

Higher temperature reactors can make cheap liquid fuels from water and air just as plants do but without the large area requirements. ..HG..

SJC

Imagine that a few years from now an OPEC country says that they will sell NO more oil to the U.S. They can sell all they produce to India and China at a high price. We may go past filling stations where the signs show NO prices, because they have NO fuel.

TXGeologist

HG your off by about an order of magnitude on seawater uranium costs… from

Recovery System for Uranium from Seawater with Fibrous Adsorbent and Its Preliminary Cost Estimation, Takanobu Sugo, Masao Tamada, Tadao Seguchi, Takao Shimizu, Masaki Uotani, and Ryoichi Kashima et al.

“From such estimates, production unit cost of adsorbent was estimated to be 493,000 yen per ton (493 yen/kg). The quantity of recovered uranium becomes 120 kg per 1 ton of adsorbent for the case of 20 reuses. Therefore the adsorbent production cost required for recovery of 1 kg of seawater uranium is estimated to be 4,100 yen/kg-U. “

“The Japanese estimate that it would cost between 30,000 and 56,000 yen to recover one Kilogram of uranium from sea water. At the current exchange rate the yen is pegged at a little more that 100 per dollar. So the recovery cost would be between $250 and $135 a ton. “

“There are approximately four and a half billion tons of Uranium in the see. If you are worried about that running out, Jim Muckerheide has an interesting observation: "The consistent 3.3 ppb U in seawater is in chemical equilibrium. If it were being depleted, we would expect that additional U would be leached and put in solution from ocean bottoms, hydrothermal vents and cold seeps, and terrestrial sources (primarily through tidal pumping on the continental shelves, with some from rivers and other discharges). If we extracted a billion tons over hundreds of years, it is more likely that the oceans will contain nearly 4.5 billion tons than be reduced to 3.5+ billion tons."

From an interview pertaining to the above report.

"Estimates of the amount of uranium in the earth's crust is 40 trillian tons. If Jim Muckerheide is correct there is a chemical equilibrium between crustal uranium and uranium in the sea. Since the amount of uranium in the sea is a tiny fraction of the amount of uranium in the crust, the uranium supply in the sea will keep on replenishing as long as the earth lasts.”

That’s 250 American for a ton of uranium metal not oxide btw, since the CANDU reactor can use unenriched uranium fuel fabrication cost only include convert to UOx and sinter to fuel pellets in the dimensions to fit the Canflex bundle form. China has competed SIX yes SIX CANDU reactors on time and on or under budjet in 5 years or less from first concrete pour to first fueling, why BECAUSE THE D@MN GREENS CANNOT SUE IN THE USA ENDLESSLY TO INFLATE COSTS AND DELAY CONSTRUCTION TIMES sorry I had to yell that at the top of my lungs, the best thing for all of us who know nuclear power is safe, economical and green would be for d@mn ecofacists to shutup or be shutuped and get of the way, by force if necessary the Chicoms have no problems dealing with vocal minority dissenters.

Most people do not know that the LIFETIME energy consumption of the Average American including transportation energy, production energy and accessory manufacturing energies if all nuclear powered the “waste” and I mean real waste not the 95% of “waste that is still fuel could be stored in a volume that does not exceed 500ml, or a small soup can. Let that sink in the LIFETIME wastes at American consumption levels fits with reprocessing into a 500ml soup can and need to be stored away from the biosphere for 100,000 years not millions of years.

I am a Geologist and can point to over 50 places in the world that have rocks that have been geologically stable on the orders of tens to hundreds of millions of years and at least 10 place that have been stable for over a billion years this is where you entomb wastes, cold, dense dry rock that has not be geologically active in millions of years, below any water table in impermeable basement rock.

France stores ALL its wastes under 3 feet of concrete in a 40 x 40 meter room this is the waste from 35+ years stored in a room you can walk over, in fact the rad levels are so low in that room you get more rads on an average beach in the sun than sitting on the floor there.

Just like the global warming people have told the deniers its time to be quiet and move over, its time the nuclear supporters ended the civility the debate is over nuclear power is the answer now move out of the way or be moved its y’all choice.

TXGeologist

Sorry HG I noticed to late that the math got garbled in translation, they estimate the total costs at $49300 a metric ton for Uranium metal so you where right. This site has a better translation.

http://npc.sarov.ru/english/digest/132004/appendix8.html

even at those costs nuclear power is still cheap as fuel cost are a small portion <5% of the total cost of power to the bus bar.

Typically fuel burnup in a CANDU is only 6500 to 7500 MWD per metric ton uranium OXIDE, the Japanese are producing uranium metal converting it to oxide adds mass and the burn up are computer for uranium oxide not metallic U, one metric ton U makes 1.135 tons of UO2 so you have to take $49300 a ton for metal and cut that to 88.1% or $43436.12 a ton for oxide since one ton UO2 makes 6500 MegaWatt Days of power this is 6500*24*1000= 156000000 kilowatt hours which can be sold at retail for 8 cents per kwh or $12,480,000 in electricity sales I know this does not include fuel pellet fabrication costs nor O&M for the plant but it is easy to see the Japanese have solved the fuel availability problem in the long run it is only a matter of scaling up there process, and with scale prices always come down too. 50 grand fuel yields 12 million in electricity sales this is a no brainer for the Chinese’s who don’t have to listen to the econazis sqwak and inflate construction costs at least they will have a modern standard of living for the foreseeable future good thing they have a permanent residency program for qualified scientists and engineers they might be the last hope for modern life as the west lets the small much to outspoken fringe minority groups plunge them into national economic and cultural suicide.

HarveyD

The globe will never (in the foreseeable future) run out of energy, but it may, at times, be a challenge to capture it, transport and delivery it in a timely manner at an affordable price.

Wood and accumulated fossil fuels have been the main energy sources for centuries. Those limited sources were sufficient as long as per capita energy consumption and world population were low. As population and energy consumption multiplied over and over again, those two main sources produced too much pollution and started to run out.

For the last 100+ years Hydro electricity joined in as a third cleaner main source. In a few industrial countries, Hydro potential is almost 100% developed. However, less than 40% of the world Hydro potential has been developed. A lot remains to be done to at least double (possibly triple) current clean Hydro power production.

In the last few decades, three other main sources have been developed.

1) Nuclear, with almost 1000 plants in operation or being built worldwide, has a huge potential and may grow to be one of the major future energy source.

2) Wind, with many large wind turbine in operation or being installed, is the fastest growing energy source, i.e. about + 30%/year. It is already one of the main clean energy source in many areas. It has a huge future potential and could supply 20% to 40% of energy needs in certain places.

3) Solar is by far the one energy source with the greatest potential. The sun could supply many times the total worldwide energy required. Two major problems will have to be solved before solar energy becomes a major player. Much lower initial cost and an affordable way to store the energy produced for night time and rainy days.

Meanwhile, many will be tempted to produce cheap energy with plants and food stocks as was done with wood centuries ago. Agriculture, farmers and forestry lobbies will pressure governments to go back to this ancient method for quick profits. Some governments (and may be more) will sell out to get elected etc. In the end, it will be foolish to use good food producing land for energy while there are so many other sources.

Is it wise to let speculators decide which energy source is best suited for our own future? If we do, we can rest assured that the need for quick profit will decide and not our own welfare. The majority is not mature enough to see the difference. A recent survey found that the majority would chose $$$/profit over intelligence, health and education. That says a lot about us.

Henry Gibson

HG made a very large estimate of the price per pound of uranium from the sea from the memory of articles read. Of course nuclear energy would be used to help remove it cheaper.

HG is currently in favor of the thorium cycle in CANDU reactors. Automated purification processes will separate the fission product and recycle the fuel.

HG envisions that modified Rubbia Reactors will be able to use %100 of the uranium and thorium.

HG thinks that neptunium 237 should be extracted from the fuel and be changed to Plutonium 238 which can be used as a power source for many things with a half life of 88 years.

HG thinks that strontium 90 needs to be extracted from fission products to make a cheaper but slightly more difficult to manage power source, and it could be used in airplanes or small submarines.

HG totaly refutes the idea that any nuclear waste needs to be excluded from the biosphere. It just needs to be dispersed widely with a few atoms here and a few atoms there.

The Uranium sold with many lawn and garden fertilizers puts out gamma rays and the potassium 40 in every live cell puts out one of the higest power gamma ray photons of most isotopes. It also produces high speed ionizing positrons and electrons with more than a million electron volts of energy.

With all of the radioactive materials naturally in the biosphere, there is no reason to believe that an increase of 10 percent of the radio activity of the subsoil of a lawn would be significantly dangerous as every time a balanced fertilizer is added, the surface is much more radioactive. The use of cell phones for texting in cars is far more dangerous to the human race than putting very dilute fission products into lawn fertilizer or better, spraying it over very large areas of ocean surface.

Moving from the sea coast to a mile high elevation city can double the radiation received from space.

The radioactivity of the body's and soil's potassium lasts for billions of years. The uranium in the soil lasts about as long. Nuclear fission wastes are only dangerous when they are concentrated just like sunlight.

The book "On The Beach" and the movie "China Syndrome" were based on entirely false ideas about nuclear reactors and physics. But the false fears about nuclear reactors being nuclear bombs and nuclear radiation being deadly in all cases and amounts promoted by these materials and other has resulted in deaths of thousands, if not millions, because more nuclear energy is not being used.

If Bill Gates and Warren Buffet used their charity money to build a CANDU reactor near Haiti on a close island and gave 50 watts of power free to each house in Haiti and sell the rest to other countries or people, they would save more lives than many other humanitarian undertakings they could take. They would also start the recovery of the Haitian environment.

..HG..

TXGeologist

Well said HG I agree the fission gases should be released and diluted with air rater than storing them in pressure bottles underground, but the means to isolate the very small amount of solid fission products in silica boron glass and bury that away for all eternity from a human species point of view is just to solid a course than dilution into the biosphere. Once encased in this synthetic ceramic the fission products are locked chemically to the matrix and this matrix weathering rates even in acidic waters are on the order of a millimeter a millennium or less put another way to isolate the waste for 100000 years you need less than a centimeter of overglass around the waste containing matrix and even then only a mm a 1000 years would be released the idea is to put a full decimeter of overglass thus sealing the waste for millions of years. This glass does not shatter even at room temperature and at high pressure and temperature it flows like silly puddy. There is no physical process the earth can produce to shatter and disperse this matrix. This does not include the stainless steel container wrapped in reinforced aluminum-silica-calcium geocement itself a barrier coating good for thousands of years.

This level of containment is possible because post reprocessing the wates is of such little volume engineered solutions can get robust, like I said my life time energy use can be held in a 500 ml soup can. A 55 gal barrel of this waste wrapped in 1 inch of steel and 4 inches of geocrete could hold the wastes of roughly 416 people’s life time energy usage. 721,154 55 gallon drums covers all 300 million Americans which is 39 663 470 US gallons in volume = 150 142.567 cubic meters or a cube 54 meters on each side or 100m*100m*15m think two futbol pitchs to a depth of 15 meters this is for the LIFETIME energy use of all Americans we have salt mines with many many times this area already carved out this salt has been stable for millions of years perfect for storing ceramic waste drums. We could just chose to reprocess and matrix the waste just in glass then drop it into the abyssal deep of the ocean trenches it would sink and pierce the seafloors soft sediments to become entombed in the soft sediments, this is an anoxic environment with little to no water movement at that depth and none in the subsurface more sediments fall every year further burying the wastes eventually tectonics moves the plate down into the trench and further down into the mantle at a rate of 5cm a year in 100K years the waste would have only moved 5km down the trench but in 10 million years the now long decayed waste would be 500km down and well into the mantle buried for all eternity no really it takes billions of years for a full mantle convection cycle to take a subsided plate to the core mantle boundary and then send the material up to a hotspot volcano by this time our species will have long since died out, the average species gets 2.7 million years from first appearance date to last appearance date.

Treehugger

TXGeologist and Henry Gibson are 2 idiots who take their fantasy for realities, by the way if you extract all the gold diluted in sea water we could make everybody rich, right? Their unreadable blabla and projection is about the same level of idiocy

Darius

But in order to solve issues mentioned in the arcticle it is not enough to be 100% nclear power generation like in France. You have to have synthetic fuel production or mass vehacle electrification. I would chouse electrification.

Will S

We don't have time to build our way out of an energy descent - the permanent decline will take place in this decade, if not in the next 2 years.

Reel$$

Oh my... the German military has created a doomsday scenario to justify their agendas. Nothing new there. The HG TXGeologist exchange is valid. We do need nuclear in the energy portfolio. And there are new, safer methods of handling the waste. But it should be a portion of the portfolio - not the entire picture.

The petroleum market has already started its decline. With yet another fire on a deep water drill rig - there is little political gain in supporting this outdated method of energy production. But the transition to new forms of energy will be gradual and ordered. No drama. No "peak." Fossil will be the fuel of choice for the new generation of FC-based combined heat and power units. This is just beginning to appear and will create JOBS, security, stability and limit the political influence of utility monopolies.

There is ordered progress beginning right now with electrification of transport. EVs are here, here to stay and completely obviate ICE. Live with it. Any attempt to subvert this transition will result in the early introduction of disruptive energy technology - which will be catastrophic for the old school.

We ARE phasing out fossil (coal) generation and replacing it with less volatile NG as a transitional fuel. Meanwhile we accelerate electrification and build modern nuclear (CANDU seems reasonable.) And introduce mass marketed CHP for residential and small industry.

These projects will stop the export bleed of $500B for foreign oil. And alternative energy products must be built domestically as part of the economic stabilization program. All this is in the works. The German mil just doesn't know it. We do.

Will S

Reel wrote;

No "peak."

You are making assumptions about the rapid transition to other energy forms that has no basis in history, nor have you spent much time thinking through what it would actually take to avert a peak within the next 5 years.

We certainly cannot build very many nuke plants within that time (planning for each takes at least 1/2 that time), and it would be impossible to ramp up to doing a significant number (i.e., 15+) at the same time due to the single production facilities.

Treehugger

Sure peak oil and energy transition is manageable but it won't be "a day at the beach" fossil energy are powering 90% of energy need as well as fertilizer production to feed the human, but also the asphalt of our roads and the clothes we wear to cite a few of how much we are dependent on fossil energies. Nothing of what we see around us would be possible without fossil energies. If the price of fossil energies increase to fast it is the world economy that tank right away. Many countries cannot afford an increase in the prices of food because food is already 90% of their expense, 3 billions people live like that. Oil a 200$ a barrel would have geopolitical implications that could shake our whole civilization, all these high tech alternatives so far haven't proven that they can be scaled and they are too expensive for most of people on this planet. The implication of peak fossil are so big that they are almost unthinkable. Those who claim that electric cars will replace petroleum powered car as easily as horses were replaced by cars should think again, nuclear hasn't kill coal made electricity or NG made electricity, but the oil shock of the 70s has revived coal electricity that was in decline since the 2nd word war. So these rosy predictions that we will all move to electric cars powered by electric wind energy and nuclear energy are interesting but their ignore the reality of massive energy transition

Reel$$

Iraq, Saudi, Alberta, CTL - these all eliminate a "peak" in North America for another century. By the time that oil runs out we will be well onto entirely new forms of energy represented by entirely new forms of physics.

The gloom and doom scenarios are old fashioned and outdated. Change comes for real practical reasons - not the imaginings of VR programmers. The energy issue is now driven by two major factors:

ECONOMY - jobs & $500B annually for foreign oil addiction
SECURITY - sending $$Billions to foreign entities and our military to fight them. NA held hostage by OPEC embargo.

The third factor is far down the list of public concerns unfortunately - environment. But hey, two outta three ain't bad.

Will S

"Iraq, Saudi, Alberta, CTL - these all eliminate a "peak" in North America for another century."

Iraq estimates are currently wildly over-optimistic, to attract investment and to grab a bigger piece of the OPEC quota pie (each countries' contribution percentage is based on their claimed reserves).

Saudi Arabia has been pumping tremendous amounts of oil for many decades, though has not reduced their reserve estimates, but increased them.

Alberta tar sands have a number of issues; high water consumption, high natural gas consumption, tremendous amounts of water pollution, low EROEI, and questionable technical and economic viability of deeper deposit extraction.

CTL: Massive emissions of GHG, questionable amount of coal reserves, lower quality coal remaining, long lead time to switch-over.

wesmontage

HG,

That London Daily Telegraph article about thorium reactors that you like to keep quoting has got a few concepts about them wrong. If only it were that simple to do. Have a look at this blog page, written by a nuclear physicist:
http://helian.net/blog/2010/09/01/nuclear-weapons/subcritical-thorium-reactors-dr-rubbias-really-bad-idea/

Reel$$

Will, even with all your caveats, the resources for a century of fossil remain. There are shortcuts to new energy resources, but we are trying to remain conventional so as to prevent huge economic disruption.

My point is simply that without peaks and climate - there are still HARD irrefutable reasons to end the oil addiction. ECONOMICS, and SECURITY are the two big players right now.

Harry Bill75

The rising oil price has relatively affected the global financial conditions. These are affecting the sales of the German cars in many countries such as in less developed countries. Since in many countries the present economic conditions of the people are not good so it is too hard for the people to go for these oil price hike.

Smart Car Repair

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