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Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Fri Oct 12, 2018 1:17 am
by JamesR

Sure would be nice if the price of fossil fuels had their replacement value factored in, for even just 10%, rather than just mainly based on extraction cost only.

P.S: Looks like Stuart McMillion is an Australian comic artist that does long-form comics on environment/social issues. is also a good one.

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Fri Oct 12, 2018 5:57 am
by vexed87
Great job here by the author. Thanks for sharing JamesR, bookmarked and I'll be sharing with a few people who might benefit from this style of delivery!

If we priced petroleum products at replacement cost, it wouldn't even be that useful, perhaps except for a select few applications, and even then only achievable by pooling the resources of nation states or monarchs.

More people need to be familiar with these concepts, because the limitations imposed directly impact our practical ability to respond to our resource problems.

The genie is going back in the bottle, but only because some people can't afford to rub it anymore, me thinks self-restraint is a long way away for many that still have the means.

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Fri Oct 12, 2018 12:14 pm
by jacob
These are excellent!

This on top of another favorite of mine who recently surrendered to the adpocalypse finally spurred me to toss some coin into the patreon river.

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Fri Oct 12, 2018 3:01 pm
by suomalainen
Combining this thought with a thought on the FIRE reaching critical mass thread, it's interesting that the FIREcalc, Shiller and other observations of the market's long-term performance coincides precisely (and only) with the era of cheap energy (starting late 1800s at the earliest). In other words, how relevant is the past fifty years of market return data to the next fifty years? past 100 years to future 100 years? At the margin, only 50 years matters to me, but ~100 years will matter to my children and therefore derivatively to me. Is there any chance of financial assets becoming entirely irrelevant?

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Fri Oct 12, 2018 3:30 pm
by jacob
Weave these two chains together.
Energy => Food => #Humans => GDP => Market performance
Energy => Technological level => GDP => Market perforrmance
Might look diversified, but they both start at the same point... so not really.

I'd say the 20th century [market performance] matters relatively little when calculating 21st century returns. This depends very much on the EROEI of oil-replacements (wind, solar, and battery storage). It is that number that determines which level/complexity of civilization can be sustained. (A lower value can maintain a preexisting one for a while but it's eventually gonna run down due to lack of maintenance.)

There's no chance of financial markets becoming entirely irrelevant on a wide scale although they can certainly become irrelevant on a local or regional scale. (See e.g. the losers of WWII) Markets have existed for at least 2000 years. There are some comments in the ERE book about "pig lending" and the kinds of interest rates derived from that hinting in the direction of the reader needing to do further research as they invest for the future (instead of the past).

I did "design" ERE to be a lot more resilient than FIRE.

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Fri Oct 12, 2018 7:55 pm
by daylen
Great comic. I subscribed on Patreon for $1.03 a month. Word needs to get out.

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Fri Oct 12, 2018 8:43 pm
by SavingWithBabies
This makes me wonder about solar but not just solar but sustainable solar that is created only using solar energy. I get the oil is and will be the bootstrap for solar (it's in the comic). The part I'm curious about is making solar cells efficiently without oil and how realistic that is. Solar cells degrade over time and accidents happen so they need to be replaced. And ideally, they could be made at greater than replacement rate to provide needed capacity. Really great comic though. I wonder how it will play out time-wise in terms of oil increasing in cost and people bootstrapping solar while lowering consumption to sustainable levels.

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Sat Oct 13, 2018 8:18 am
by jacob
@SWB - That's where the EROEI concept enters. This essentially determines how many slaves are available for the rest of the economy. E.g. if it's 20, then 1/20=5% of the energy goes to replacing the energy. If it's 5 then 20% of the energy is held back to keep the system going. EROEI for fossil fuels are continuously dropping because it's getting harder and harder to find and extract (produce) energy; whereas PV is getting higher as technology improves.

However, calculating those values exactly is rather hard; especially since they rely on the current energy-mix. Nobody wants to do an experiment where a PV cell is built exclusively from machinery running on solar operated by a civilization that runs on solar. It's essentially an experiment we can't run in practice since all these energy systems are deeply integrated in the system.

It would be hard for me to imagine mining for rare earth metals with excavators running on solar. OTOH, there are battery driven semi-trucks at this point. In any case, a solar civilization is going to look very different from a carbon civilization.

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Sat Oct 13, 2018 11:56 am
by daylen
The extra three cents is not from fees (I paid with debt card). I just like to be a little different, and three is my favorite number. On the website it states that fees can occur with select payment services such as PayPal. The following is from the website. I am not sure how this works in practice, though.
Payment Processing Fees - the cost of moving funds from your patrons to your creator balance. This fee can be viewed in your Dashboard and is listed as the "Processing Fees".

Payment processing fees represent the amount that our payment processors (e.g., Stripe and PayPal) charge each time they process a payment. Payment processors typically charge a percentage of each pledge plus a fixed number of cents.

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Sat Oct 20, 2018 3:00 pm
by SavingWithBabies
@jacob EROEI is quite interesting and I stumbled across a prior thread that dives into this topic more: The true ERoEI of solar power today. I guess one approach is maybe to farm denser energy producing plants and then use those for energy intensive work. That would require a system of lower energy consumption mechanisms (robots? humans?) to do the work. Either way, the spike in energy cost is going to change our world. Well, maybe worlds at that point although maybe it is wishful thinking to even ponder that. And that takes me down the tangent of energy and the cost to actually colonize another planet.

I'm out of touch with science fiction but... Ah yes, "solar punk" exists. Interesting.

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Sat Oct 20, 2018 3:12 pm
by jacob
The energy consumption of the energy production is inherent in the calculation.

Bio energy sources generally have shitty EREOIs and are barely viable. Corn ethanol was a huge failure because EROEI is ~1 and consequently just amounted to a giant farming subsidy that simultaneously drove up food prices. Brazil runs a bio fuel program based on sugarcane. Sugarcane has higher EROEI values and therefore works.

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Tue Oct 23, 2018 10:10 am
by 7Wannabe5

Bushel corn = 2.5 gallons ethanol
25 bushels/acre = 1900 production level

You need high tech produced filters in order to produce very pure ethanol at home. I don't know what the very small amount of water left after standard distillation/evaporation would do to a small tractor engine over time, but if you are looking for solution that is sustainable in northern temperate climate outside of availability of access to advanced tech civilization then ethanol would beat PVC. Very small woodlot sustainable energy flow of 3% also needed to run still.

Generally, the trick is figuring out what other inputs are necessary in order to convert fund source into flow source. Electricity is not a problem if only used in the realm where it makes most sense, which is procurement or amplification of information; radio, lights, meters. So, 12 volt circuit should serve.

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Tue Oct 23, 2018 10:29 am
by Sclass
Sad. People get rewarded for doing the wrong thing.

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Wed Oct 24, 2018 6:03 am
by 7Wannabe5

I thought the old bit was interesting, because it shows a simple systems diagram with associated metrics and moral conclusions. Over the last 100 years, opinions on whether the corn should be converted to whiskey, pork, Fritos, ethanol, or food aid to Africa have varied. Meanwhile, recent “chemical/ gene” enhanced Farm Olympics have produced as much as 400 bushels/ acre. So, there is a level on which you can now have your whiskey, bar-b-que, chips, fuel, charity and more too! If you disregard fossil fund depletion and costs associated with waste disposal.

I really liked the book “Green Wizardry” by Greer, and one of the best notes he makes is that although you have to conceive of a boundary in order to diagram any system, most boundaries are either entirely imaginary or at best more like a membrane. There is no such place as “away.”

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Fri Jul 19, 2019 11:28 am
by CS
This video helped me understand this so much better.
Also, holy f'ing cow. Makes me want paper how-to books and a weather proof place to store them (and land and water and...)

How to enjoy the end of the world: ... WPB2u8EzL8

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:42 pm
by jacob
@CS - [58:11] ... is partially how the ERE philosophy started or at least its practical consequences. That the sole source of remuneration in the modern world is lucre combined with the fact that I have increasingly less use of it ... led to FIRE before it really became clear to me that it was possible. FIRE is secondary or even tertiary to those efforts. I'm currently dialing up my efforts at ERE HQ trying to figure out exactly how to deal with "collapse uncertainty". I don't think the current approaches as advocated by places like or prepper sites is the correct response mostly due to timing, scale, and localization issues ... but I'm not sure what the answer is. It is about survival ... but surviving what exactly?! The predicament is substantially more complex to grok than home economics or "personal finance"---this is also why I don't think it will be relevant to most [readers], at least not in the form that I'm trying to come up with---the ultimate solution might be too hard to understand/execute. For now, ERE in its canonical form is a pretty good start though. I'm pretty sure what comes next can and will build on a solid ERE foundation.

BTW, I first discovered this almost 20 years ago when it was still in its infancy. Almost nothing has changed in terms of our(*) understanding since then. (The comments/focus on dissippative structures is new... and this allows us to associate EROI with the level of sustainable complexity of a society with more precision. Otherwise google "Road to Olduvai Gorge" for some oldschool understanding.) The fact that nothing has changed in the past 20 years suggests that nothing will change. What I'm hearing on practically all channels is the sound of inevitability ...

(*) By which I mean the few hundred to thousands of people in the world who know enough of the details.

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Fri Jul 19, 2019 4:11 pm
by sky
It is somewhat difficult to know how to respond to the knowledge that civilization will collapse soon. My goal is to avoid getting caught up in disputes and civil wars which are likely to take place. I want to know how to and be capable of producing a good amount of my own food. I want to be able to store and cook low cost foods that have long term storage capacity. I want to protect my ability to pay taxes and utilities so I don't lose my home and property. I want to understand how to rearrange my home and life if utilities fail. I am located so as to be able to walk to many services I need. If I need to move, I want to know how to cross long distances by bicycle or on foot.

I have not changed my lifestyle much and am still part of the problem. I own three cars. I enjoy driving my inefficient vehicle long distances just to see the beautiful places in the world. My air conditioners are running on full power. I haven't changed my diet although I know about the health benefits and other advantages of a plant based diet. At least I can say that I know in which direction I should change, if challenges occur.

My natural lifespan will likely end around the time of collapse. I may or may not see it happen. I built a Pirate Box with a large content of pdf documents on skills needed to survive and thrive: gardening, preservation, foraging, electricity technical skills, shelter building skills. The Pirate Box runs off a solar panel and turns on each day with the sun, allowing anyone to download the documents over wifi. If I can secret the device in a sunny location, it should run for many years, perhaps long after I am gone.

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Fri Jul 19, 2019 9:03 pm
by AnalyticalEngine
I watched that video over lunch today, and I am still processing it. It was nothing I didn't know already, but the way he delivers it really makes our predicament clear. It's hard to move on with your life when faced with this knowledge, especially when most around you are comfortable with their distractions. But I suppose it's the message I needed to hear so I don't get complacent with my current situation. I may need to go a little more nuclear in how I approach this.

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2019 2:56 am
by Quadalupe
Well damn, that was a pretty harrowing watch. It's hard to grok the (large!) area between 'all will be fine' and 'total collapse is imminent'. I guess implementing the ERE and Lean Logic (local communities) strategies are a good start...

@sky, I love your pirate box idea!

Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2019 6:40 am
by jennypenny
Quadalupe wrote:
Sat Jul 20, 2019 2:56 am
It's hard to grok the (large!) area between 'all will be fine' and 'total collapse is imminent'.
Ultimately, all that matters to you is where you fall in that area (and maybe your immediate family). Lets face it ... some people always figure out how to level up no matter the circumstances and others manage to self-immolate in the best of times. Your outcome is mostly determined by your own expectations* and how you set out to achieve them.

For some reason, I always think of a scatter plot when people talk about this stuff. It's almost like looking at a scatter plot on Portfolio Charts of all the different methods based on what Tyler calls Baseline Results vs. Ulcer Index (the chart to which I'm referring is here). Actually, how Tyler describes his Portfolio Finder is pretty useful here "... the Portfolio Finder searches every possible combination of assets and identifies the historically least painful options that consistently met your needs".

Smith's Jenga analogy can be applied to individuals. You have to combine the historical approach mentioned above with some forward-looking analysis, which does require some self-education, but most people should be able to identify their own biggest weaknesses and avoid pulling Jenga pieces out from the bottom of their stack (life will pull a couple out on you anyway).

As far as PC's scatter plot of portfolios, some of us are content to find ones that meet smaller needs with a lower ulcer index while others like to swing for the fences and are willing to withstand a higher ulcer index. Extending that to cover non-financial needs, some of us lower our needs to make meeting them less stressful and labor-intensive while others like the bigger return on bigger effort. The danger in either is when returns equal needs because there is no slack.

The former approach (smaller nut/less nut-cracking) is assumed to be better because presumably there is more potential effort that can be put into increasing returns if needed. That may be true, but non-financial assets aren't as linear (wd?) in their input/growth, meaning that there might be a delay between increased effort and increased returns.** If circumstances are suddenly stressed, you might not have the time for such cultivation.

To (painfully) stretch the metaphor about scatter plots ... don't just pick one portfolio of assets based on it's baseline returns vs. ulcer index. IRL, you can pick several that work in different environments that also incorporate an informed guess of (your own) future conditions, then make sure you're in a position to pivot from one to another if/when conditions change.

You can also have figurative 'cash in the bank' by developing non-financial assets that you don't need yet that will serve you in one of the handful of portfolios that you've decided suits you. If you find them tedious or costly, maybe you've chosen a portfolio that doesn't suit and should reexamine your approach.

* If you meet your own expectations you will be content and if you exceed them you will be happy ... so choose wisely and make sure your expectations also have some slack and diversity.

** I see this as a weakness in some ERE approaches, particularly in the category of social capital and community engagement (which Smith mentions in his talk and in the discussion afterward that appears in another video). IMO, it's the ERE Achilles heel since ERE tends to attract people who (1) aren't good at natural social development, and (2) don't like spending money to compensate for #1.