Simon Michaux is an associate professor of geometallurgy at the Geological Survey of Finland which published his 1,000-page report about the amount of mining that will be required if the world attempts to quit using hydrocarbons. In this episode, he discusses why copper will be the key constraint for alt-energy, the “flamboyantly stupid” decisions being made by European policymakers, and why the pending limits to economic growth will require a new “social contract and a radically different system of governance” from what we have today. (Recorded November 11, 2022)
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi everyone. Welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics and I’m pleased to welcome Simon Michaud. He is a associate professor of geo metallurgy at the Geological Survey of Finland. Simon, welcome to the power hungry podcast.
Simon Michaux 0:21
Hello, robots. It’s very nice to meet you in in on the podcast.
Robert Bryce 0:25
So I warned you before you are in required on this podcast, introduce yourself. And so imagine you’ve arrived somewhere you don’t know anyone. And you have about 60 seconds, go.
Simon Michaux 0:38
Okay, so I was educated in Australia basic degree of physics and geology. I joined the mining industry in research and development, and I did a PhD in mining engineering. So I have a formal training in physics, geology and mining engineering. Experience has been open pit optimization, geo statistics, rock breakage, blasting, flotation leaching, and then geo metallurgy. I then left Australia and came to Europe to learn industrial recycling. And I found the circular economy when I was in Belgium, and I left Belgium to come to Finland, where I joined the mineral intelligence project track data, data patents in industry. And now I’m attached to the circular economy solutions unit that has a five ton an hour pilot plant.
Robert Bryce 1:26
And you live in Helsinki now.
Simon Michaux 1:28
Yes, technically ESCO, which is in, you know, 20 minutes from the centre of Helsinki,
Robert Bryce 1:33
gotcha. But you’re an artist, you’re an Aussie by birth. Where are you from? In Australia?
Simon Michaux 1:37
In Brisbane, East Coast?
Robert Bryce 1:40
Oh, yes. The Sunshine Coast beautiful place? I’ve been there only once or twice but amazing. Yes, indeed. Well, good. So let’s jump right in. You are the author of a 1000 page report titled assessment of the extra capacity required of alternative energy electrical power systems to completely replace fossil fuels. It’s a mouthful. But it’s a very comprehensive report on the amount of minerals metals that would be required to move to alternative energy, can you give us you know, this is this is a podcast, we don’t have two or three hours, we have an hour, give us the brief summary then if you could of this 1000 page report, we hear a lot about alternative energy that we’re going to change the entire economy quit using hydrocarbons. What did you What do you how do you summarize this mammoth paper that you produced?
Simon Michaux 2:32
So this is actually part of the six report series. So as large as it is, it’s part of a series. Five of those reports are on the ground now. So the purpose here was to put the logistics, the physical requirements of if we were to phase out fossil fuels, and apply the plan, as our policymakers in the European Commission believe they’re going to apply it, what will it look like? And what that part is, they assumed the existing system around us will be replaced by fully replaced and we’ll have all the same activities happening. What would be the physical requirements be? What would it look like? How many solar panels, how many wind turbines, how many power stations, how many electric vehicles, how many batteries and what kind? So that was the first half of the work. The second half of the work was to Okay, now that we know how many units what metals, would we need to produce the first generation of non fossil fuels? Right. And so and that’s, that’s the second report. It’s actually been published now. There’s been a few presentations around, and it’s now going into a peer reviewed journal. So, so the purpose of this was to address what I saw when I first came to Europe, that our future was being dictated by our strategic policy leaders, you know, the civil senior civil servants of the European Commission, and the European Union, around what they called the circular economy. And what they were dictating for the future, and there was no details. They had a vision with some vague platitudes. But they had no okay. Now what they were there was no, there was no big plan for industrial reform. There’s there’s no feasibility study assessment of to actually sort of move forward and do this, the base a lot of assumptions
Robert Bryce 4:22
about what could happen, but no deep dive into what had to happen in terms of that, that shift for the energy transition, right, which is the popular phrase now that is being used for this.
Simon Michaux 4:34
Actually, I say it this way. It’s not what could happen. They were talking about things that were have already happened or this is what we are going to do. Right? They were talking in terms of this is the way things will be right now, there was no choice about what we might or might not do.
Robert Bryce 4:53
But instead kind of this command idea of well, this is the way we think it should be and therefore it will be but I want to read this section which is the summary of the full report, which I think summarizes it pretty well. He said current expectations are that global industrial businesses will replace a complex industrial energy ecosystem that took more than a century to build. The current system was built with the support of the highest This is the part that I think find is really on point was built with the with the support of the highest calorific highly dense source of energy the world has ever known oil. In cheap, abundant quantities with easily available credit and seemingly unlimited mineral resources. The replacement needs to be done when there is comparatively very expensive energy, a fragile finance system saturated in debt, not enough minerals in an unprecedented world population embedded in a deteriorating natural environment. Most challenging of all this has to be done within a few decades. This is where you come in, you say is the author’s opinion based on the new calculations presented here that this will likely not go fully at to as planned there? Sure, understatement of the of the report. In conclusion, this report suggests that replacing the existing fossil fuel powered system oil, gas and coal using renewable technologies, such as solar panels, or wind turbines will not be possible for the entire global human population. There is simply just not enough time nor resources to do this by the current target set by the world’s most influential nations. I mean, that’s a that’s a you know, I think, a great summary. But let me just cut to the chase that if you looked at all these different commodities, all the different minerals from copper, oil, etc. Is there one commodity then that there’s been a lot of focus on copper, the, you know, the traders call it Dr. Copper as the indicator for the global economy? Is it copper, cobalt, neodymium. These the we’ve heard there’s a lot about, we can talk about rare earth elements. Is there one commodity, or two or three that you can put your finger on? Say, this is the real Hang on, hang on, hang up right here that this one is going to be the real one, the one that’s most problem? problematic? Most challenging?
Simon Michaux 6:49
Yes. So a lot of that report focuses on the lithium ion battery chemistries, right. But and I’ve shown us that that’s probably not going to work the way we think because we don’t have the volumes, the simple answer is to make batteries out of something else. And we can do this, what we can’t do, and this, you actually set her ready copper, we can’t electrify the world without copper, you can substitute copper with aluminium in some places in some applications. But to make aluminium you need an enormous amount of electricity. And so that puts pressure on a system that is already under pressure. Right? So So I believe copper is the rate determining step, both in the current day to day demand, but also in the world that we think we’re going to create.
Robert Bryce 7:38
I like that idea, the rate determining step. So it’s going to be the volume of copper that we that we I’m seeing now the global we can produce will be the will determine the rate at which any electrification can occur. But that is that but that commodity more than others, that is the one. And so let me just take that, because one of the things that I thought was really intriguing about your report was you also talk about the quality of the ore bodies and the need to pulverize them. No, no, if that’s the exact correct term. But to reduce the grain size, when you have lower quality or you have to pay you have to you have to process it. And that requires more energy. That seems to be one of the the key points that you’re making here overall about if you have declining or quality which we do you have to have more energy to process that or can you talk about that, please?
Simon Michaux 8:30
Yes, yes. So this is to say we’re not running out of copper ore. The entire Andes mountain range is one big giant copper deposit. What we’ve got is a very low grade or where all types and grades been decreasing. What we are facing challenges is our ability to extract that copper extract. So our ability to produce copper and bring it to markets. So the mining industry, this work in Australia was facing a number of technical problems. And the mining industry has gone through several phases, already and of business model, and we’re evolving into a new phase. And this is before we get to the idea of electrification. So and we’ve got problems like decreasing rate, we’ve mined out all the good deposits already. Then you’ve got what you were talking about there as the mineral grinds, mineral grain brine sites, so the target mineral we’re trying to extract the the minerals themselves are much smaller in size. And the smaller that is, the more energy we’ve got to expend to grind the rock down to that level, it turns grinding. And so you’ve got to enter it’s an exponential relationship where the finer you go the exponentially more energy you need to apply to do that. And you’ve got to grind it all to what’s called liberate the metal out of the rock. So things like flotation can actually take those metal particles out and concentrated. So the next problem is the rock itself is because we’re going after the more disseminated rock clubs, the rock itself is getting harder, which means you have to make a stronger mill and use more draw power draw to crush and grind the rock. So you’ve got to end. And then if we’re going to go, fine grind, to sort of find a level, you have problems with actually using more water, more potable water in things like grinding and flotation. Because you can’t recycle the water, the aura, so fine, it suspends in water and you have these big settling ponds. And it takes a lot longer to actually settle the actual ore out and reuse that water. So your water consumption is going up. So so the mining industry is facing a whole series of technical problems as we move into different mineralogy is that they’re mining. Right. And so our ability to expand our ability to maintain existing production is getting more and more expensive. Right? Yeah,
Robert Bryce 11:02
it will, if I could follow up on the energy inputs there. Because I think this is interesting is well, to underscore that what type of energy is this? So many of these minds? I’m not going to say all of them, but there were many of them in very remote locations. And they’re using diesel fuel gensets to for their electricity, right. So the we have a trend, that the liberating the metals from the rock requires more energy inputs, and that energy in many cases is going to be liquid hydrocarbons. Am I right?
Simon Michaux 11:33
Yeah, yes, yes. And no. Okay. And we, the way we like to do it is, is put a gas pipeline out to a remote area, because gas apparently is cheap, right, and then it goes to a power plant, and that power plant will power the mind. Right? So these processing plants needs something like, you know, 3030 Odd megawatts of installed power for the processor. 30 megawatts
Robert Bryce 11:55
is a rule of thumb for I know, there’s, well, I’m saying I’m gonna say an average mine. But the 30 megawatts is a typical size for a power plant for a remote mine. So that is big. It’s that’s a lot of power, a lot of juice and trade, apparently, only for the mind itself, or will that include demand camps in the in the in the, you know, the
Simon Michaux 12:14
that’s, that’s for the processing plant in the mind, that doesn’t include the mind itself? It’s the it’s the right, so these enterprises are enormous, and they consume a lot of concentrated power and geographically remote areas. So they’re not, they’re often not attached to the power grid. Right? So they’ve got to have their own power source locally. And so we’ve done with gas, sometimes coal, but usually gas and and the old fashioned way to do it was with oil based gensets. Right, the the oil generation hasn’t progressed into the modern world, because the operations got so large, that they will scale up problems can go to gas and and from that they could work. But and then the truck and shovel fleet is often run on diesel, you’ve got like diesel generating electric, any NH unit. And so we are consuming a lot of energy of different kinds. So if we were to take out and what this is one of the future works that we’re looking at doing. If you were to remove all fossil fuels from the mining process, what would mining look like? Right? And because you’ve got things they’ve got the idea now of these large dump trucks could be battery operated. And so what I’m not seeing is the performance of those battery operated trucks compared to a diesel operated truck, but how long can they run and operate?
Robert Bryce 13:34
And how much did the batteries way to move the order that they’re carrying? Which is the thing that pops into my head right away? Because these batteries on a just an a light duty vehicle or half a ton or, you know, 1000 pounds? I mean, I can’t imagine what they would weigh on a big on a big haul truck, that would be just enormous amount.
Simon Michaux 13:51
And so would you’ve also got the problem of how long would it take to charge that battery? So like a diesel fueled truck would run for a shift of say 12 hours without needing refueling, right? So how long can one of these battery trucks run for and how long would they need to recharge? And so now, a mine is based around it’s designed around its equipment? Like how far how high? And how deep? Can the excavators dig that? And that followed by the equipment to get the ore in, in and out of certain locations? Right? If you’ve got logistical problem of these trucks need to stand down to charge, where do you charge and how do you charge them? What sort of form will that charging station be and that logistics will change the entire dynamics of the truck and travel fleet? Now, I’m not saying it’s not possible, what I’m saying is the business model behind that has not been developed. So then you got the idea of the power needed to run the mill. And that’s all electricity and that electricity has to be generated either locally or brought in somehow. Right and if that is powered on non fossil fuel systems, wind and solar it’d be very difficult to actually consider that I’ve seen geothermal considered, like if I drag a really, really deep hole, and they’ve got like geothermal energy, that might work, but it’s dependent location, like, is there a geothermal deposit as useful. And the other thing that’s often talked about is small scale nuclear. And large mining companies think that’s the way they’re gonna go. The problem is the nuclear power plant fleet can’t expand fast enough to be useful. You can’t make enough of these things quickly enough. And the handling of the spent nuclear fuel assembly rods coming out the other end that the mining industry has no concept of what they’re getting themselves into the like, how do they actually do that? Current thinking is, they’ll just, you know, just put it in the waste dump. And it’s fine. But then they don’t understand the idea of unique cooling ponds. And there’s different kinds of snf. And you’ve got to store in certain ways. And, and yeah, and it’s quite a complex process. So the idea of just taking everything nuclear might be the only way to keep mining going. But the logistics of doing that may not be possible.
Robert Bryce 16:07
Until you’re it’s added? Well, I mean, whether you’re talking about the batteries, or the nuclear for heat are a well, I guess, process, he doesn’t really what you need in a mine, you need that electricity to run the grinding mills in the sector, and so on. So I know, in petrochemicals, process, heat is important, but not so much for mining. I’m going to just in Table five of the report, you list copper near the top, you talk about this issue of estimate that the amount of copper needed to produce one generation of technology units. So electric vehicles don’t last forever, they were out they have to be replaced. Same with with solar panels and wind turbines to phase out, which would be 4.3 billion tons. And if I’m reading this correctly, it’s it says At current rates of production that would take 180 years. I mean, this seems absurd on its face. But I mean, let’s assume that you’re you’re off by a factor of four, you’re still talking 160 or 65 years, or no, I’m, what is it? 45 years, something like that. I mean, you’re still talking about a very, the amount of time required to mind that one commodity copper, which we’ve talked about a little bit. I mean, it just seems absurd on its face. But yet, here’s the question that I wanted to put to you. In thinking about this, and we chatted a few weeks ago. Why have policymakers ignored this? Um, you know, I’ve seen these fancy studies, and I’ve had people from Princeton and Stanford and you know, these elite academics and saying, Oh, well, we’ll do all this. And we’ll put all this out there, and we’ll do it, you know, it’s gonna be fine and hundreds of gigawatts of new renewables. And yet they don’t think about these material inputs. Is there is, is this just a blind spot in these in academic and policy making, that they’re in academia and policymakers that they’re just not considering first principles about how you would possibly even do this? How do you explain that we’re at this point without having a very serious, deep dive into these numbers?
Simon Michaux 17:57
So the simple answer to that is yes, but and let me unpack that before we do. Back to copper. Yeah, our target of 4.3 billion for the first generation of tech, which would only last, you know, 1020 years before we have to fix it, do it all, again, whatever it is, between from 2020, the year 2020, back to 4000 BC, we mined 700 million tons of copper, to keep up with economic demand the way it is now, like, if the system the way it is now. We’re going to do the same in 20. In the next 22 years, we will mined 700 billion tons in the next 22 years. And that’s just keeping up on the demand curve the way out current economics thinks things are gonna go.
Robert Bryce 18:40
If I may just interrupt, I just wanted to clear so you’re saying in all of human history, 700 billion humans have mined seven and mined a total of 700 million tons of the final product of copper. Yeah. And you’re saying to what we’re going to need in the next two decades is another 700 million tonnes?
Simon Michaux 18:58
Yep, that’s that’s a study done by USGS. And that, that that is they’ve done a curve based on a prediction of economic growth, you know, material brought to the market, we all want to expand. And so that’s actually what they think they’re going to do. So on top of that, right, we now want to electrify everything, which means we want 4.3 billion tons of copper on top of that. Now that means, right? We are going to mine 6.2 times the historical volume of copper, to make the first generation of stuff to replace what we have now. And so what I’m what I’m trying to say here is this is simply not going to work out the way we think it’s going to improve
Robert Bryce 19:45
but to repeat what you just said that to achieve this, we would have to have increase our copper production by a factor of six on an annualized basis. We’d have to have a no
Simon Michaux 19:53
no, no, no, no, no, no, that the total quantity needed for the first generation. Right, the first gen ration of stuff is going to be 6.2 times the historical quantity for the last 4000 years, I got the annual, you’d have to do a calculation what the annual production would have to be. But the idea that we’re going to do all that in 1020 years is ridiculous. It’s just not going to happen.
Robert Bryce 20:20
So how do you maintain you the way you just said it’s ridiculous. And so I mean, but as you’re saying, and I can detect a little bit of a smile, because you’re looking at this with this, you know, you your numbers, your graphics, I mean, I don’t know how long it take took you to do the report. I mean, I, I write, you know, I’ve written books, but they’re only Well, I say, only 300 pages or something. And you’ve written 1000, and with heavy with graphics, and so on. But I detected your even in your tone, this kind of, you’re not scoffing, but you’re also just kind of I don’t even know what the right word is amused by the
Simon Michaux 20:52
look, why isn’t amusement? I first, I first tabled these ideas,
Robert Bryce 20:57
what’s the right word? Then? It’s incredulity, this disappointment.
Simon Michaux 21:03
Possibly relief? Now, let me unpack why that is. I first table these ideas in 2009, to the mining industry in Australia, and that by first being burned at the stake, exercise.
Robert Bryce 21:18
You weren’t welcome at the party was that the
Simon Michaux 21:21
base? They seem to think I was a little strange. And it’s the Why would you say that? I was also taken aside and quietly told, please don’t tell this to any sponsors, you’re gonna cost us money. Right. And so what they were basically saying we believe, and we’ll get back to the belief section in a minute, that what you are suggesting is incorrect. It’s wrong. You’re you’re you’re a Duma, you’ve, you’re a Chicken Little The sky is falling. And people like you’re always proven wrong. And so at the time, even though I had some data, which to me made the case, the data wasn’t in a form, where people had no choice but to see it. Now it is. So now I can say things like that. And they can’t shoot me and throw me off the stage anymore. Because I can present them data to say, Well, okay, here’s what I put together. You tell me how to spin this data outcrop. And it can only be spun, sitting, one of several ways. You cannot refute this, now. You can discuss it, you can not agree with it, but it can’t be refuted. And so it’s actually a relief that I’m finally in this place. Because I’ve made choices in my career going along which I’ve ended up going for jobs that weren’t as lucrative as they could have been, because of my understanding of this stuff. And so there was this. It’s almost like a validation that the choices of doing so for the last 1012 years have been the correct ones.
Robert Bryce 22:53
To release the relief is a validation that now you have the numbers and say, and you can challenge this, the policymakers, the academics and say, Well, prove me wrong. Here are the numbers that
Simon Michaux 23:05
mentioned, if you will, you came up with a thesis that you’re the only one, I think there was only one other person at the time who had even said this out loud. That was Chris Martenson, in his Crash Course. And in fact, at the time, I was working on the energy consumption necessary for grinding, right, and he actually put together I’d seen the concepts of all that he put together into a map that was understandable. And I learned a lot from watching Chris’s work.
Robert Bryce 23:32
And forgive me, I don’t know who Chris Martin says, our listeners.
Simon Michaux 23:38
He’s quite famous. Now, he wrote a book called The Crash Course. If you type the Crash Course, or peak prosperity into YouTube, it’ll come up. And he has a series of YouTubes that describe the relationship between energy, finance and the environment. And he’s done it in a way that he takes on the technical concepts, but makes it accessible to the average person, I recommend you look at look at him. And if you can do it, get him on your podcast podcast, because he is actually one of our thought leaders. Anyway, so he was the first person to actually say, in a public forum, that the energy, energy and mining are actually linked. Right. And I was actually sort of working on at the time, but he actually said it out loud. Right. And so yeah, and so it’s it was truly remarkable work in the beginning. So when I first actually presented this to the mining industry at large, they don’t We don’t fight. We don’t we don’t understand what you’re doing. You know, we’ll literally because we like you other work, but would you please not say this publicly anymore? And so I was actually able to, so imagine if you will if you actually had an idea, that actually was a thing He says that proved something vital was wrong in an industry that involves a lot of money, and you were the only one around. And you stood up on stage and you said this and you’re all alone. And the entire audience would really wish you did you get a hobby, and you take up a crime, so I’m gonna shut the hell up. Yeah. Right. So and then imagine 12 years of this. Now we’re in a place where that original thesis was actually correct. Because all the way along it says this. And people, everyone around me says You’re damaging your career by doing this. You’re actually not helping anyone. And so the relief is, okay, your original idea was valid.
Robert Bryce 25:42
And now you have the numbers. Well, it’s interesting that your report, and by the way, it’s available on your website, I’m going to make sure and mention your website, Simon michaud.com, M, i c h, a UX, all of your reports are available there. But that you’re now you’re finding that in fact, you have allies, and there was a report that came out in September now, roughly a year, your report came out in August of 2021. If I remember, correctly, benchmark mineral intelligence just issued a report just in the last few weeks saying that to add to just for the mining for the batteries alone would require something on the order of 350 or 380, new mines to be constructed, which on its face, just seems like Oh, come on. And they were just talking about batteries. If I’m if I’m remembering correctly. Did you see that report? Does that ring true?
Simon Michaux 26:31
So we’re in the same direction. So everyone who writes these reports will operate under a series of assumptions. My assumption map is different their assumption map, and I was going up for different set of targets, we were saying essentially the same thing. The task in front of us is enormous.
Robert Bryce 26:47
And how long does it take to permit and get from when you find a mine or you find out deposit from that initial discovery of the deposit, you know that there’s the commodity there that you want, whether it’s you know, beryllium, or manganese, zinc or whatever, from that discovery to getting actual metal production? How long does it typically take a decade or more?
Simon Michaux 27:08
Well, no, it also depends on where in the world you are. So So for every 1000 deposits discovered one or two become mine, that’s that’s a rule of thumb. So
Robert Bryce 27:17
one or two, one or two out of 1000. That’s the hit rate.
Simon Michaux 27:21
That’s the hit rate. Okay, there’s just because you’ve made a discovery doesn’t mean it’s economic. And just because it’s economic, doesn’t mean it’s going to stuff, right. So to get to the point where you’ve got the first trait of any kind of mineralization to the point of a discovered deposit is about 10 years, and your 10 to 15 years. But then to go from a discovered reserve deposit is now considered a reserve. But to go from that, to a producing mine is another 10 to 15 years, depending on where you are. In parts of say, like, in Australia, they had they set the record for 12 months to go from a deposit to a functioning minor. That’s now a world record. But in places like Finland, that can be 40 years. Wow. Right, because of the regulations, hoops that a mining company will have to go through to get things going.
Robert Bryce 28:12
Well, and we’ve seen that here in the US with deposits in Minnesota that were nickel deposits, I think there was a very mind that the deposit is very well known and Michigan produces a lot of and Minnesota. But Minnesota, I guess it was actually in Minnesota, I’m trying to remember but very large deposit the mine, the deposit was very well known and had been well studied. And the Biden administration refused to issue a mining permit there. And we saw a similar thing in Alaska. I mean, these are just in the last few weeks. So I guess, adding in the permitting issue is just the unpopularity of mining in general, right, that just
Simon Michaux 28:48
that’s such as that touches on one of the difficulties we face, the people who are making decisions at the moment, don’t understand the full network of challenges. They understood that they think they’ve got one set of issues. But if we actually did what was asked of us, and we shut down all fossil fuels, and all mining tomorrow, we would usher in a dark edge. That’s it, we’re done. Because for our Maslow’s hierarchy of needs of society, we need technology to deliver that now, if you don’t grow your own food, or at least I don’t. Right. Someone else does that on the other side of the world. And sometimes and it’s delivered to you. Right? Right. Right. So technology does that. That technology is actually supplied by raw materials of all kinds and energy is one of them. So if we use the Biden administration saying you will not open a mine here, or you will not this pipeline can’t operate. We won’t accept fossil fuels anymore. Problem is we have not yet constructed the after oil plan. Yes. Right. Right. So we’re not forcing a transition away from fossil fuels. We’re shutting down activity, where people’s lives are being destroyed. We haven’t I’m the work yet
Robert Bryce 30:02
even repeat that if you don’t mind that last point that we’re not max league making by shoving hydrocarbons we’re not we’re not engaging in an energy transition, we’re just shutting down one part of the industry that’s necessary for the energy transition, is that a fair way?
Simon Michaux 30:16
That’s correct. Which requires it requires energy to do anything industrial. And to make the after fossil fuels plan will require energy and industry, we need to manufacture a whole lot of things, let’s say wind turbines if that’s the way we go, right at the moment, we need fossil fuels to do that, right. And the capability to make that took 40 years to develop industrially, these factories needs to be built. Right? If you don’t build the factories, you don’t get the stuff. So if you turn this turn the switch off and say, right, no oil, that’s it gone. The factory that doesn’t use oil has not been constructed yet. We haven’t even worked out how to do it yet, let alone construct it. And once it’s constructed, then we’ve got to produce the goods. How long do you think it’s going to take to make 1.4 billion electric vehicles?
Robert Bryce 31:06
Well, which was the point one of the points you made, and I’ve seen those varying numbers on the population of the world automotive fleet and, you know, 1.21 point, but I was glad to see that updated number of 1.4 billion, because right now in the US, I have these numbers, I just gave a lecture on it yesterday, that of the US auto population auto fleet, it’s about 280 million, and electric vehicles account for one half of 1%. That’s the total fleet. And so this idea that we’re going to oh, we’re going to just make 270 million more of them. Well hold on just a minute here. That’s, that’s not a small challenge.
Simon Michaux 31:41
So all of my numbers as large as they are, are conservative, very conservative, that number of 1.4, the real numbers over 1.5, and possibly 1.6. By now, because the estimate was made on each country stitch together. And some of those country estimates were back in 2015. Somewhere in 2012. Right, but so so they’re 10 years out of date, and things have been growing since then. So back to the question of why is this happening? Why didn’t know when to look? And I’ve been giving this some thought because when I first arrived in Europe, there were there were these blind spots I saw and one of them was mining. The Europeans don’t like mining, right? They don’t allow mining, it’s not fashionable, blah, blah, blah, not my backyard, but what they will do is buying products off the market. They want someone else to do the mining for them while we lecture them how we’re more sustainable than they are. By the way, like totally so so they’ve got more money than us. And so we can’t even our economize them any more. We’re in danger of Darwin rising ourselves. The term Darwin I think we remove ourselves from the gene pool by doing something stupid. So in fact, European leadership at the moment is at the moment right now has got the look of someone about to do something flamboyantly stupid, but so back to the belief belief.
Robert Bryce 33:06
flamboyantly stupid, no, I like that when that’s a good phrase to What do you mean what they’re doing about to do something flamboyantly stupid, I would argue they’ve already done some things that are flamboyantly stupid, by over investing in renewables, shutting down coal and nuclear plants relying too much on imports. I mean, these are the hitting the points I’ve been making now for more than a year. But what is it that there is flamboyantly stupid, underscore that for me,
Simon Michaux 33:27
so choices of of the economic sanctions they’ve engaged in, in both against Russia and China, we are dependent on Russia for energy, we are dependent on China for the manufacture of almost all the goods we need. We refuse to allow manufacturing to be viable on our own territory. And once we do decide to do it, it will take 1020 years to develop that manufacturing. Our choices have led to a situation where our civilian population is now in serious trouble in the next few months over winter. And industries, industrial sites are all collectively saying, You know what? Screw hippie, we’re leaving Europe, and we’re going somewhere else. They’re going to the United States, and they’re going to China, where they won’t have the energy source politicized. Right. Right. And so what Europe has done is arranged its own in deindustrialization in context where they depend on that industrialization to survive. Dumb
Robert Bryce 34:24
well, and the and I’ve I’ve written about this and talked about this many times, but Euro metallic was in September, it should have sent a letter to the European Commission saying of what you’re exactly what you’re saying. We’re looking at permanent deindustrialization that this is and once our smelters these were the non ferrous metal producers saying once our smelters closed, we’re done. We’re not coming back. And they made this very, very clear.
Simon Michaux 34:45
So historians future historians will look back on this era, and they might call this entire era all over the world the era of play silly games, win stupid prizes. Right and that’s not just to Europe, either. Because our policy makers are making decisions with the assumption that raw materials, including energy will always continue.
Robert Bryce 35:09
Well, it’s interesting you say that. So if you don’t mind one of the questions I have here, energy return on energy invested, I know that er, er, O E I, it’s a familiar term that it’s familiar with me it to me because I study these things. But that seems at the root of a lot of what we’ve discussed already about this, the ball mills, I believe they’re recalled for the pulverizing the or into smaller and smaller grain size so that the metal can be extracted. It can, if you don’t mind, give us a quick explanation of what energy return on energy invested means and why it matters so much.
Simon Michaux 35:39
Okay. So there’s, there’s a few things here this year, I term is a blunt instrument. And I’m was on the list of things to do to reinvent it. Right. So let’s start with energy, energy source, let’s take oil, when oil was discovered in the 1900s, or the early 1800s. Sorry, it really was a case of if you dig a relatively shallow borehole and oil would gush out and you’d, and it was split up into the air and you just collected in a barrel. And it was almost ready to be used straightaway. In fact, they used to say that you could actually put it on your salad and eat it. That’s something I don’t quite understand. Okay.
Robert Bryce 36:20
I wouldn’t eat it. But yes, but it was but the crude grade in some cases. And and this was true in the East Texas field and simply in some cases, the well out of the well, it was so it was such high quality crude that you could almost put it straight into your gasoline tank. And
Simon Michaux 36:32
you’re right, so so. So what that meant was, and it was a very, very dense energy source. Now, how much energy did you put in compared to what energy did you get out? Now in oil around 1900. For example, for every barrel of oil and energy you put in, you got 100, back. And some of the early deposits were 500 For one, right? Right. And so what that meant was, it was an amazing energy source, you didn’t have to do that much to get some amazing energy that was very useful. And so then as time has gone on, right, we’ve had to do more, we’ve had to dig deeper, we’ve had to go into the ocean now and drill really deep. And when we get it out, it’s now quite a lot of sulfur. And we’ve got to now go through a series or finding steps to get a product as useful. So it’s there’s a lot more infrastructure involved. And it’s more complex, and it’s more expensive, right, so we’re having to put more effort in for every unit of oil that we get out, right. And so and now oil somewhere around the 20, you’re like a big band, it’s around, say 20 to one, right, so for every unit of energy we put in, we’re getting 20 back. And so as time has gone on, things have declined. Now, then you got the other problem of complexity. Now, a good example of this is the first Model T Ford car was pretty simple, but it did the job for wheels, could drive from A to B, and all that. And so a sports car at the time, cost a certain amount, and it was relatively simple to make. Jump forward to say the year 2022, we’ve now got, say a Lamborghini, this is what the sports car of the day was much, much, much more competent, can go further and go faster. But the value chain to make that Lamborghini is much more complex than it was to make the Model T Ford right. So direct comparison with a Model T Ford compared to say a Toyota or a conditional family car, much more complex involve many more parts, the parts have more resources behind them, but to do the basics, so the whole system has had to expand greatly to allow this to happen. So you’ve got that the
Robert Bryce 38:52
resulting mobility is the same I’ve still gonna be able to drive to Tulsa or wherever. But and, and yeah, I’m the gets more comfortable and I get air conditioning and I can listen to my iPod or whatever. But the I see what you’re saying. So it’s not just the energy return in terms of barrels in versus barrels out or tons of coal in tons of coal out. It’s also the complexity of the system that you’ve built around that extraction process and the ultimate end end product that you’re building. Is that fair? Is that
Simon Michaux 39:18
right? So that’s another things get tricky. If you want to compare the energy era ratio between say fossil fuels and say renewable energy, since to get the renewable, let’s say a wind turbine, right. So you had Is it the calorific value? Is it the energy it produces? Or how do we get to this point? And so you’ve got to include all the materials to make the wind turbine. Right. And then does that include the mining does it include the transport the manufacturer, and so it’s very hard to compare apples with apples, and with things like wind and solar for them to be viable at the moment. For example, all the winds turbines in Denmark, they are highly intermittent. Right? The Power goes up and down all over the place. And because of the weather at the moment, we balanced that power, with power from Germany and Sweden to balance Denmark, every country is balancing every other country. Most of the time we use fossil fuel systems to do that. Right? Right. So the idea of having a renewable energy grid, that is actually self balancing, we haven’t done that yet. And so this is where we have the idea of the power buffer for wind and solar to be viable. If you include that buffer, and the energy embedded energy to make that buffer. And there’s several technologies you can use to do that, then the energy return on energy invested for wind or solar in particular goes negative. That is, you’re putting less in than what you’re putting too much in and you’re getting to less out. Right.
Robert Bryce 40:55
Well, so let me just challenge you a little bit on that. Simon. So if I was a skeptic, or and I am a skeptic, just kind of generally right? I’m a reporter that I’m paid to be skeptical, but oh, you know, I just Oh, well, you know, here’s Michaud, he’s a mining guy, you know, he’s, you know, of course, he’s gonna, you know, shit on renewables, and these are going to shit on solar and wind and because he wants to mine more coal or something. So how would you respond? If there’s something like that? I mean, that because that’s the seems kind of like the knee jerk reply, right? And I’ve seen this myself against some of the things I Oh, well, you know, you you know, you know, you’re an oil guy, you’re, it’s not, you know, it’s ad hominem, of course, right. But you put in the work, how do you reply to as if someone said that to you?
Simon Michaux 41:39
There was a chess match in actually getting this workout, there were six reports, plant. Right. And I knew we’d get to this point, the first report, and then they will republished in a reverse order. So the first one to come up here, because this is really strange. Yeah, it’s interesting, I suppose. But we don’t know why you did it. Right. So the first report to come out was the report on the oil industry. And so I’m now going to look at what is the Green Revolution trying to replace that there’s a what do you really understand what fossil fuels do for us? The answer is no. And so I wrote a report to show that and it really, what was the first fire that I lit. And this was to show that oil is becoming unreliable? And the phrase in the beginning was we should leave oil before it leaves us. Right. So in other words, I had made a case than this.
Robert Bryce 42:34
Sorry, was was was for the Geological Survey of Finland, just as the latest one. Okay, thank you.
Simon Michaux 42:39
And it was published in 2019. And I actually published the idea that we’ve seen our localized peeking in peak in oil in November 2018. And it turned out, I think I was the first person to say that. I didn’t mean to but, but so the idea was a tour of duty to everything associated with the oil industry, how we extract it, where do we get it from? What’s it for? What’s the cost, and it was like a tour of duty to the whole thing. And the oil industry was a bit displeased when I released that at first because they normally don’t like, they’d like to keep such things private and internal. And this was a public doc document. So when I hear people saying, You’re just an oil guy, I give them the oil report. So you read this report, and you look me in the eyes, is that true? Right. So what I’ve done is I’ve destroyed both sides of the equation, you know, the existing system is becoming unreliable slash it’s touched. The plan to replace the existing system, green transition is impractical. And it is also toast. And I use that one two punch to say, we need to get cracking now. And we need to develop a new plan now. And everyone in the room is crapping on please stop that.
Robert Bryce 43:59
Because no one’s really thought through the implications of what we’re talking about. Well, so let me switch to one or the other. Now, so were I to recommend people to look at one part of your work or another, I think that you’ve got a shorter report, I think it’s about 50 pages. That was also released last year. It’s called the mining of minerals in the limits of growth. And if you don’t mind, I’ll just read this he wrote that the demand for metals of all kinds have been increasing just as the grade of ores processed has been decreasing. Global reserves are not large enough to supply enough metals to build the renewable fossil fuel non fossil fuels industrial system, we’re satisfied long term demand in the current system, mineral deposits, mineral deposit discovery has been declining for many metals, greater processed or for many of the industrial metals has been decreasing over time resulting in declining mineral processing yield. This has the implication of increasing in mining energy consumption per unit of metal. We’ve talked about that already. But we’ve heard about this phrase Limits to Growth many times the Club of Rome is that are the Malthusian Now, fuzziness might not be the right word here, but are the Malthusians being proven right now, I mean, is this is this are the are the pigeons coming home to roost here in terms of the limits to growth and Malthus?
Simon Michaux 45:11
So, instead of what instead of saying in a black and white way it say is the cornucopias, right? Or the Malthusians? Right. What I’m trying to say is there are several options to maneuver around these things. Well, we have like a different future again.
Robert Bryce 45:27
Uh huh. Right. You’ve also said it’s not going to be nuclear. And so I tend toward the cornucopias. I’ll be clear, you know, I tend to think, and I, you know, I look around and Matt Ridley was my guest on the podcast just this week. And he said, things are getting better. Why? Why is he hopeful for the future? Because things are demonstrably better. People are richer, healthier, lighter, living longer. But you’re also not as you know, I’m adamantly pro nuclear have been for a long time. But you’re you make the point that nuclear can’t if I’m remembering exactly what you said, Here, it can’t grow quickly enough to fill the void here. Why is that? Why do you? You’re you seem to agree that nuclear is part of the answer for the future. But you’re not as you’re not terribly bullish on it. Is that a fair assessment?
Simon Michaux 46:10
Yeah, that’s a fair assessment. I’m a fan of nuclear, I think we should pump as much r&d into developing new nuclear technology, I’m very interested in thorium. And there’s a whole lot of new nuclear technology that we could use. But we’ve got to get off our asses and do things properly. Since the beginning of the nuclear industry, in the 50s, we’ve made a lot of promises of what we’re gonna do, we are going to make proper storage facilities, we are going to process our existing waste, that we’ve always taken the cheap option out and put things off in the past, like, there’s a lot of stuff in power powered, cool storage, that doesn’t have to be there. But Finland’s just made the first deep geological repository in the world, right? We the first seriously guys, the nuclear industry has been going since the 1950s. And they’ve only just done this. Right. So what has to happen is all the support infrastructure about the nuclear industry has to be done properly. And then we have to get serious about research and development and get the really, really good tech out there is someone crack generation, fourth generation nuclear power, Gen four reactors, and that could change things too. But it’s a very complex value chain. And it’s expensive, and requires a lot of industrialization to be done correctly. And that industrialization at the moment is supported by fossil fuels. But the problem is, even if we got behind the nuclear industry, and we stopped all the, the activist attempts to stop it or slow it down. If we go upon, imagine if we built 25 New Reactors a year in the global system. And we did that every year, from 2025 onwards, that is would put a hell of a strain on the industrial system. Right. But let’s say we did that. Each at the moment, it takes about 20 years to build a reactor, what if we reduce it to five years, so I did a simulation. So if we if we will cut the crap and get on with his work. And so then I said, How much electrical power could be generated by that expanding fleet. And so the fleet would expand from, say, 448, or 441 nuclear reactors after about two and a half 1000, whatever it was, I took it out to the point where the existing resources which would be exhausted. And what I found were the was it takes time to build a new reactors. And let’s say we’ve got a level of if this is the electricity level that we need to get to, to phase out fossil fuels. According to the rest of the calculations, that expanding nuclear power plants, people get 60% of the way there in about 70 years, at that aggressive expansion rate. Right. And that’s the problem.
Robert Bryce 48:56
Like always, it’s a scale problem. It’s always about scale.
Simon Michaux 48:59
Yeah. And so we’ve also exhaust all existing resources. Yes, we can go find more. Right but then the Achilles heel is with that is now you’ve got an unprecedented mountain of spent nuclear fuel to manage. And that’s a scale problem that we can’t we can’t really do it properly now. But we’re not we can but we choose not to we use half assed measures, cheap measures, in fact, that report there’s a whole simulation about if everything going forward with generation two the reason that is the case and cross my heart hope to die I actually was sitting in these meetings in Brussels for the European Commission’s and I want to ask clown whose name will not be mentioned protect the guilty said that all nuclear reactors going forward should be generation two because they’re cheaper. They quicker to build and because they’re older, we’ve got more experience in running them. Right. Take him outside and yeah, All right. So for that reason, have you noticed anger gets shit done? Right? Well, that was one of the points where I was at, right, this needs to change. These ask clowns that are in charge of our lives, and that they really don’t know what they’re talking about. And they were laying down the hammer of this is how things were going to be in there were dictating policy, and everyone around them was gonna Yes, sir. No, sir. Let’s do it. Right. And so that’s what I sort of approached with all that. So nuclear is the only way we’re going to be able to deliver concentrated bits of power, but especially in certain geographical locations. Right. And, and certain, certain circumstances. So nuclear absolutely is part of our future mix. But it’s not the magic bullet that solves everything. Right? Not, here’s the here’s the appropriate phrase, not in its current form. Right? If someone was to do some research and development and evolve the system, so it was different, that’s different, right? That’s a different story.
Robert Bryce 51:00
And there’s a lot of excitement around it. And, and I understand why. And I was in Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago at the IAEA meetings, and there was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm around these SMRs. But the problem is, right now, they’re all paper reactors there. Not none of them are really existing. But let me go back to the scale thing, because one of the numbers that jumped out again, to me from your report, and you calculated that, well, I know for a fact that in the BP numbers that the global electricity generation last year was around 28,000. terawatt hours in the US accounted for about 4000 terawatt hours for petawatt hours. But you calculate the world would need to generate an additional 36,000 terawatt hours a year to displace hydrocarbons. But the part that jumped out at me that you said that it would require now, just to be clear, so we’re generating 28,000 terawatt hours a year from 46,000 power plants. So that’s your calculation by what is gonna exist globally here in the now in the world. But that would require building 400. I’m sorry, 586,000, New non-fossil power stations. So we would need a more than 10x What does that 12x increase in the number of power plants on the on the face of the earth in order to electrify everything, right? This is the goal, right? I mean, it’s just a staggering number. So we need to increase the generation by 1.5 times we needed more than a tenfold increase in the number of power plants. Why?
Simon Michaux 52:26
Okay, now remember, this is 2018 numbers, right? If the whole system is supposed to grow by a factor of four, between 2018 and 2050, I’m repeating I’m replacing 2018. Okay, so it’s worse again. So what’s happening here is the energy return on energy invested, nature of renewables is much lower than fossil fuels. Right. And so what I did was I collected the some intimate statistics on power generation systems across all systems, I looked at wind, solar, geothermal, all of its about 10,000. systems. And I did some statistics on them. And so for the calendar year, 2018, what did they actually do? Not what they promised, not what they claimed they were going to do not the PR
Robert Bryce 53:18
how to how many watt hours did they actually produce?
Simon Michaux 53:20
Yeah. So what do they produce? And so so I had the I was able to do some statistics, what was the average? What was the standard deviation? What was the maximum minimum? But it was things like what were their operating hours? Like solar solar PV was generating power across that calendar year, globally? 11.4% of the time. Right. So nuclear power reactors got like a 92%. Availability.
Robert Bryce 53:47
So the competitor, this is also called capacity factor, right? How often are they running out? What percentage of the time it over a year or day? Are they running at 100%? Of rated output?
Simon Michaux 53:59
Yeah, that’s right. And so, right. And so I worked out, like I’ve worked out how much power we need to deliver. And I had an energy mix based on what the IEA predicted 2050 would be in terms of what proportions of the energy system would go to the different energy systems, right. 30 to 35%, would be wind up with solar 35% When that sort of thing. Right? So once we had the actual power delivered over the year, I think got some statistics of what was the average performance of each of these systems in 2018. Right? How much power did they deliver? Right? For the average system? What was the installed power capacity of each average system? Right? So if the average system delivered X number of terawatt hours, then we would need 20,000 of them to hit that target to proceed. That’s how that calculation went.
Robert Bryce 54:55
So you did some algebraic and just some algebra to figure out what if this is the average than how many Do you need? Is that fair? It was the
Simon Michaux 55:01
right calculation. Right? Even the word algebra is probably too complex to what actually, the mathematics I use for this I learned when I was 13.
Robert Bryce 55:10
Okay, well, my math stopped at age 12. So but I do do a very little bit of algebra. Well, so if I’m gonna ask it again, I know just because it’s your that report that you published on the way you reference the mining of minerals and the limits to growth. Art, I want to ask it again, because I just want to make clear that the Malthusians versus corn utopians, or are we actually at the limits to growth? I mean, is, is the network now that I think about networks, right? And where you have these networks of transportation of mineral, you know, of, of the fuel distribution, all these networks that work together, right, that it’s we have a system of systems? Or are you arguing that the system of systems, the networks that we have now are already at capacity, and we can’t really build them out to the scale that would be required to make this energy transition either quickly? Or slowly? Is that is that the fundamental part coming from?
Simon Michaux 56:07
It’s a bit more complex than that? Okay, our system at the moment is growth based, right? We’ve been grow, grow, grow, but like every other biological organism on the planet, this whatever biology tells us. So if the idea is growth, and the goal is growth, and the Malthusians are correct, we’ve hit limits, we are hitting the limits to growth now, or in the next 10 years or so. It’s around now. Right? If the Malthusians if the growth paradigm was to continue, and we did nothing else, alternatively. So that means the cornucopias, plans to grow continually will not work. It’s about to roll off the cliff. And so the cornucopias and the Malthusians are in the same boat. Right? So what I’m proposing is, instead of actually doing the same thing, grow, grow, grow, grow, consume, consume in a short term context, and thinking just like what’s happening next week, have a real think about this. Because all human systems in the past, every ism you might think of has been based on expansion and conquest, right, capitalism, communism, fascism, but they’ve all been based on expansion in some form. So we’re talking about a human social contract that we’ve not seen before. And no one really knows what it looks like. If we are successful in developing the idea that we can live in a system where we don’t, our material needs are not expanding like an amoeba. I need Hagen’s called the super organism. Right? If we can do this in a way where we don’t need such a lot of stuff, right, and we can stabilize and even start to contract with how much of what we do is useless or not useless or not necessary. Right? Right, right. So we
Robert Bryce 57:49
have to change the there’s going to be a requirement that we set, it kind of didn’t matter if you just said that exactly this exact way. But changing the idea of the social contract about what is what is to be expected and that we’re going to have to accept slower growth. And that if we’re going to muddle through, we have to accommodate this idea that we can’t just the infinite expansion is over,
Simon Michaux 58:11
we have to we have to completely rebuild everything in terms of around the idea of what do we actually need. So what we want what we need, and what we do become the same thing. We need a whole lot less. Right. And we’re not concerned, we’re not consuming so much from the natural environment of all resources of all kinds. If we can do that, then we’ve got a chance of actually sort of getting past this this challenge. If we can’t do that, and the mountain museums are right as other cornucopias. And we’re going off cliff. I call this that lemming talk. Right. Yeah. And so so the answer is not as complex not as simplistic as other mouth museums. Right. Gotcha. So it is yes.
Robert Bryce 58:54
Let me ask you a question. Since you’re looking at this and I ask this question of a lot of people including people on to the you know, I when I do lectures and speeches and so on and but also people on the podcast, so you’ve looked at this from the bottom up, top down, sideways every other way? I think you can. So if you were if you had you know, money to invest, you put it into commodities. I mean, that’s the kind of the rage now that people are worried about the value of currencies, it’s that Well, now’s the time where those things have flipped, and you should be investing in commodities and nonferrous metals, base metals. That was one of the people I talked to in Colorado this summer. What do you say you’ve looked at all of this What’s where if you’re putting your money or betting for your children’s future or your you know, family, where do you put your money?
Simon Michaux 59:37
So this answer might surprise you, because I’ve looked at the whole part of the system. Bucha is an alliance between industrial clusters. Right society is going to reorganize itself. In context of what are the energy sources we have? An industry will organize itself around those energy sources. People will organize themselves around on those industry clusters, right, and our food production will organize around the people with the understanding, we now have very short value chains. So we’re gonna go from a global system to a local decision making but regional sourcing of resources. Right. And so if we’re gonna go on there, it’s like a big decentralization. So if I was to invest money, I put forward the idea of a vertical integrated value chain, everything that you need from the raw material, let’s say the mind, all the way up to the finished manufactured products, if we could somehow integrate that into one enterprise, right where the offtake agreements reached, because it’s going to be rough to actually maintain production in a smooth way that we need at the moment. So the conventional businesses will struggle to survive. So you find something that’s vital, something that’s really important, and invest money in that. But you’re investing money in a way where what you’re investing has not only a feedstock built in, but a customer base built in as well, that is part of the same business model. Right. And so that’s one idea. And I think in the industrial as
Robert Bryce 1:01:16
you’re saying this, I’m thinking, well, in my own head, okay, well, what fits that that would be Cargill or Bungie are the big international food producers, right, that they would own a lot of the food, the production and the processing and the marketing. So would that would that fit in that what you’re saying,
Simon Michaux 1:01:31
you also have the idea that the large structures will break apart, these large international corporations will struggle to stay the way they are. So I always think of something small, but vital, something like a company that makes electric motors, for example, right? The end product and an electric motor, because then someone in with their own workshop could take that electric motor and do something with it, right, but you got to make it in the first place. So we’re going small and simple, but vital, but then trace it all the way back to the original value chain, like you need copper, and you need steel, the your basic components to actually make that electric motor. Right, right. So the other one is food, you know, what we need, we will absolutely food. But food is going to change, industrial fertilizers, for example, and herbicides and pesticides. And the idea that food is produced in Brazil, and then shipped to Europe, that’s going to be really hard to maintain. So now we’re going to start producing food locally. Right? And so how do we do that? Oh, it’s small scale organic. So then you’ve got all the stuff to do there. But what if we use industry to help with that? I used to work on an organic farm and one of my jobs was making compost. But it’s just being with a fork and tipping things over and adding things. What if we had a factory that did that, that took all these biological inputs, and made a lot of fertilizer, and then got that fertilizer out to farms
Robert Bryce 1:03:01
was see if I can interrupt. So what I hear you saying is when this is a theme I heard Peter Zion speak. In fact, it was just yesterday, he was here in Austin. And this is one of the themes of his new book, The end of the world is just the beginning. But it’s reshoring. Right, that we’re going to see now, this trend toward globalization this model has been is being blown up, right. And we’re seeing it particularly being destroyed in Europe because of the obvious reasons. So I’m hearing you say that, and if I think reshoring, this accrues to the benefit of the US. So it goes to the one of the questions that what what are your in your view? Because you’re talking about reshoring, and you’re talking about vital industries. So which countries are better positioned now in the world? Relative to the rest of them? I’m bullish on the US, because the demographics, energy supply. And so what what countries? Are you bullish on given, given what you’re posing here is a very fairly dire outlook in terms of these energy transition ideas.
Simon Michaux 1:03:59
So how I describe things to my daughters, right, is the system we were born and bred to serve is dying. But we are not that system. Whether it’s fossil fuel based or renewable energy, the way we think it is, is dead. Right? The dinosaur is dead, but the brain doesn’t know it yet. Because last the blood still being pumped up the neck. Right. And so from the ashes, a new system will rise according to new fundamental limitations. Now, all nations around the world have a list of pros and cons. And whether those pros and cons are going to mean anything comes down to human perception, and human choices in each of those countries. You’re gonna be in a good position, but you’re gonna have damask leaders doing dumbass things. Right. Right. And you’re going to be in a challenging situation, but you could have good leadership and a good community and you’ll make a go of it. Right. And so, it it all comes down to us in many respects. The entire Nordic frontier is in a good position in energy context. But we need, we need to heat our buildings, right? Well, there’s lots of geothermal, there’s lots of hydro. We’ve got established biomass to heat plants in a sustainable environment, blah, blah, blah. But we’ve got probably too much population that we can handle. The United States is an excellent position. Right? Because it has inherited industrial actions that you had mining, you had smelters, you had factories, it’s all gone now. But it’s in your heritage to get it back. And while most of your raw resources have been mined out, there’s certainly a lot left that you can use. If you’re smart about it. You know, that the whole fracking industry that started up in 2008, you guys did some really stupid there, what you should have done instead of selling it to the rest of the world, keep it you should have kept that oil for yourselves. Right. Right. But now it’s all being used.
Robert Bryce 1:05:58
Well, there’s a fair amount left yet but so what’s your an Aussie? So I mean, if you had to say, which was so give me three. So the US, you mentioned Northern Europe already. But would Australia be in that list as Australia is in that list, because of because of rule of law and and significant natural resources, commodities that can be self sufficient in a lot of things?
Simon Michaux 1:06:19
that Australia has a rule of law, yes, but we’ve lost sovereign control over much of our natural resources, because we sold it off to foreign investment. Right. So these are human decisions, if we can get the human decision stuff sorted out. And we can agree not to go to war with each other. Australia is in an excellent position, as is New Zealand, because we can grow our own food, and we don’t need to heat our homes to survive. But the environment is pretty challenging, it’s pretty, it’s pretty challenging compared to the rest of the world. So they’re
Robert Bryce 1:06:52
relatively small populations, given your landmass? Right? I mean, New Zealand, you know, fairly large, but very, I don’t know what how many New Zealanders there are only a few million.
Simon Michaux 1:07:01
Yeah. So every, every night, every part of the world has an opportunity cost to the world, we’ll find it challenging when you got a large amount of population in a small area, for example, China, or India, right, right. There in deeper shit than usual. Because they’re dependent on fossil fuel systems like coal in particular in China. Right, right. So if and they haven’t actually, they’re trying to construct the after oil systems, but there’s not enough of them for all their population. So we have a situation in China, for example, that a small percentage of their population will be resourced, but everyone else is going to be not resourced. And then hilarity ensues. So,
Robert Bryce 1:07:43
it was a and and others have talked about that. And you add in the demographic challenge, which is the rapidly aging population, and it seems like that, that that’s a big challenge as well. Yeah.
Simon Michaux 1:07:53
So so there are places around the world I would like to be versus not like to be Finland. All right. We have a lot of challenges here, but we have a lot of opportunities as well. It comes down to our leadership not doing dumb things. Right. For example, joining NATO and then putting nuclear weapons on the Russian border. I mean, like, why would we do this, that that will then complicate our lives, no and dumb. Like, we can take a perfectly good situation, and we can bugger bugger it up completely, by making decisions that are that are not necessarily in alignment with our own long term needs. Right? I’m seeing every leadership group in the world doing that.
Robert Bryce 1:08:41
There are a lot of challenges. Let me give a station break again, my my guest is Simon Michaud. He is an Aussie who is now at the Geological Survey of Finland. You can find out more about him at Simon michaud.com. So we’ve been talking now more than an hour. Simon, you’ve been gracious with your time. And I know we had to reschedule this, this interview once already, but I didn’t want to keep you much more than an hour. So good. Thanks a little bit. Who’s done good work on this. I mean, you mentioned Chris Martenson. I’m remembering his Chris
Simon Michaux 1:09:09
Martenson. He’s, he’s done some excellent work. We’ve all there are lots of people around the world who’ve all got part of the picture. But we’ve all got part of the picture. Gail to Verburg in our finite world, she does excellent work to cope.
Robert Bryce 1:09:23
She’s been on the podcast, and it’s a remarkable, I mean, just I thought, Well, I haven’t had an actuary and on my podcast, and my dad was in the insurance business. And I just thought here she’s a woman who’s very modest, you know, she’s retired. She has no, I don’t want to say she doesn’t have skin in the game. But she’s not not talking her book. She doesn’t have a book, right? You know, she’s just trying to analyze the world in his way in an honest way as I can. She had this great line, which I thought she’s talking about the financialization of the system, which didn’t can’t eat money. And I just thought that was great because she’s coming back to your point which the world runs on molecules and we need molecules and you know, we can flood the market with them. but we don’t need money we need we need molecules to make the world go around. And so yeah, I’m glad you mentioned her. Thanks. Anyone else?
Simon Michaux 1:10:06
Yeah. So Gail reviewed one of my reports and her ability to read a report. And based on it reading, understand the tables of numbers was amazing. Her intellect is amazing. Right? So her modesty, I don’t believe it. Right. So
Robert Bryce 1:10:24
she knows what she knows. And she’s Yeah, that’s very refreshing. That’s good. Yeah.
Simon Michaux 1:10:28
So all right. So Nate Hagens does some excellent work in understanding why the psychology or we can come back to the question, Why are things happening at the moment? So I have an opinion on why that is. So he’s doing some excellent work. Richard Heinberg has done some very good work and sustainability. There’s, there’s all sorts of people who’ve written books, and Nicole FOSS. She’s not as active anymore, but she did some excellent work a couple of years ago, which is still quite valid because nothing’s changed. And Heinberg
Robert Bryce 1:11:00
his book was the party’s over, right? Wasn’t that one of his books? Yeah. Right. He’s calling an end to coal or oil and natural gas was has been one of his, his themes.
Simon Michaux 1:11:11
Yeah. So he had part of the system. He had his hands on part of the system. So then you got guys, like Offerman, who is doing some good work and mapping the oil industry at the moment, or, or Bill Reese who’s and Mike joy, who are actually looking at the ecological side of things. Right now. The list goes on this. This is quite a, it’s quite a few of them. It had Patrick is based in Saudi Arabia. He’s done some excellent work.
Robert Bryce 1:11:38
I know Patrick, for a long time ago, I’ve lost touch with him. But he’s a king Saudi University, I believe in Saudi Arabia, and art Berman has been on the podcast, but well, so those are good names. So again, in the interest of time, I’m gonna hit you with the questions that I asked all my guests. So what are you reading? Now? What’s on the top of your book pile? Or do you have a pile of books? Or what is it? Yeah, I’m intention at the moment.
Simon Michaux 1:12:01
I’m reading about eight books at once.
Robert Bryce 1:12:05
The top Do you read cover to cover you skim them I skim.
Simon Michaux 1:12:08
It’s actually both, I buy a book. And I’ll flip through it, and I’ll skim it. And then I’ll put it down. And then I’ll read it, cover to cover. And then the third step is if I need to find something, I’ll go back to that book, and then find a section in that book, and then pull it apart, and then underline it, and the rest of it. Yeah, and some books never get read, because I never actually get time to write right. So the fourth turning, the fourth turning is what I’ve got on at the moment. That’s this historical pattern in American culture, every 80 years, there’s a conflict or major conflicts. And between that post conflicts, you’ve got four social generations. And each and this pattern goes back to 1492. Right, and so we’re in the fourth turning now. And that was actually truly remarkable how they’ve done that. I’m reading a book on cycles, which I can’t remember the cycles theory, I can’t remember the author’s name, but all our world around us, there’s a whole series of cycles, and we don’t quite know what they all mean. But so I’m looking at that. I’m reading Thucydides trap, by Graham Allison, is a historical work. He was a historian who lived through the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens, he picked up on this pattern, that when a rising power threatens and entrenched power, the most of the time, it results in war. And so and so we’ve got an entrenched power now. And so we’ve we’ve had a turning of empires, and we’re, we’re one of those stages now. And you know, China, it’s not just China wide information is showing that it’s actually the BRICS nations are actually forming a power block. And they’re going to take on the Western Power block, you know, the Europe, UK, United States block, and they are playing their chess match better than we are.
Robert Bryce 1:14:07
It’s your seems to be the case. I mean, what pops to mind? I mean, you know, this the US the sanctions on China, the sanctions on Russia, it does seem the world is cleaving. Now, more than and of course, the Ukraine war has been a part of this, but it’s, maybe it was just looming anyway, and was bound to happen. I don’t know. But that does seem to be the one of the themes of the macro themes at the moment.
Simon Michaux 1:14:28
So I’m also writing a book, personally, when I wrote the big report, it was a tour of duty through all energy systems I could find management asked me to take out a couple of sections because they were too controversial. Know what they were saying this is there were no industrial app. Examples of this. Right? This was energy. What I had found was a whole series of energy systems that were a different paradigm, but they’re in our past. Right like Nikola Tesla, what was he doing? What was he proposing? What how did it work? If it Good work, how can we use it? So, zero point energy? What is that again? Is it viable? Could we use it? I looked at the Electric Universe theory, I looked at Michael Faraday’s original work, when he developed electrostatics. And a lot of stuff that was done way back when he could have gone down a serious rabbit holes, but didn’t because the electric motor was invented, and they forgot all about it. So I’m advocating, we should look at these old ideas with new technology, cutting edge technology knowledge. So you look at old ideas with new tech, existing technology. So the challenges of the future and are seen in a new light. I’m talking about
Robert Bryce 1:15:41
by looking back in history, I have Faraday’s quote here, on my wall, everything may be gained by energy and perseverance.
Simon Michaux 1:15:47
Exactly. So I’m what I’m certainly these ideas all seem to connect together with the idea that what we call gravity, electricity, and magnetism might be part of the same thing. And we’ve only partially understood them. And there’s a lot of work from a theoretical physics point of view that we could do from a different paradigm to evolve that her whole enterprise. I’m writing a book about this. I’m calling it the new electric.
Robert Bryce 1:16:13
I liked it. I liked the title. That’s, that’s good. Well, so then last question, Simon, because now it’s been more than an hour. And I do want to let you go. But what gives you hope, we’ve talked about a lot of things that are fairly bleak, what gives you hope?
Simon Michaux 1:16:27
Well, I actually think I am actually positive for the future with the understanding things get rough. What gives me hope. And this is how I talk to my daughters is that humanity is now being put in a situation that was always going to be so we always will take the easy way out, will always take the easy to get resources first. And now we’re in a position where we can’t put things off when we can’t do things the easy way. So now, when we’re in the most challenging set of circumstances, humanity now will face certain things that it has put off facing, we are about to grow up. Right. So now, how many of us get through this window? That’s another thing. But getting through this window of transformation? What, what will human civilization look like on the other side, and frankly, how much of it will be we now have the opportunity to face certain things and grow up as a species and get out of this adolescence. On the other side of this transformation, whether it’s 50 years long, or 100 years long, or 20 years long, who knows what it’s going to be. But on the other side of this, we can actually have a human civilization worth inheriting the long term prospects of the human civilization is now in a better place. At the moment, we are running like an adolescence species, we’re consuming everything in our path, like a pack of locusts, right? That is not sensible. You know, if we are to be genuinely sustainable, we’ve got to do things, but it’s not our technology. It’s what’s within us our own perceptions, our own knowledge, and our own belief structures. Why do we do certain things? Should we do certain things. So this is the only way we’re going to face this stuff. So while the next couple of years are going to be hard, the work being done is actually more valuable and meaningful than any other generation before us. And so that’s a reason to get out of bed. Once we realize what what’s going on, that’s the project of the century. It was gonna be hard
Robert Bryce 1:18:36
that these decision making policymaking these are going to be consequential for decades to come.
Simon Michaux 1:18:42
Yes, that’s right. And we will see lots of lots of very human behavior, and we’re going to get things wrong. But we also will learn what not to do.
Robert Bryce 1:18:53
Right. Well, I first heard from your lips to God’s ears is the old that that we will learn from this. Well, that’s a good place to stop Simon. I think that that’s a good summary and one that I think rings true to me anyway, that we got to grow up here in terms of some of these misallocated resources and malinvestment.
Simon Michaux 1:19:15
It’s an old frumps, though, it’s a social contracts at the center of all of it, but our energy, our raw materials and manufacturing, the nature of money, how we talk to each other, the relationship with our environment, all of it is on the table now. And we it’s a social biography, cures purification point where we either break through and grow up or break down. And then that you have the natural way of the planetary systems of dealing with these sorts of things, and that’s the Malthusians are right?
Robert Bryce 1:19:49
Well, again, a good place to stop. My guest again, has been Simon Michel. Michaud, Simon michaud.com is where you can find all of his work Simon thanks a million for being on the power here. power hungry podcast I greatly enjoyed it You’re welcome nice and thanks to all of you in podcast land tune in for the next episode of the power hungry podcast until then see you.