Vaclav Smil http://www.vaclavsmil.com Distinguished Professor Emeritus Mon, 15 Jun 2015 00:03:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Vaclav Smil receives 2015 OPEC Award for Research http://www.vaclavsmil.com/vaclav-smil-receives-2015-opec-award-for-research/ http://www.vaclavsmil.com/vaclav-smil-receives-2015-opec-award-for-research/#comments Mon, 08 Jun 2015 22:18:11 +0000 http://www.vaclavsmil.com/?p=1200 In 2004, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) established the OPEC Award for Research to honour distinguished individuals who have made outstanding contribution to the petroleum industry and oil-related issues. In particular, the OPEC Award for Research is intended to honour those who have shown dedication to research and analysis of oil-related issues; […]

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In 2004, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) established the OPEC Award for Research to honour distinguished individuals who have made outstanding contribution to the petroleum industry and oil-related issues. In particular, the OPEC Award for Research is intended to honour those who have shown dedication to research and analysis of oil-related issues; contributed to an enhanced dialogue between producers and consumers; demonstrated high level of independence and integrity in their work; persistently presented a critical, yet impartial, view on oil-related issues; produced a substantial record of publications at the international level.

The first four Award recipients were Professors Robert Mabro (Oxford), Peter Odell (Rotterdam), Paul Stevens (Dundee) and Øystein Noreng (Oslo), who received the Award in 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2012, respectively.

The OPEC Board of Governors, on the recommendation of OPEC Award Advisory Panel, had unanimously decided to award the 2015 OPEC Award for Research to Dr. Vaclav Smil, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba in Canada, in recognition of his outstanding work in the field of oil and energy research. The Award was presented at a Gala Dinner held at Vienna City Hall on Wednesday, June 3 as a part of the 6th OPEC International Seminar.

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Power Density: A Key to Understanding Energy Sources and Uses http://www.vaclavsmil.com/power-density-a-key-to-understanding-energy-sources-and-uses/ http://www.vaclavsmil.com/power-density-a-key-to-understanding-energy-sources-and-uses/#comments Sat, 09 May 2015 05:00:14 +0000 http://www.vaclavsmil.com/?p=1184 In this book, Vaclav Smil argues that power density is a key determinant of the nature and dynamics of energy systems. Any understanding of complex energy systems must rely on quantitative measures of many fundamental variables. Power density -- the rate of energy flux per unit of area -- is an important but largely overlooked measure. Smil provides the first systematic, quantitative appraisal of power density, offering detailed reviews of the power densities of renewable energy flows, fossil fuels, thermal electricity generation, and all common energy uses.

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In this book, Vaclav Smil argues that power density is a key determinant of the nature and dynamics of energy systems. Any understanding of complex energy systems must rely on quantitative measures of many fundamental variables. Power density — the rate of energy flux per unit of area — is an important but largely overlooked measure. Smil provides the first systematic, quantitative appraisal of power density, offering detailed reviews of the power densities of renewable energy flows, fossil fuels, thermal electricity generation, and all common energy uses.

Smil shows that careful quantification, critical appraisals, and revealing comparisons of power densities make possible a deeper understanding of the ways we harness, convert, and use energies. Conscientious assessment of power densities, he argues, proves particularly revealing when contrasting the fossil fuel–based energy system with renewable energy conversions.

Smil explains that modern civilization has evolved as a direct expression of the high power densities of fossil fuel extraction. He argues that our inevitable (and desirable) move to new energy arrangements involving conversions of lower-density renewable energy sources will require our society — currently dominated by megacities and concentrated industrial production — to undergo a profound spatial restructuring of its energy system.

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Just published – Power Density: A Key to Understanding Energy Sources and Uses http://www.vaclavsmil.com/just-published-power-density-a-key-to-understanding-energy-sources-and-uses/ http://www.vaclavsmil.com/just-published-power-density-a-key-to-understanding-energy-sources-and-uses/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 05:00:15 +0000 http://www.vaclavsmil.com/?p=1193 In this book, Vaclav Smil argues that power density is a key determinant of the nature and dynamics of energy systems. Any understanding of complex energy systems must rely on quantitative measures of many fundamental variables. Power density — the rate of energy flux per unit of area — is an important but largely overlooked […]

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In this book, Vaclav Smil argues that power density is a key determinant of the nature and dynamics of energy systems. Any understanding of complex energy systems must rely on quantitative measures of many fundamental variables. Power density — the rate of energy flux per unit of area — is an important but largely overlooked measure. Smil provides the first systematic, quantitative appraisal of power density, offering detailed reviews of the power densities of renewable energy flows, fossil fuels, thermal electricity generation, and all common energy uses.

Smil shows that careful quantification, critical appraisals, and revealing comparisons of power densities make possible a deeper understanding of the ways we harness, convert, and use energies. Conscientious assessment of power densities, he argues, proves particularly revealing when contrasting the fossil fuel–based energy system with renewable energy conversions.

Smil explains that modern civilization has evolved as a direct expression of the high power densities of fossil fuel extraction. He argues that our inevitable (and desirable) move to new energy arrangements involving conversions of lower-density renewable energy sources will require our society — currently dominated by megacities and concentrated industrial production — to undergo a profound spatial restructuring of its energy system.

 

Power Density: A Key to Understanding Energy Sources and Uses

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Monthly essays for IEEE Spectrum http://www.vaclavsmil.com/monthly-essays-ieee-spectrum/ http://www.vaclavsmil.com/monthly-essays-ieee-spectrum/#comments Sat, 07 Feb 2015 06:00:16 +0000 http://www.vaclavsmil.com/?p=1174 In January 2015 I began to write monthly essays for the IEEE Spectrum, on of the world’s leading engineering and science periodicals published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in New York. The essays are published under the general heading Numbers Don’t Lie and their goal is to offer some new looks at […]

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In January 2015 I began to write monthly essays for the IEEE Spectrum, on of the world’s leading engineering and science periodicals published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in New York. The essays are published under the general heading Numbers Don’t Lie and their goal is to offer some new looks at a wide range of contemporary interests. Although these essays could be accessed freely and immediately after they appear in the online version of Spectrum, that is some weeks before they come out in print, IEEE rules do not allow any posting of pdf files on private websites; consequently, the essays have to be accessed through the links provided in the list of my publications.

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Michael Cembalest, Chairman of Market and Investment Strategy at J.P. Morgan, Published Our Annual Energy Reality Check http://www.vaclavsmil.com/michael-cembalest-chairman-market-investment-strategy-j-p-morgan-published-annual-energy-reality-check-2/ http://www.vaclavsmil.com/michael-cembalest-chairman-market-investment-strategy-j-p-morgan-published-annual-energy-reality-check-2/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 05:00:14 +0000 http://www.vaclavsmil.com/?p=1154 For the last few years, we have written an annual piece on energy. In doing so, we have worked with Vaclav Smil from the University of Manitoba (see biography below). In a recent article in Scientific American, Vaclav provided a rough road map for what the arc of renewable energy use might look like. The […]

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For the last few years, we have written an annual piece on energy. In doing so, we have worked with Vaclav Smil from the University of Manitoba (see biography below). In a recent article in Scientific American, Vaclav provided a rough road map for what the arc of renewable energy use might look like. The first three panels track the percentage of world energy that was based on coal, oil and natural gas in their respective adoption phases; note that it took several decades for each to reach 30% penetration rates3. The last panel shows modern renewable energy (ex-hydropower). Some argue that the pace of technological progress is faster now, and that there is an environmental urgency that did not exist in prior energy transitions. Perhaps; but given sunk capital costs, behavioral issues and complex systems involved, prior gradual transitions are a good starting point for the pace of future change.

 

Full Article on PDF

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Bill Gates reviews Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization http://www.vaclavsmil.com/bill-gates-reviews-making-modern-world-materials-dematerialization/ http://www.vaclavsmil.com/bill-gates-reviews-making-modern-world-materials-dematerialization/#comments Thu, 12 Jun 2014 05:00:12 +0000 http://www.vaclavsmil.com/?p=1126 The car I drive to work is made of around 2,600 pounds of steel, 800 pounds of plastic, and 400 pounds of light metal alloys. The trip from my house to the office is roughly four miles long, all surface streets, which means I travel over some 15,000 tons of concrete each morning. Once I’m at the […]

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The car I drive to work is made of around 2,600 pounds of steel, 800 pounds of plastic, and 400 pounds of light metal alloys. The trip from my house to the office is roughly four miles long, all surface streets, which means I travel over some 15,000 tons of concrete each morning.

Once I’m at the office, I usually open a can of Diet Coke. Over the course of the day I might drink three or four. All those cans also add up to something like 35 pounds of aluminum a year.

Read More

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Bill Gates talks to Quartz on Poverty, GMOs, Microsoft and Vaclav Smil’s Latest Books http://www.vaclavsmil.com/bill-gates-talks-quartz-poverty-gmos-microsoft-vaclav-smils-latest-books/ http://www.vaclavsmil.com/bill-gates-talks-quartz-poverty-gmos-microsoft-vaclav-smils-latest-books/#comments Wed, 22 Jan 2014 06:00:48 +0000 http://vaclavsmil.com/?p=1093 Vaclav Smil keeps turning out amazing books. Making the Modern World, I just finished, and it’s pretty fantastic. It’s about this idea that we are still using more materials per person, even as advanced economies, though people talk about the dematerialization of steel, the amount of concrete, and other minerals. It’s classic Smil: really explaining how […]

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Vaclav Smil keeps turning out amazing books. Making the Modern World, I just finished, and it’s pretty fantastic. It’s about this idea that we are still using more materials per person, even as advanced economies, though people talk about the dematerialization of steel, the amount of concrete, and other minerals. It’s classic Smil: really explaining how steel is improved, how concrete is improved, how you think about maintenance, and recycling, and limits, and what the new advances are. And really, the amazing progression.

Full Interview

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Clive Thompson interview in WIRED Magazine http://www.vaclavsmil.com/clive-thompson-interview-wired-magazine/ http://www.vaclavsmil.com/clive-thompson-interview-wired-magazine/#comments Mon, 02 Dec 2013 06:00:26 +0000 http://www.vaclavsmil.com/?p=1081 “There is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil,” Bill Gates wrote this summer. That’s quite an endorsement — and it gave a jolt of fame to Smil, a professor emeritus of environment and geography at the University of Manitoba. In a world of specialized intellectuals, Smil is an ambitious […]

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“There is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil,” Bill Gates wrote this summer. That’s quite an endorsement — and it gave a jolt of fame to Smil, a professor emeritus of environment and geography at the University of Manitoba. In a world of specialized intellectuals, Smil is an ambitious and astonishing polymath who swings for fences. His nearly three dozen books have analyzed the world’s biggest challenges — the future of energy, food production, and manufacturing — with nuance and detail. They’re among the most data-heavy books you’ll find, with a remarkable way of framing basic facts. (Sample nugget: Humans will consume 17 percent of what the biosphere produces this year.)

His conclusions are often bleak. He argues, for instance, that the demise of US manufacturing dooms the country not just intellectually but creatively, because innovation is tied to the process of making things. (And, unfortunately, he has the figures to back that up.) wired got Smil’s take on the problems facing America and the world.

Read Full Article in PDF

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The last of my 2013 books — Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization – has been published by John Wiley http://www.vaclavsmil.com/last-2013-books-making-modern-world-materials-dematerialization-published-john-wiley/ http://www.vaclavsmil.com/last-2013-books-making-modern-world-materials-dematerialization-published-john-wiley/#comments Wed, 06 Nov 2013 00:32:22 +0000 http://www.vaclavsmil.com/?p=1065   How much further should the affluent world push its material consumption? Does relative dematerialization lead to absolute decline in demand for materials? These and many other questions are discussed and answered in Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization. Over the course of time, the modern world has become dependent on unprecedented flows of […]

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How much further should the affluent world push its material consumption? Does relative dematerialization lead to absolute decline in demand for materials? These and many other questions are discussed and answered in Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization.

Over the course of time, the modern world has become dependent on unprecedented flows of materials. Now even the most efficient production processes and the highest practical rates of recycling may not be enough to result in dematerialization rates that would be high enough to negate the rising demand for materials generated by continuing population growth and rising standards of living. This book explores the costs of this dependence and the potential for substantial dematerialization of modern economies.

Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization considers the principal materials used throughout history, from wood and stone, through to metals, alloys, plastics and silicon, describing their extraction and production as well as their dominant applications. The evolving productivities of material extraction, processing, synthesis, finishing and distribution, and the energy costs and environmental impact of rising material consumption are examined in detail. The book concludes with an outlook for the future, discussing the prospects for dematerialization and potential constrains on materials.

This interdisciplinary text provides useful perspectives for readers with backgrounds including resource economics, environmental studies, energy analysis, mineral geology, industrial organization, manufacturing and material science.

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Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization http://www.vaclavsmil.com/making-modern-world-materials-dematerialization/ http://www.vaclavsmil.com/making-modern-world-materials-dematerialization/#comments Fri, 01 Nov 2013 05:00:50 +0000 http://www.vaclavsmil.com/?p=1059 How much further should the affluent world push its material consumption? Does relative dematerialization lead to absolute decline in demand for materials? These and many other questions are discussed and answered in Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization.

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Over the course of time, the modern world has become dependent on unprecedented flows of materials. Now even the most efficient production processes and the highest practical rates of recycling may not be enough to result in dematerialization rates that would be high enough to negate the rising demand for materials generated by continuing population growth and rising standards of living. This book explores the costs of this dependence and the potential for substantial dematerialization of modern economies.

Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization considers the principal materials used throughout history, from wood and stone, through to metals, alloys, plastics and silicon, describing their extraction and production as well as their dominant applications. The evolving productivities of material extraction, processing, synthesis, finishing and distribution, and the energy costs and environmental impact of rising material consumption are examined in detail. The book concludes with an outlook for the future, discussing the prospects for dematerialization and potential constrains on materials.

This interdisciplinary text provides useful perspectives for readers with backgrounds including resource economics, environmental studies, energy analysis, mineral geology, industrial organization, manufacturing and material science.

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