Vaclav Smil http://www.vaclavsmil.com Distinguished Professor Emeritus Sat, 01 Nov 2014 19:48:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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.

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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.

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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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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/ http://www.vaclavsmil.com/michael-cembalest-chairman-market-investment-strategy-j-p-morgan-published-annual-energy-reality-check/#comments Mon, 28 Oct 2013 05:00:02 +0000 http://vaclavsmil.com/?p=1095 While the world has become more energy efficient, it still uses a lot of energy to grow (twice as much as in the 1970s), and most of it based on fossil fuels. Perhaps even more than fiscal policy, energy issues create a lot of debate. Some developed countries have been restricting coal, while others have […]

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While the world has become more energy efficient, it still uses a lot of energy to grow (twice as much as in the 1970s), and most of it based on fossil fuels. Perhaps even more than fiscal policy, energy issues create a lot of debate. Some developed countries have been restricting coal, while others have curtailed either nuclear and/or offshore petroleum drilling. At 300 universities in the United States, students have taken to petitioning their respective endowments to divest from the roughly 2% they have invested in fossil fuel stocks (how that would actually translate into greater renewable energy production and consumption escapes me). At the same time, the developing world has been subsidizing fuel and electricity consumption by $450 billion per year according to the IMF, providing over 90% of such subsidies worldwide.

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Just Published – Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing http://www.vaclavsmil.com/just-published-made-usa-rise-retreat-american-manufacturing/ http://www.vaclavsmil.com/just-published-made-usa-rise-retreat-american-manufacturing/#comments Fri, 23 Aug 2013 05:00:49 +0000 http://www.vaclavsmil.com/?p=1045 “There’s no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil. With his vast knowledge of science and energy, history and business, he brings new insights to every topic he examines.” — Bill Gates “Another irreplaceable entry in Smil’s chronicling of the modern world. If anyone needs help understanding why making ‘things’ still […]

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“There’s no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil. With his vast knowledge of science and energy, history and business, he brings new insights to every topic he examines.” — Bill Gates

“Another irreplaceable entry in Smil’s chronicling of the modern world. If anyone needs help understanding why making ‘things’ still matters in a digital world, start here. The US position as the world’s reserve currency probably rests on the outcome.” — Michael Cembalest, Chief Investment Officer, JP Morgan Asset Management

“Vaclav Smil is one of our time’s most insightful, thorough, and prolific analysts on the history and state of technology, humanity, and industry. Every book Smil has written has made an important contribution, but none may be more important, more timely than Made in the USA. Smil’s fascinating and lucid exploration of the history and state of manufacturing in America comes at a critical time and should be the starting point for any discussion about the future for the USA.” — Mark P. Mills, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute

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Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing http://www.vaclavsmil.com/made-usa-rise-retreat-american-manufacturing/ http://www.vaclavsmil.com/made-usa-rise-retreat-american-manufacturing/#comments Fri, 23 Aug 2013 05:00:18 +0000 http://www.vaclavsmil.com/?p=1047 In Made in the USA, Vaclav Smil powerfully rebuts the notion that manufacturing is a relic of predigital history and that the loss of American manufacturing is a desirable evolutionary step toward a pure service economy. Smil argues that no advanced economy can prosper without a strong, innovative manufacturing sector and the jobs it creates. Reversing a famous information economy dictum, Smil argues that serving potato chips is not as good as making microchips.

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In Made in the USA, Vaclav Smil powerfully rebuts the notion that manufacturing is a relic of predigital history and that the loss of American manufacturing is a desirable evolutionary step toward a pure service economy. Smil argues that no advanced economy can prosper without a strong, innovative manufacturing sector and the jobs it creates. Reversing a famous information economy dictum, Smil argues that serving potato chips is not as good as making microchips.

The history of manufacturing in America, Smil tells us, is a story of nation-building. He explains how manufacturing became a fundamental force behind America’s economic, strategic, and social dominance. He describes American manufacturing’s rapid rise at the end of the nineteenth century, its consolidation and modernization between the two world wars, its role as an enabler of mass consumption after 1945, and its recent decline. Some economists argue that shipping low-value jobs overseas matters little because the high-value work remains in the United States. But, asks Smil, do we want a society that consists of a small population of workers doing high-value-added work and masses of unemployed?

Smil assesses various suggestions for solving America’s manufacturing crisis, including lowering corporate tax rates, promoting research and development, and improving public education. Will America act to preserve and reinvigorate its manufacturing? It is crucial to our social and economic well-being; but, Smil warns, the odds are no better than even.

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Bill Gates Posts His Multi-Media Review of Harvesting the Biosphere http://www.vaclavsmil.com/bill-gates-posts-his-multi-media-review-of-harvesting-the-biosphere/ http://www.vaclavsmil.com/bill-gates-posts-his-multi-media-review-of-harvesting-the-biosphere/#comments Wed, 24 Jul 2013 05:00:57 +0000 http://www.vaclavsmil.com/?p=1040 “In Harvesting the Biosphere, Smil gives as clear and as numeric a picture as is possible of how humans have altered the biosphere. The book is a bit dry and I had to look up a number of terms that were unfamiliar to me, but it tells a critical story. “Smil starts with a big […]

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“In Harvesting the Biosphere, Smil gives as clear and as numeric a picture as is possible of how humans have altered the biosphere. The book is a bit dry and I had to look up a number of terms that were unfamiliar to me, but it tells a critical story.

“Smil starts with a big question: How much life is there in the biosphere? By “biosphere,” he means everywhere on earth where there are living things: in the air, on the ground, and in the oceans. I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about measurement this year, and I was very impressed with how rigorously he thinks about this problem. Ultimately he concludes that the dry mass of all living things on Earth is about 1.6 trillion metric tons. (Because living things contain different amounts of water, Smil makes these calculations using dry mass, which leaves out the water.)

There is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil.

See the full multimedia presentation HERE

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