Presentation on Global Energy Transitions by Vaclav Smil


  • Vaclav Smil is scientist, policy analyst, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. Bill Gates has said of him: “There is no author who’s books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil.”
  • He has always struck me as being incredibly in-touch with reality, and entirely immune to being influenced popular (yet delusional) opinions.
  • I don’t agree with him on everything, but also feel that just about every word that comes out of his mouth is worth listening to and considering.

Key points:

  • Energy transitions take a very long time.
  • In Smil’s opinion, it would be a far better idea to focus on reducing energy use than spending resources on innovation. (The more I learn about energy, the more I’m starting to agree with him).
  • Energy commentators often have a tendency to speak as though exponential growth/spreading of new technologies will continue indefinitely. History has shown that this is pretty much never the case. After a period of rapid growth, the rate of adoption of new technologies aways levels out.
  • Batteries still have an incredibly low energy densities relative to fossil fuels. In other words, the distance a car can travel if it is powered by 50 pounds of a fossil fuel such as gasoline is far greater than the distance it could travel if equipped with a 50 pound battery. For energy intensive transportation such as transcontinental shipping, it is unlikely that batteries will be able to serve as primary power sources for many decades.
  • I am still a huge believer in electric cars and solar panels, and feel they will play a massive role in our future. It’s worth bearing in mind however, that reductions in energy consumption are the easiest ways of increasing the probability of a desirable climate outcome.


Recommended Reading 

High levels of (vitamin) B12 were associated with increased risk of early death in new study


  • “…researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands analyzed 5,571 Dutch men and women with an average age of about 54 over about eight years and found that the people with the highest levels of B12 in their blood plasma were more likely to die earlier than those with the lowest levels — their death rate was about twice as high.”
  • “A 2019 study found that for already healthy people, taking vitamin supplements isn’t likely to do much. Another 2019 study found that taking too much vitamin D was associated with a higher risk of early death.”


  • My theory is that this link (between high levels of B12 and mortality) might be attributable to the fact that eating lots of animal products will raise your levels of vitamin B12. Therefore, it might not actually be the B12 that is doing the damage, but other compounds in the foods that contain it.
  • As always, I don’t want to come off as preachy on the topic of food. If anyone can find a study linking the consumption of animal products with desirable health outcomes, please send it to me. If it seems high quality, I’ll post it ASAP.


Study: Seattle sugary beverage tax led to a 30.5% drop in sales


  • “Seattle’s tax of 1.75 cents per fluid ounce of sugary beverages took effect in January 2018, and is charged to distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages. The soda tax was expected to bring in about $15 million in its first year. Instead, it produced more than $21 million in 2018 – about $7 million more than expected.”
  • “The money was initially slated for programs aimed at improving access to healthy foods. But after taking in far more funds than expected — nearly $6 million — some of that excess money has been used for other purposes, such as social services.”


Business gets ready to trip: How psychedelic drugs may revolutionize mental health care


  • “I came out with a deeply renewed interest in exploring this world,” he says. “I felt there was a possibility that you could walk into the experience and walk out a very different person.” (Quote by Tim Ferriss)
  • “In one Phase II trial of 107 patients who’d had PTSD for an average of over 17 years, 56% no longer showed signs of the affliction after one session of MDMA-assisted therapy. Psychedelics are helping to break addictions, as well. A combination of psilocybin and cognitive therapy enabled 80% of one study’s participants to kick cigarettes for at least six months. Compare that with the 35% for the most effective available smoking-cessation drug, varenicline.”


  • I’m starting to believe that the benefits offered by psychedelics can almost always be derived from certain forms of meditation and breathwork.
  • That said, psychedelics do seem to offer a shortcut towards reaping these benefits. And, some cases, traumas can be buried so deeply that radical psychedelic interventions seem to be the only way of unlocking them.
  • Even if you’re not interested in therapeutic psychedelics for yourself or those you know, I still think you might find this article of interest. It provides some very shocking information on the state of mental health in America and the world at large. Reading it requires a very short registration (It takes around ten seconds and is completely free.)


YouTube Channel I’ve Been Enjoying: Helen Ibe Music 

(Both videos take about 30 seconds to really get going)



Excerpts from my Journal 

“There is a huge difference between futzing around on the internet looking for random bits of entertainment, and actually sitting down staring out into empty space. I think the latter way of spending one’s time is, in many instances, more productive than the former.”

“The most respected worldview in many academic circles is that we are all a bunch of little particles bumping mindlessly into one another. That everything is just an accidental byproduct of this chaotic subatomic motion. This is a worldview people develop by spending a lot of time reading books and looking into test tubes, or listening to others who have spent a lot of time doing these things. If a person starts living life, and listening to music, and looking up at the stars, I think they’ll eventually come to the conclusion that something slightly more divine is going on.”

“At any moment, everything could change. We trick ourselves into thinking some things in life are relatively permanent, but this is not the case. At any given moment, you could have an aneurism and reincarnate in an alternate universe with different laws of physics. I’m by no means certain that’s what happens after death, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.”


Photo of the Week