CURSO: El Futuro de la Tecnología después del Agotamiento del Petróleo

The latest two centuries, science and technology have experienced an amazing development. Its development has been possible thanks to that in the same time the consumption of fossil fuels has been possible. Without the availability of fossil fuels, the development of technology could not be able to realize itself. The dependence of that our society and technology have regard with fossil fuels, could transform it into a Achilles heel if we don´t correctly react to this energy challenge.

We face to a needed adaptation of our technology toward non fossil fuels ways and it implies our energy sources and a possible lack of sustainability of the current pathway of production and consumption.


Dates:  22th up to 25th September 2015, 16:30 to 21:00.

Location: Ceremonies hall of the Industrial Engineering’s School of the University of Valladolid, on its headquarter in Paseo del Cauce.


First day: “The limits of technology in the XXI century” Tuesday, 22th Septembre 2015.

“Why barriers to technology?” by Margarita Mediavilla, teacher of the System Engineering Department of the Universidad de Valladolid and member of the Group of Energy, Economy and Dynamic Systems. First session. 16:30h

M argarita Mediavilla was responsible to start the course this year with a general introduction. At first she exposes the different levels of trust in the future improvement in technology (techno-optimism vs. techno-cynicism), but she highlights that the techno-optimism is currently mainstream in our culture. She argue that to focus the discussion it is necessary to take a biophysics insight that within an holistic way we are able to put in a frame the limits of the future technology progress. She began pointing at the planet like a open system in energy, and closed in material resources. It marks the need to create an economy based in renewable energies, resulting we must close the circles as possible (maximizing recycling) and always having in account the thermodynamic laws. To illustrate the holistic methodology the teacher put as example the WORLD3 models from the Limits to Growth (70s) report. This report was pioneer in its field of knowledge and its projections have followed a good line with reality. Other model presented by Margarita was the WoLiM model from our research group. These models trend to conclude that, inside the sustainability way, the technical improvements are needed but not sufficient, being needed to introduce social and ethical changes, among others.


Audio of the talkpdf of the presentation,


“Energy Limits” by Fernando Frechoso, teacher from Electricity Engineering Department of the Universidad de Valladolid and member of the Group of Energy, Economy and Dynamic Systems. Second session. 17: 45.

Fernando Frechoso realizes an easy and convincing presentation with the objective to show (1) our fossil-dependent society, specifically regards with petrol, and (2) to demonstrate the current Peak Oil Phenomena in the global production. For these 2 proposals he donates geological, economic and financial data which show the unavailability growth of extraction of crude oil because its decline in resources and its greater and greater implicit cost for companies in this sector In addition Fernando looked over the role of international organisms which in 10 years they are evolved from a passive view with the Peak Oil Phenomena to include it in its reports. To finish he take account some relevant barriers for renewable energies, as instance a low energetic density, in order to solve the current paradigm of energetic crisis that we live.


Audio of the talk. pdf of the presentation


“Material Barriers”Alicia Valero. Teacher of Mechanical Engineering of the Universidad de Zaragoza and Director of the Industrial Ecology Area of CIRCE. Third session. 19:00 up to 21:00

Alicia began highlighting the dependency of the “green” economy (renewable energies, information technologies, and so on) on many elements from the periodic table which are extremely scarce in the Earth’s crust. The demand of these elements are growing exponentially inside a context where we barely recycle. As well, she point that material studies are unusual, suggesting that this effect could be due the concentration of a few companies on the material resources sector and a scarcity and low transparency in the facilitation of data as main factors.  In addition, her research team has created a novel methodology through exegetic calculations and based on the thermodynamic laws which allows us the scarcity of an object in comparison with its enclosed environment. So, the stranger is something, the better is its evaluation. The exergy measures with accuracy in energetic terms the difference between an objects and its enclosed environment as a given reference. This reference level is named “Thanatia” (from Greek “inert state”), a possible state for Earth where all of marketable mineral resources are removed and scattered. This approach is so useful when we want to redirect politics for efficiency in the use of these resources, adding a third parameter to the traditional economic and risk supply rules.


Audio of the presentation, pdf of the presentation

 Second day: “Sustainable technologies, sustainable societies”. Wednesday, 23th September 2015


 “Imitating Gaia: recycle and energy efficiency in the “ecosystemic technologies” by Carlos de Castro, teacher of the Apply Physics of the Universidad de Valladolid and member of the Group of Energy, Economy and Dynamic Systems. First session 16:30.

Carlos starts its explanation turning the tables to the less used technology concept as a human thing, and presenting its main thesis’s talk: Gaia (Biosphere) has technology too, and it is some orders of magnitude higher powerful than human’s. He illustrate this statement through many examples from animal and vegetal world (termites and its agriculture and bioclimatic buildings with the development of millions of years as instance). He explains how technology has a feedback with the evolutions of species.

The problem of unsustainability in our industrial era is simplifying Gaia (for example by means of the elimination of biodiversity, 6th extinction). The simplification of a complex system (Gaia is represented as an organism by Carlos) transform it to a less resilient system. Because Gaia is a sustainable system who has evolved over millions of years, it is appropriate to analyse it to understand the basic principles for sustainability. These principles are: (1) the use of renewable energies, (2) shut down material cycles with recycle taxes upper 99.5% for the most elements, (3) a dialectics between technology and its adaptation which accepts us to include innovations slowly. The cooperation is the centre of the ecosystems (characterized by a high diversity and multifunctionality), and (4) the final challenge is to implement a decrease to a stable state. So, the inclusion of these principles requires a big change in humans toward a mentality based on modesty, moderation, love and a rise awareness against the myths emerged by techno-optimism and  the identification of happiness with consumerism.


pdf of the presentationaudio of the talk

”Socioeconomic Unsustainability” Mario Giampietro,  researcher of the Institut de Ciència I Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA) of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). Second session 19:00 up to 21:00.

Mario introduce the conference as of its work and experience with modelling of energy-economy systems. He argue that the most of models trend to simplify the relationships between the energetic metabolism and economic functions to cover

centró su ponencia a partir de su trabajo y experiencia con el modelado de los sistemas energético-económicos. Argumentó que la mayoría de modelos tienden a simplificar las relaciones entre el metabolismo energético y las funciones económicas a cubrir, por lo que subestiman el impacto de fenómenos como el pico del petróleo o las implicaciones de las políticas climáticas propuestas para mitigar el cambio climático (reducción de emisiones del 80-95% en 2050). Para ilustrar la complejidad de estos sistemas realizó una crítica al concepto de EROEI (o TRE, tasa de retorno energético), argumentando que no es útil para evaluar la calidad de los flujos de energía. Así, argumentó que la futura transición energética hacia una menor disponibilidad de energía de alta calidad implicará concentrarse en algunos sectores económicos (e.g. agricultura), en detrimento de otros. Analizó la ciudad como paradigma de insostenibilidad del modelo actual. Concluyó analizando la importancia de la economía financiera en la economía actual, previendo la gran crisis próxima procederá de la incapacidad del pago de la deuda acumulada por la no disponibilidad de base física para sostener el crecimiento (siguiendo a Kozo Mayumi).

pdf of the presentationaudio of the presentation


Third day: New technology trends toward sustainability” Thursday 24 Septembre 2015

“Principles of the Permaculture”, Rosalba Fonteriz, Teacher of the Biochemical and Molecular Biology and Fisiology/ IBGM, Uva. First session. Part 1  16:30.

pdf of the presentationaudio of the presentation

“Experiences in Permaculture and Technology Sovereignty” Victor Barahona. Technical industrial engineer, director of the Permacultura Aralar and Egokitek. First session. Part 2.  17:45.

pdf of the presentation

 audio of the presentation

Vídeo about Open Source Technologies, 19:20 (up to 19:30 )

“Open Source Hardware and the Makers Movement. Nuria Robles, manager in  Fab-Lab León. Second session.  19:30 (up to 21:00)

Nuria presents its performance the “maker” world, and it could be appropiated with craftsman employing modern technology (information technology, 3D printers, and so on) in a systemic and permanent way. Among the main goals, it is found to cover the own needs, so it is fundamental that the ideas and products have free licencs to apply them and to be replicated in anywhere. In relation with world “maker” Nuria shows the Fabrication Laboratories, sites  in where makers work and share their ideas).

pdf of the presentationaudio of the presentation





Fourth day: “Towards a Real Sustainable Technology” Friday 25 Septembre 2015

“Lessons in the past: the role of technology and energy in history”. Luis González  Reyes, co-autor of the book En la Espiral de la Energía and member of Ecologist in action. First session. 16:30.

Luis begin its exposition defining technology as “energy, matter and knowledge condensed”. In addition, he detail that, although technology is a human creation, it has influence in societies. Its exposition is a historic tour through different  energetic metabolisms which have done in different cultures. His start point is that, even if energy can’t explain all culture variations, it is a real factor to have account because energy put conditions (although the lastest decisions are by humans). So, the fodder metabolism (1000 b.C) is caracterized by a domestic and nomadic economy. This type of economy can’t store nwither food nor energy, so neither power. The specialization level was very low and this determines an equal society. The first agriculture (5000 b.C) implies sedentariness, although inequality societies only started with the first dominating civilizations as Egipt or increasing fertile civilizations, signing a period of time when human agriculture and complex societies but based in equality are cut off from the logic of dominating civilizations which came to reality next. So, metabolism and energy use capacity have incluence in the power relations with a role that is not always decisive. Luis remarks the 4 pillars of dominating covilizationsres which rose up in that moment of the history and today are the base of our societies: War, State, Patriarchy and a utilitarian relationt with nature. Finally, the industrial society is caracterized by the access to large volum of fossil energy that which has multiplied the inequalities between countries and north with south of the planet, and the capacity of control by the elite of our societies. The four concepts are here the metropolis, the fossil state, the image of a consumerist society and a megamachine (following Mumford). If we assume a decline in the energy resources in future, and it is very real when we see the previous societies in the history, it is very possible a simplification in our culture to addapt oue needs to environmental conditions. So we can forecast an economy more local and based in agriculture, in a context of sustainability as a needed paradigm.

pdf of the presentationaudio of the presentation

Round Table: “What technologies we can promote in the decline oil context?”. Second session. 18:30 (up to 21:00)


Antonio Garcia-Olivares, researcher from ICM of CSIC, Barcelona.

Luis González Reyes, co-autor of the book En la Espiral de la Energía and coordinator of Ecologists in Action.

Rosario Sierra, teacher of the Vegetal Production and Forest Resources Department of the ETS de Ingenierías Agrarias School from University of Valladolid.

Antonio shares many of his works together with its partners, they have tried to answer whether it is possible a transition to a 100% renewable system. He began its presentation saying that the energy crisis is in fact a planetary and many-sided crisis. As start point of view, the problem should set out the transition to a stable system. Their studies show that global demand could be satisfied with a combination of solar concentration power (5 TWe), wind power (included offshore, 4 TWe in total), solar photovoltaic power (2TWe) and 1 TWe in hydroelectric and sea powers. For this proposal it is necessary a very high global effort to carry out investments in infraestructures as a war economy. Furthermore, this infraestructures would be distributed around all land and sea in a continental scale and with connections with distribution energy lines of miles of kilometers (it should connect, as instance, north europe with north afrifa and middle orient). In second place Antonio centers on oil by renewable sources replacement, finding that although the transport and many chemical process are key, they are secundary in the mayority of processes which will have to be electrified. So, he predicts that with the needed investments we would not have to go back up to a pre-industrial situation. Finally, he noted down of the unsustainable of agriculture, however, the population is over the organic sustainable.

Luis restart its previous presentation answering the question: what technologies we can promote in the decline oil context? since a hictorical perspective. He criticised the efficiency at first due to its profits are superated by both bounce effect and deslocations. Because the reduction in the necesary use of energy and materials in the economies of rich countries be more or less sustainable one forecast about  90%, which implies a change in the energetic metabolism. In this context, the current myth in science and technology is caracterised by: (1) a lack of systemic insigth, (2) put in service of markets, (3) holded to decreased efficiency and (4) with insuperable uncertainty.

New technologies will not supose a mandatorily trip to the past and they will be caracterised by more automatic tools, local development, independences, simplicity, hard-wearings, without planned obsolescences, replicatables, sustainables and multifunctional settings. It will have a potential to make real societies based on more equality, justice and sustainability.

Rosario focus its performance in two ways, on one hand the role of biotechnology and on the other hand the potential of Engineer Schools faced with the peak oil. She highligth that for some centuries it is reducing the occuped land by forests proportionally with increase of population. This should not traduce in a loss of biodiversity because this is concentrated in the Hot Spots; however the 6th extinction in history is a fact. Afterwards she focused her talk on the strategies for the preservation of forest resources, concluding that the only effective and real preservation is that of natural populations in situ. The other steps (ex-situ farms, germ plasm banks and so on) are insufficient measures. On the other hand, she exposed her opinion to universities: “they should distinguish between voices and echos, driving force for change and build bridges. In order to illustrate this, she put a parallelism between the forest order and permaculture.

pdf Antonio García Olivares presentation ,

pdf Rosario Sierra presentation ,

pdf Luis G. Reyes presentation

audio of the Round Table

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