Charlie Hall on ERoEI

3 03 2017



6 responses

4 03 2017
Blue Peter

G’day DtM people, more to think about.

White’s Law sums it up nicely, me thinks.

White’s Law.
Culture evolves as the amount of energy harnessed per capita per year is increased. Culture as White uses this term, can be thought of as an expression of our standard of living-essentially, how well we live beyond that of a hunter-gatherer society. With this law in mind, we can examine current world events….. In particular, what happens to the standard of living in a country when its per capita energy supplies are reduced.

And then there is Liebig’s Law or Law of Minimum.
That for any organism, whatever necessary resource is in shortest supply puts an upper boundary on the carrying capacity of the environment for that organism. Translated into the real world. It does not matter how much coal there is, if there is restrictions on the amount of transport fuels, that will restrict the amount of coal that can be mined.

What say DtM thinkers to these 2 Laws of the real world that we MUST live by??


6 03 2017
Andrew Simonsen

Liebig’s law definitely applies to biology. Plants only capture a small fraction of available sunlight energy. They are usually limited by carbon dioxide absorbtion under ideal conditions of fertility, otherwise water or some other nutrient will limit growth. This is one of the big unknowns of increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere- the energetic dynamics of ecosystems are going to change from the bottom up.

It makes you wonder what the limiting factor for the oil charged economy was during the golden age of oil extraction in the early 20th century. I like the theory that one limit was gasoline consumption, since the more valuable diesel and jet fuel fractions were needed more for heavy machinery and transport and air travel respectively, hence the deliberate drive to design cities to need car travel. Money was also probably limiting, hence the deliberate push to get women into the wage economy to spur consumer spending.

Going forward the oil based economy is looking like it is set up for discontinuities at some point. The big question for me is how global vs regional the process will be. We have already seen oil producing nations taken offline temporarily due to deliberate policies (Iraq, Libya) but then get partially resurrected by the remaining oil system. That shut down/resurrection process seems only possible with a functional global military and economy. Have we seen a major established oil region more or less completely shut down yet due to declining EROI? Pennsylvania was one of the first producing regions in 1860 and seems to be close to petering out. I’ve read that old existing wells continue to dribble oil for a long time, so a post crash economy could still have a small oil supply on hand for a very long time. With functional political structures in place it could be used effectively for legacy industrial grain cultivation to prevent/slow a mass die off, but I wonder how reasonable it is to hope for political structures to survive.

Shane in Cooran

8 03 2017

Hi Shane…… long time no see..!

If ever there was going to be a ‘whole region’ shut down due to collapsed eroei, methinks it will be the USA. If for no other reason that it was the first large scale oil producer in the world. Saudi Arabia could well be next.

While it may not be yet ‘shut down’, you can already see the USA collapsing…. crumbling infrastructure, more and more desperate need for military control of what’s left overseas, etc etc… and dare I mention Trump’s election?

And speaking of oil producing nations taken off line, let us not forget SYRIA. Its collapse was triggered by peak oil, and finished off by climate change. Now everyone else is fighting over the crumbs, and you have to ask yourself why……. are pipelines really worth all that trauma and suffering…?

21 03 2017
Chris Harries

Gee, Ugo Bardi has thrown the cat amongst the pigeons in his latest post. Here he concludes that renewable energy is on track to growing rapidly enough and with an adequate Net Energy Return to power modern society.

He does include some qualifiers, but basically this is a refutation of a theme developed by quite a number of commentators that renewable energy can’t make it because it is too dependent on fossil fuels and sits below a ERoEI threshold.

I do detect that Bardi, one of the best commentators around, seems to have gone on a tack lately of wanting to project positive thoughts in the face of defeatism.

22 03 2017

Yes I noticed that too… it was thrown at me by someone on social media as a retort to the the usual stuff I post there, and I have to say I was gobsmacked…..

22 03 2017

There are big qualifiers in this article. The 20% growth is massively dependent on capital, which in the case of electricity almost only comes from taxes of some sort. Any government not participating in it kills itself from the market – or just buys up leftover fossil fuels. Imagine e.g. Bulgaria concentrating in cities, investing in nothing but roads, agriculture and defense and hunker down on its borders, throwing everybody non-Bulgarian out. They will be as poor as today, but the state can function without any domestic or foreign caused problems. Living standards remain about the SAME, so society will remain the same.
Now compare that to Germany, which made the Energiewende but neglected network security. Any large scale disruption will eat any little bit of that EROEI leftover and as living standards drastically fall DOWN. Any introduction of new parts into our system makes our surroundings a little more brittle.
Total surveillance is the joker card here and is being drawn already.

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