Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Energy Is The Problem Stupid!

The following facts, statistics and considerations were drawn from a very enjoyable reading of Carbon Shift edited by Thomas Homer-Dixon and published in 2009.

Energy Return on Investment (EROI). Anybody who has invested any money or financed a hobby or household understands ROI. EROI is net energy rather than net dollars or net some other resource than can be considered currency in the simple case. Net energy is the real problem behind any talk of oil running out or shortages of fossil fuels. Running out is relative to the cost of discovery, extraction and processing of what we haven't already done so with. The problem is that our sources are decreasing in EROI as we go forward which is going to have cost and rationalization implications. When we hear the equation solely as supply versus demand in the public arena we don't get the whole story. Deeper sea drilling, oil sands, hard to reach pockets of gas and large oil wells with decreasing pressure due to extraction are all example of sources with decreasing EROI. This problem alone points to renewable and alternate sources being cost effective hedges on a future we can't avoid.

Oil is the number one source of energy on the planet at 34% of the total
Coal comes in next at 27%
Natural gas comes in at 23%

Those 3 sources alone comprise 84% of the total sources of energy for our planet. With decreasing EROI, increasing competition, non-industrial difficulties in sourcing these fuels from certain geographies and the negative climate impacts of all three it sure seems to me that spending some of the future money now to switch will save money. The benefits include increased stability and security, creation of domestic jobs and positive changes with climate issues. Don't you agree?

We should refocus our effort on a broader mission of independence from these energy sources that can no longer balance their costs and non-renewable nature with the increasing role they will need to play for our growing society.


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