* To establish feasibility, it is necessary to include some items in the energy invested term that are normally not thought of as investments. For example, the cost of sequestering such carbon dioxide as will be produced by the energy technology under investigation should be added to the energy invested term because feasibility requires that our society be sustainable (until astronomical events intervene). In this thought experiment, the support of an alternative energy technology would be the sole concern of every citizen.

Friday, June 7, 2013

An explanation of ERoEI* by way of a comment elsewhere

Lately, I have been involved in a spirited discussion on Gail Tverberg's blog Our Finite World.  I met Gail at the peak oil conference where I started this blog.   Since I wrote the reply to Dr. Oprisko, it has occurred to me that he may have a financial interest in solar energy.  I certainly hope not; but, I shall make it a point to find out.  If he does, he is part of the problem, namely, too much burden from commerce etc. on the energy invested side.

See my second post: In my analysis I do not burden PV with the Grid, I do not burden it with Inverters, I do not burden it with mountings, wiring, switchgear. In the analysis of the EROEI of petroleum, it is not burdened with the grid, powerconversion systems, conversion losses, wiring, switchgear, etc: From: An [...]
I just finished your two long posts and I am very impressed; so, I can’t complain about you not reading http://dematerialism.net/eroeistar.htm wherein I explain what I mean by sustainable and what I consider essential components of the ERoEI computation if it is to determine sustainability or even if it is to determine if the technology is a net provider of energy or not. If for each kilowatt-hour delivered to the consumer, the purveyors - and others who earn part of their living providing services to the purveyors such as their doctors and lawyers - spend only 0.3 kilowatt-hours producing the 1.0 kilowatt-hour but require more than 0.7 kilowatt-hours to support all or the appropriate pro-rata share of their living standards, then that energy technology is a net consumer of energy in that economy. In the case of natural gas for which you computed an ERoEI of 1.18 without considering the lives of the participants and the costs of commerce, I would guess that natural gas is a net consumer. One would like to think that not every energy technology can have an ERoEI* < 1.0 unless the civilization of which it is part has commenced to die off. But, for all we know, that is exactly what is happening. You can imagine my disappointment that ERoEI is NEVER computed according to my suggestions. 

By the way, the 1.25 TWe is a very generous estimate of our solar capacity; but, it is not nearly enough to replace our entire energy budget, which would have to get much larger to support the anticipated waves of new immigrants. Moreover, this is local capacity, which suffers from Myth D, the lack of on-demand availability. Somehow one needs to consider the costs of storage and distribution. Decent battery technology is probably 20 years away – and, as the joke goes about nuclear fusion – always will be. In the case of distribution, even granting a super-conductive grid, the problems are immense. Nevertheless, I am with you. Let's begin to tackle it. If the central government expects to avoid disintegration, it better assign top priority to installing renewable energy technology with as much dedication as it applied to defeating the axis powers during WWII. I mean total commitment with rationing, wage and price controls, etc.


  1. I think it makes sense to follow the discussion between George Oprisko and me on Gail Tverberg's blog "Our Finite World". Perhaps, someday she will send a reader or two over here. :-) See http://ourfiniteworld.com/ .

  2. Howdy,
    Long time lurker, first time poster.
    The above interview excerpt/forum transcript makes for a thrilling read; especially approaching the text from a Couttsian perspective and using freely available data (such as from the UNSB etc), as a lay-person on the subject matter (approaching from a futurist/arts/humanities/political science and psychology background) it provides a lot of comfort to know that there are other people out there with PhD's throwing everything they've got at these problems - problems which are fast becoming realities that have to be dealt with.

    You mention in post-script a readership problem... specifically, an unusually low audience participation level (as detected by website traffic and quantity/quality of comments).
    I've always been a quality over quantity person myself heheh.
    Seriously though; apathy and social face-saving (ever met somebody you really looked up to; held in a high regard... like a celebrity or prolific writer: and you could only make one impression, and ask one question of them to make that impression...?) could be very strong factors with the comment problem. The messages: Malthusian and ERoEI, do suffer from a very high-magnitude "image problem";...
    then there's factors like:
    climate/resource skepticism, advertising/marketing/brand development, climate fatigue, anomie/apathy (again) and innumeracy/illiteracy - take your pick of any combination of factors hehe. (thats eschewing other possible factors such as: psychology, constructs, relativity, popularism and political theories of individual agency...)

    I'd be honored to provide a little concrit feedback (especially given all the volumes of neat info and work you've shared here and elsewhere!) Bear in mind, the scope of my feedback is undefined: usually I prefer guided feedback (ie, usually a stated aspirational goal or a quantifiable, measureable target, framed in a sentenced formed employing the Kippling Method and with some context ) so that the feedback I give can be of the most use to you.

    Perhaps, to the lurking audience, and recalling the classic Kippling Method/Mindmapping techniques, SCAMPER theory and Shannon and Weaver's model of communication...
    it is unclear what discussion/opinion/speculation... interaction really, the author is seeking with their audience.
    what data do you want from your "data mining" - I'm sorry, I mean 'author/audience interaction"? Are you looking for an "authentic user experience"? Are you interested in different angles to help solve problems and approach the bigger picture? Are you looking for essentially voluntary researchers/assistants (which is what commenters and the audience can be?)

    perhaps some 'icebreaking' questions and framing scaffolding could be minimally employed as a post script in future posts, to explicitly facilitate/invite further discussion from the wider audience? The author could even have different levels of questions, so as to appeal to a wider audience.
    For example:
    Over to you, the reader:
    How will you implement ERoEI as a first principle in your life?
    Why is ERoEI important to you?
    How can ERoEI be implemented/inculcated - via subliminals, viral advertising etc?
    Where can ERoEI methods be implemented?
    When will it be too late to implement ERoEI methodology?
    What other sustainability standards compliment ERoEI?
    Who needs to know about ERoEI?

    You could also have an FAQ page, with format guidelines and response stuff along with your spin on 'netiquette' and stuff.
    Also, advertising and appearances/branding opportunities are interesting avenues to explore:
    did you know that keyword searches can reveal webs of discussion?- further, whenever keyword alerts are set to "Malthusian" or "Essential Exponential!" - an alert is generated and notifies potential audience members to those discussions?
    Have you considered hosting podcasts/vlogs such as on Youtube?

    many thanks for all the wonderful articles!