* 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.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Question about Sustainable Products Was Posed at ResearchGate (RG)


(In the post of July 13th, I wrote 2N where I should have written 6N.  When I tried to correct it, I found a bug in Blogger that prevented me from eliminating the original post with the mistake.  Today, I decide to replace that confusing double post with a new (corrected) post.)

My first comment on the question of "sustainable products" was as follows:
This is a not so much a difficult question as a question the answer to which is difficult to state clearly and believably. Let us begin by assuming that the whatever technology is employed to manufacture a product is coupled with or matched to an energy technology and the sustainability - or more likely quasi-sustainability - of the couple or pair is evaluated as a single process.
The second part of my response:
At eroei.blogspot.com, I have been discussing sustainability of energy technologies and, in a natural extension, of all other products consumed by the stakeholders in the energy technologies, which, in a certain sense, is everybody. Early on, it has been necessary to consider quasi-sustainability; that is, during a transition period between fossil fuels and renewable energy, we must tolerate some slight environmental destruction and diminution of our storehouses of essential natural resources because of the large proportion of the energy investment for most renewable energy technologies that must be paid before any energy is returned. When all is sustainable, the phase-space trajectory* of the environment will be required to be periodic and close to the expected natural trajectory, that is, the trajectory we might expect without human influence. Moreover, the steady state of our population and our economy must be matched by the steady state of our storehouses of natural resources.  In all of this, I assume that the Matching Problem has been solved nearly optimally, that is, consumers of energy are matched to appropriate energy technologies to minimize our total ecological footprint.  Please read the various pieces on the blog that go to defining ERoEI*.  In the meantime, I will try to gather them in one article to be posted on the blog and on Dematerialism and Energy
Finally, if production of a product and reasonable expectations for its use meet the same requirements they would meet in a globally sustainable economy, we might begrudgingly accord it the term "sustainable".  I say begrudgingly, because nothing short of global sustainability including the necessary political changes is satisfactory in the long run.  Clearly, economic inequality is anathema to sustainability at every level.
*      Suppose I have a system composed of one particle. If I plot the position and momentum of my particle on a piece of paper, it can be represented by one point. Its behavior in time can be represented as a one-dimensional curve in a six-dimensional space. This is its trajectory. But, the earth including its atmosphere is composed of very many particles. Nevertheless, the positions in three dimensional space and the three coordinates of momenta of all N of them - where N is a very large number - can be represented by a single point in a 6N-dimensional space and the trajectory of Earth and its atmosphere is a one-dimensional curve in a 6N-dimensional space - the phase space of Earth and its atmosphere.

1 comment :

  1. The following was entered in a discussion on RG that had wandered rather far from the physical notion of sustainability:

    It is important that the word "sustainable" have something to do with the ability to exist until no less than astronomical events intercede. To do this, the artifacts of civilization have to satisfy the laws of nature. They do NOT have to satisfy the imaginary requirements of human beings; however, "social responsibility" does require the satisfaction of moral standards that, also, are created in the imaginations of men and women. In the first instance, I am trying to point out the irrelevance of economical requirements; and, in the second instance, I am agreeing that the moral standards imagined by philosophers are important. The question is: "Are the moral standards that are now emerging a direct consequence of physical law?" However, while moral standards remain ungrounded, it is probably best to concentrate on physical sustainability. Clearly, "moral standards" that result in the extinction of life on Earth are not moral.

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