Wednesday, August 20, 2008

We must make our energy choices “carefully, intelligently and co-operatively”

EROEI is, or should be, the most important physical criterion used to assess the practicability of a proposed energy system for two reasons:
First, if the EROEI of an energy system is 1:1 or lower, it is no longer an energy
source. As the EROEI drops below 1:1, it becomes an energy sink. This is important
now, because society currently benefits from such high EROEI from fossil fuels that
the low EROEI of alternatives may not be as obvious as it would otherwise be. The
growth in use of corn-based ethanol as a substitute for fossil fuel in the US vehicle
fleet is an example where it is uncertain that the biofuel-based energy system delivers
any net energy (Cleveland et al, 2006)20.

Second, the energy choices made now, if they are not made with a grasp of the wider
implications of a reduction in our energy systems’ overall EROEI, will cause a
profound, painful and largely unexpected and apparently inexplicable reduction in the
complexity of society: in other words, an unmanaged and protracted collapse.

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