Chapter

Biofuels, Solar and Wind as Renewable Energy Systems

pp 109-132

Peak Oil, EROI, Investments and the Economy in an Uncertain Future

  • Charles A. S. HallAffiliated withState University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse
  • , Robert PowersAffiliated withState University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse
  • , William SchoenbergAffiliated withState University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse

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Abstract

The issues surrounding energy are far more important, complex and pervasive than normally considered from the perspective of conventional economics, and they will be extremely resistant to market-based, or possibly any other, resolution. We live in an era completely dominated by readily available and cheap petroleum. This cheap petroleum is finite and currently there are no substitutes with the quality and quantity required. Of particular importance to society’s past and future is that depletion is overtaking technology in many ways, so that the enormous wealth made possible by cheap petroleum is very unlikely to continue very far into the future. What this means principally is that investments will increasingly have to be made into simply getting the energy that today we take for granted, the net economic effect being the gradual squeezing out of discretionary investments and consumption. While there are certainly partial “supply-side” solutions to these issues, principally through a focus on certain types of solar power, the magnitude of the problem will be enormous because of the scale required, the declining net energy supplies available for investment and the relatively low net energy yields of the alternatives. Given that this issue is likely to be far more immediate, and perhaps more important, than even the serious issue of global warming it is remarkable how little attention we have paid to understanding it or its consequences.

Keywords

Energy oil energy return on investment investments U.S. economy