Einstein’ssons for energy accounting in LCA

  • Rolf Frischknecht
  • Reinout Heijungs
  • Patrick Hofstetter
LCA methodology


The role and meaning of accounting for energy, including feedstock energy, is reviewed in connection to Einstein’s special theory of relativity. It is argued that there is only one unambiguous interpretation of the term energy-content: The one that corresponds tome The implications for life cycle inventories is that all discussions concerning upper heating value, lower heating value, feedstock energy, etc. are pointless as long as the motivation for choosing one or the other is not specified in relation to the safeguard subjects defined for a particular analysis (LCA or energy analysis). The subjective aspects of energy accounting schemes, even though based on mere thermodynamics, are highlighted. In inventory analysis, it is recommended that energy carriers should be accounted separately and in mass terms.

For illustrative purposes, energy statistics and energy assessment are discussed in view of the safeguard subjects underlying the accounting procedures. Based on a set of theses, one possible energy accounting scheme as an indicator of the “consumption of non-renewable energy resources” within the impact assessment of LCA is sketched. It is emphasised that energy accounting schemes do not reflect environmental impacts caused by the energy sources, and the characteristics of the indicator “consumption of non-renewable energy resources” introduced here are highlighted.


Conservation of mass/energy energy impact assessment inherent energy LCA Life Cycle Assessment life cycle inventory analysis relativity theory resources safeguard subjects 


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Copyright information

© Ecomed Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rolf Frischknecht
    • 1
  • Reinout Heijungs
    • 2
  • Patrick Hofstetter
    • 3
  1. 1.ESU-servicesformerly working at the Swiss Federal Institute of TechnologyETH ZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Centre of Environmental ScienceLeiden UniversityRA LeidenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Chair of Environmental Sciences: Natural and Social Science InterfaceSwiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH-Zentrum HEDZürichSwitzerland

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