Biofuels, Solar and Wind as Renewable Energy Systems

pp 295-319

A Framework for Energy Alternatives: Net Energy, Liebig’s Law and Multi-criteria Analysis

  • Nathan John HagensAffiliated withGund Institute for Ecological Economics, University of Vermont
  • , Kenneth MulderAffiliated withGreen Mountain College

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Standard economic analysis does not accurately account for the physical depletion of a resource due to its reliance on fiat currency as a metric. Net energy analysis, particularly Energy Return on Energy Investment, can measure the biophysical properties of a resources progression over time. There has been sporadic and disparate use of net energy statistics over the past several decades. Some analyses are inclusive in treatment of inputs and outputs while others are very narrow, leading to difficulty of accurate comparisons in policy discussions. This chapter attempts to place these analyses in a common framework that includes both energy and non-energy inputs, environmental externalities, and non-energy co-products. We also assess how Liebig’s Law of the minimum may require energy analysts to utilize multi-criteria analysis techniques when energy may not be the sole limiting variable.


Net energy EROI EROEI liebig’s law ethanol biophysical economics oil natural gas