The near- and long-term societal effects of declining EROI are uncertain, but probably adverse. A major obstacle to examining social implications of declining EROI is that we do not have adequate empirical understanding of how EROI is linked, directly or indirectly, to an average citizen′s ability to achieve well-being. To evaluate the possible linkages between societal well-being and net energy availability, we compare these preliminary estimates of energy availability: (1) EROI at a societal level, (2) energy use per capita, (3) multiple regression analyses and (4) a new composite energy index (Lambert Energy Index), to select indicators of quality of life (HDI, percent children under weight, health expenditures, Gender Inequality Index, literacy rate and access to improved water). Our results suggest that energy indices are highly correlated with a higher standard of living. We also find a saturation point at which increases in per capita energy availability (greater than 150 GJ) or EROI (above 20:1) are not associated with further improvement to society.
Lambert, J.G.; Hall, C.A.S.; Balogh, S.B.; Gupta, A.; Arnold, M. Energy, EROI and quality of life. Energy Policy (2014) 64: 153-167. [DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2013.07.001]