All forms of economic production and exchange involve the transformation of materials, which in turn requires energy. Until recently cheap and seemingly limitless fossil energy has allowed many to ignore the important contributions from the biophysical world to the economic process and potential limits to growth.
This report examines the energy used by modern economies over time. This work centers on assessing the relation of energy costs of modern day society and its connection to the quality of human life. A focus of this report is energy return on investment (EROI) and some important characteristics of our major energy sources over time.
The EROI for each major fossil fuel resource (except coal) has declined substantially over the last century. Most renewable and non-conventional energy alternatives have substantially lower EROI values than conventional fossil fuels. Declining EROI, at the societal level, means that an increasing proportion of energy output is diverted to getting the energy needed to run an economy with few discretionary funds available for “non-essential” projects. The declining EROI of traditional fossil fuel energy sources and its eventual effect on the world economy are likely to result in a myriad of unforeseen consequences.
This document serves as a reference work for policy-makers and planners in developing countries and international aid organizations. This report offers an analytical framework for understanding and assessing national-level socio-economic reactions to declining EROI values and possible impacts of declining EROI and energy availability.
Lambert, J.G.; Hall, C.A.S.; Balogh, S. EROI of Global Energy Resources. Status, Trends and Social Implications. State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), Syracuse, USA/Next Generation Energy Initiative (NGEI), Marcellus, USA (2013) xxii + 136 pp.