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
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.