sustainability - SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

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  • sustainability - SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry


    Special Issue

    New Studies in EROI

    (Energy Return on Investment)


    Charles A.S. Hall and Doug Hansen (Eds.)


    OPEN ACCESS ExternalEditors EditorialOffice

    Editor-in-Chief MDPIAG

    Prof. Dr. MarcA.Rosen Kandererstrasse25

    FacultyofEngineeringandAppliedScience Basel,Switzerland

    UniversityofOntarioInstituteofTechnology Phone: +41616837734

    2000SimcoeStreetNorth Website: http://www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability/

    Oshawa,Ontario,L1H7K4,Canada E-Mail: sustainability@mdpi.com

    Phone: +19057218668,ext5726

    Fax: +19057213370 Publisher

    Website: http://www.engineering.uoit.ca/ Dr. Shu-KunLin


    E-Mail: marc.rosen@uoit.ca ProductionEditor

    Dr. BriettaPike


    Prof. Dr. CharlesA.S.Hall ManagingEditor

    FacultyofEnvironmental&ForestBiology Dr. JoseA.F.Monteiro






    Phone: +13154706870

    Fax: +13154706934


    E-Mail: chall@esf.edu


    Mr. DougHansen




    E-Mail: doug6636@gmail.com


    Ekofisk oil field in the Norwegian sector of


    Author: unknown


    no.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fil:Ekofisk complex.jpg

    ISBN:3-906980-31-6 Table of Contents

    Part I: Conceptual Issues





    Sustainability2011,3,1773-1777;doi:10.3390/su3101773 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2


    OrderfromChaos: APreliminaryProtocolforDeterminingtheEROIofFuels


    Sustainability2011,3,1888-1907;doi:10.3390/su3101888 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7




    Sustainability2011,3,1796-1809;doi:10.3390/su3101796 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27




    Sustainability2011,3,1972-1985;doi:10.3390/su3101972 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41


    System Energy Assessment (SEA), Defining a Standard Measure of EROI for



    Sustainability2011,3,1908-1943;doi:10.3390/su3101908 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55




    Sustainability2011,3,1810-1832;doi:10.3390/su3101810 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 Part II: EROI for Conventional Fossil Fuels


    ANew Long Term Assessmentof Energy Return on Investment (EROI)for U.S.



    Sustainability2011,3,1866-1887;doi:10.3390/su3101866 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115




    Sustainability2011,3,2050-2070;doi:10.3390/su3112050 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137


    Oil Depletion and the Energy Efficiency of Oil Production: The Case of Califor-



    Sustainability2011,3,1833-1854;doi:10.3390/su3101833 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158


    Analysis of the Energy Return on Investment (EROI) of the Huge Daqing Oil



    Sustainability2011,3,2323-2338;doi:10.3390/su3122323 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180




    Sustainability2011,3,2080-2104;doi:10.3390/su3112080 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 196





    Sustainability2011,3,1986-2008;doi:10.3390/su3101986 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221


    Ultra-Deepwater Gulf of Mexico Oil and Gas: Energy Return on Financial In-



    Sustainability2011,3,2009-2026;doi:10.3390/su3102009 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 244

    Part III: EROI for Other Fuels


    Seeking to Understand the Reasons for Different Energy Return on Investment



    Sustainability2011,3,2413-2432;doi:10.3390/su3122413 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 263 Article



    Sustainability2011,3,2307-2322;doi:10.3390/su3112307 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 283


    An Edible Energy Return on Investment (EEROI) Analysis of Wheat and Rice



    Sustainability2011,3,2358-2391;doi:10.3390/su3122358 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 299





    Sustainability2011,3,2105-2114;doi:10.3390/su3112105 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 333

    Part IV: Looking Forward


    Predicting the Psychological Response of the American People to Oil Depletion



    Sustainability2011,3,2129-2156;doi:10.3390/su3112129 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 344


    Implications of Energy Return on Energy Invested on Future Total Energy De-



    Sustainability2011,3,2433-2442;doi:10.3390/su3122433 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 372





    Sustainability2011,3,2339-2357;doi:10.3390/su3122339 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 382


    Looking for a Silver Lining: The Possible Positives of Declining Energy Return



    Sustainability2011,3,2071-2079;doi:10.3390/su3112071 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 401


    Synthesis to Special Issue on New Studies in EROI (Energy Return on Invest-



    Sustainability2011,3,2496-2499;doi:10.3390/su3122496 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 410 Part I: Conceptual Issues ReprintedfromSustainability. Citeas: Hall,C.A.IntroductiontoSpecialIssueonNewStudiesinEROI



    Sustainability 2011, 3, 1773-1777; doi:10.3390/su3101773



    ISSN 2071-1050



    Introduction to Special Issue on New Studies in EROI (Energy

    Return on Investment)

    Charles A.S. Hall

    Departments of Environmental and Forest Biology and Environmental Studies, and Graduate Program

    in Environmental Science, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University of New

    York  Syracuse,  New  York,  NY  13210,  USA;  E-Mail:  chall@esf.edu;  Tel.:  +1-315-470-6870;

    Fax: +1-315 470 6954

    Received: 10 August 2011 / Accepted: 17 August 2011 / Published: 7 October 2011

    Abstract: Energy Return on Investment (EROI) refers to how much energy is returned

    from one unit of energy invested in an energy-producing activity. It is a critical parameter

    for understanding and ranking different fuels. There were a number of studies on EROI

    three decades ago but relatively little work since. Now there is a whole new interest in

    EROI as fuels get increasingly expensive and as we attempt to weigh alternative energies

    against traditional ones. This special volume brings together a whole series of high quality

    new studies on EROI, as well as many papers that struggle with the meaning of changing

    EROI and its impact on our economy. One overall conclusion is that the quality of fuels is

    at least as important in our assessment as is the quantity. I argue that many of the

    contemporary changes in our economy are related directly to changing EROI as our

    premium fuels are increasingly depleted.

    Keywords: energy; EROI; economic; fuels; quality of fuels

    The concept of Energy Return on Investment (EROI) is a concept originally derived in ecology but

    increasingly applied to oil and other industrial energies. It had precedents in the idea of “net energy

    analysis” used by Leslie White, Kenneth Boulding and especially Howard Odum [1,2]. Similar but less

    explicit and focused ideas can be found in the newer field of “life cycle analysis” that is better

    developed in Europe than in the US. The word investment usually means energy investment but

    sometimes may also include financial, environmental and/or other kinds of investments. Some people

    like the term EROEI as a more explicit term, but we find it less useful and harder to pronounce. The

    term EROI has been around since at least 1970, but it gained relatively little traction until the last five 3

    Sustainability 2011, 3                             G 1774

    or ten years. Now there is an explosion of interest as peak oil and the general economic effects of

    increasingly constrained energy supplies are becoming obvious to investigators from many fields. This

    special issue examines various aspects of EROI with many exciting new studies from all around the

    world. It is very special as there had been almost no new studies since the original studies of the 1970s

    and 1980s and as the critical importance of the concept becomes ever more apparent as our highest

    quality fuels are increasingly depleted.

    There have been questions about the degree to which we should use EROI vs. more familiar ways

    (e.g., price, financial return on financial investment in the oil business) to examine energy and other

    resource choices. In addition there have been criticisms that EROI has some severe flaws: that

    different studies give different answers to what appears to be the same question, that the boundaries of

    the analysis are controversial, that market pricing is always superior to scientific studies, and that

    EROI too often is dependent upon monetary data for its results. Explicit arguments for the virtues of

    EROI are found in the Murphy et al. protocol paper in this issue [3]. Many other papers in this volume

    take  on  these  issues  directly,  often  through  sensitivity  analysis,  and  we  believe  that  the  papers

    collectively make the case that EROI is an incredibly robust, useful and interesting tool. While we

    embrace “methodological pluralism”, that is different approaches to analysis, we favor EROI as the

    most basic and useful kind of analysis for examining and perhaps determining our energy future

    because, as developed by King and Hall in this issue, it ultimately determines the other ratios [4].

    All of the papers in this special issue have been peer reviewed, usually very thoroughly, by

    appropriate professionals. Several papers did not make it through the review process. Several of the

    papers that did were nevertheless controversial, to say the least, and as editor of the whole issue I was

    faced with several situations where I had both strongly positive and strongly negative reviews. In that

    situation I sought additional reviewers, and generally received again mixed reviews. Where there were

    a balanced number of positive and negative reviews I chose to publish the papers as I thought they

    tended to be papers that I felt raised new and or important issues that later research is likely to sort out.

    The issue is divided into four basic sections: Conceptual issues, EROI for Conventional fossil fuels,

    EROI for other fuels, and looking forward.

    In my opinion this is a remarkably important group of papers. While EROI has yet to gain global

    popularity most of the contributors to this special issue would probably agree that few issues are likely

    to be more important for the future of civilization, whatever that might be. For many of us the financial

    crises that we have been experiencing since 2008 is a direct effect of the cessation of the growth of oil

    (and even of all liquid fuels if done on an energy, not volume, basis) and of the general decline in

    EROI. While this is not to discount the role of greed, corruption and mismanagement in all things

    financial, nor the enormous shift in wealth to the upper few percent over the past several decades, at

    the root of it all lies the decline in cheap, high EROI fuel that had once allowed the economy to do

    more work. This has been especially important as the economy has been shifting to higher labor

    productivity,  meaning  that  each  worker  generates  more  value  added  per  hour  working.  While

    increasing labor productivity is normally perceived as a good thing higher productivity is usually

    obtained by subsidizing each hour worked with increasing fossil fuel—in effect making each worker

    more productive but each unit of energy less productive than otherwise because there is less labor

    behind it! One result is that when Federal money is used to try to create jobs the money goes

    increasingly to energy, even energy from overseas, rather than salaries.   4

    Sustainability 2011, 3                             G 1775

    The net effect of decreasing net energy supplies coupled with increasing labor productivity is that

    10 to 20 percent of Americans have no job at all, a poorly paying job in the service sector, or work part

    time. Incomes for the middle class have been stagnant at best for decades while the size of the middle

    class shrinks. Many, perhaps most, new college graduates have had to greatly reduce their aspirations.

    The stock market and real estate have become far less reliable ways to amass wealth. Some 46 of our

    50 states and many of our municipalities face crippling budget deficits, and many colleges, pension

    plans, charities and other institutions are operating with diminished funds or going bankrupt. It is

    increasingly difficult to pay for the repair of storms and other environmental disasters. Even the United

    States Government has seen its credit rating diminished. “Tea Partiers” seek to cut debt and the role of

    government even while pole after pole shows the public does not want its health care or most other

    benefits  cut.  Keynsian  deficit  spending  that  worked  in  the  past  and might  work  again  has few

    advocates today because of crippling debt, nor is there the likelihood of future growth to repay any

    such deficit spending because, unlike in 1946, the possibilities biophysical constraints make the

    potential for sustained economic expansion seem very thin indeed. As individuals and as a nation we

    have been living beyond our energy means for decades. We collectively do not know how to change

    that situation because tax increases have become so unpopular even while such previously unheard of

    programs as Medicare have become sacred. In earlier times the growth of the economic pie defused

    arguments about how to cut it, but now the growth of the pie, constrained by the end of cheap energy

    and the demise of energy growth, seems much less likely.

    If the pie is no longer getting larger, indeed if because of energy constraints it can no longer get

    larger, how will we slice it? This may force some ugly debates back into the public vision. Indeed if

    EROI continues to decline then that will cut increasingly into discretionary spending (the engine for

    economic growth) and we will need to ask some very hard questions about how we should spend our

    money. One way to think about this is “Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs” [5]. This theory,

    proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”, proposes that

    humans will attempt to meet their needs in more or less the following order: First they will meet their

    physiological  needs,  which  are  the  literal  requirements  for  human  survival,  including  breathing,

    nutrition, water, sleep, homeostasis, excretion and reproductive activity. Second, once physiological

    needs are satisfied an individual will attempt to meet safety needs in an attempt to attain a predictable,

    orderly world in which perceived unfairness and inconsistency are under control, the familiar frequent

    and the unfamiliar rare. Third, once the above needs are met humans seek love and belonging, i.e.,

    emotionally based relationships in general, such as friendship, intimacy and family. Fourth, again once

    the above have been met humans seek esteem, to be respected and to have self-esteem and self-respect

    and also the esteem of others. Finally, according to Maslow, people seek self-actualization, the need to

    understand what a person’s full potential is and to realize that potential, to become everything that one

    is capable of becoming—for example an ideal parent, athlete, painter, or inventor.

    Such a hierarchy applies to our energy use. Think of a society dependent upon one resource: its

    domestic oil. If the EROI for this oil was 1.1:1 then one could pump the oil out of the ground and look

    at it. If it were 1.2:1 you could also refine it and look at it, 1.3:1 also distribute it to where you want to

    use it but all you could do is look at it. Hall et al. 2008 examined the EROI required to actually run a

    truck and found that if the energy included was enough to build and maintain the truck and the

    roads and bridges required to use it (i.e., depreciation), one would need at least a 3:1 EROI at the   5

    Sustainability 2011, 3                             G 1776

    wellhead [6]. Now if you wanted to put something in the truck, say some grain, and deliver it that

    would require an EROI of, say, 5:1 to grow the grain. If you wanted to include depreciation on the oil

    field worker, the refinery worker, the truck driver and the farmer you would need an EROI of say 7 or

    8:1 to support the families. If the children were to be educated you would need perhaps 9 or 10:1, have

    health care 12:1, have arts in their life maybe 14:1 and so on. Obviously to have a modern civilization

    one needs not simply surplus energy but lots of it, and that requires either a high EROI or a massive

    source of moderate EROI fuels. As we watch the magnificent Syracuse Symphony and our equally

    magnificent State University systems go broke we believe we are watching the beginning of the

    decline of civilization driven by a declining EROI. If things get a lot tougher, as many think, the low

    EROI energy that is available will go to growing food and supporting families. It is clear that we must

    understand energy and its changes if we are to understand changes in our economy.

    Maslow’s theory has been criticized from a number of angles including the supposed lack of

    evidence that humans in fact follow that hierarchy, or indeed any such hierarchy, and from the

    perspective that his “pyramids of needs” may be more representative of people from an individualist

    vs. socialist society. Nevertheless his theory is broadly accepted in psychology and even marketing.

    Our  own  research  on  the  implications  of  declining  net  energy,  while  not  consciously  based  on

    Maslow’s theories, is consistent with them. We have the sense that discretionary spending will be

    increasingly abandoned as humans attempt to meet their basic needs for food, shelter and clothing [7].

    Presumably as the amount of net energy declines due to peak oil and declining EROI, humans will

    increasingly give up categories higher on the pyramids and concentrate increasingly on the more basic

    requirements including food, shelter and clothing. What this may mean in modern society is that

    performance art, then expensive vacations, then education, then health care would be abandoned by the

    middle class as the economy is increasingly restricted. Whether this can be reversed by diverting

    where and by whom we chose to spend such surplus money or energy as we have will be an

    increasingly dominant challenge to society.


    I thank all authors and reviewers for this special issue, and Ajay Gupta and Alexandre Poisson for

    editorial help on this chapter.

    Conflict of Interest

    There are no conflicts of interest associated with this paper.

    References and Notes

    1.  Odum, H.T. Environment, Power and Society. Wiley Interscience: New York, NY, USA ,1973.

    2.  Odum, H.T. Energy, ecology and economics. AMBIO 1973, 2, 220-227.

    3.  Murphy, D.; Hall C.A.S., Dale M.; Cleveland, C. Order from chaos: A preliminary protocol for

    determining EROI for fuels. Sustainability, in press.

    4.  King,  C.;  Hall,  C.A.S.  Relating  financial  and  energy  return  on  investment.  Sustainability,

    in press.

    5.  Maslow, A. A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review 1943, 50, 370-396.

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