Saturday, October 2, 2010

Discussion added to EROEI entry at Azimuth wiki

  • Energy for workers. The janitor’s refrigerator uses energy. Actually all the money paid to all the workers will be spent in ways that cause energy to be consumed. If this is included in EROEI calculation then we can see what happens when there is declining EROEI. The EI can be reduced by reducing wages (in real terms). This can only happen if all wages in the community drop, otherwise the energy business can’t hire. So this is the last resort way of reducing the EI and improving the EROEI.
  • Oil is an energy carrier. In the proposal for a Hydrogen Economy the Hydrogen is just an energy carrier. Similarly oil and its distillates are energy carriers, particularly useful for the transport industry. Recently oil’s price has decoupled from other energy sources (electricity and natural gas). The extra price represents the value of oil as an energy carrier. So it is difficult to use EROEI calculations directly on oil. Ultimately we will still be producing a lot of oil when the EROEI is less than 1, using up non-oil energy in the process.
  • Energy’s reign. It is possible to view the production of goods and services as requiring energy and (skill-weighted) workers. When we spend money, then the services we get use up energy and worker time. The recipients of the money spend it and use up more energy and worker time. Ultimately the money’s circulation uses up some of both. The two have to come into balance. The industrial revolution meant that energy was plentiful and skilled workers were scarce. So energy prices were driven to the floor and wages rose creating the middle class. If energy is in short supply then energy prices will get off the floor and wages will be driven down to restore balance. All of which amounts to an argument that cost/price is the best measure of total energy in or out at any point in time. EROEI calculations that exclude pay and dividends are the way to look at the crucial limit case.