Albert Bartlett might have been another obscure physics professor had he not put together a now famous lecture entitled "Arithmetic, Population and Energy"in 1969. The lecture begins with the line: "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function."
The energy returns that fuels offer have broad social and economic implications, as does their decline. This article offers readers a background on energy return as a measure of a fuel’s production efficiency, and explores the metric’s broader social and economic significance.
With the media awash in stories telling us how much oil is being discovered around the world, there is one word which the optimists quoted in these stories refuse to utter: Depletion.