All of humanity’s feats, whether a record-setting deadlift by the world’s strongest man or the construction of a gleaming city by a technologically advanced economy, originate from a single hidden source: positive net energy.
Their new book Energy Storage and Civilization: A Systems Approach (Springer, February 2020) is an important contribution to biophysical economics – marvelously clear, deep and detailed where necessary, and remarkably thorough for a work of just over 150 pages.
Any gains in technological efficiency must be accompanied by an economy built not on growth, profit and self-interest, but care and responsibility if they are to be effective. This, not hipsterized eco-efficiency, is where we should channel our desires for sustainability—something that so many of us are so dearly committed to, and something that we all urgently need.
Why do civilizations collapse? It is a question that has been haunting the nebulous entity we call “The West” from the time when Edward Gibbon published his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” in 1776.
The ‘circular economy’ is, in my opinion, a ruse to make affluent consumers feel that they can keep consuming without the need to change their habits. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the central reason for that is the necessity for energy to power economic activity.
The history of the earth system is normally described in terms of a series of time subdivisions defined by discrete (or “punctuated”) stratigraphic changes in the geological record, mainly in terms of biotic composition. The most recent of these subdivisions is the proposed “Anthropocene,” a term related to the strong perturbation of the ecosystem created by human activity.
Dr. Hall undertook a very difficult challenge: write an approachable and layman friendly introduction to energy and energy return on investment (EROI) and how they shape our world, bodies, ecosystems, and civilization. That he managed to pack this into a very readable 174 pages is quite the editorial feat!
If you’ve heard that the net energy of renewables is too low to run society, and that as a result the renewable energy transition is destined to fail…then you need to listen to this interview with net energy researcher Rembrandt Koppelaar and check out his new research. His findings will probably surprise you.
As societies and economies transition away from high net energy resources such as ‘conventional’ fossil fuels and towards lower net energy resources such as unconventional fossil fuels or renewables, either voluntarily (e.g. to fight climate change) or due to resource constraints, a number of researchers and analysts have argued that we might be approaching the “net energy cliff”…
Maintaining a civilization is always a delicate balancing act that is sooner or later destined to fail.
Entropy is an important concept, but it must be correctly understood to be useful. It is no good to use it as an excuse to pander unbridled catastrophism.
…[A]n unfortunate side-effect of the explosion of information that the Internet has provided us with is the even further erosion of the signal-to-noise ratio.