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Old 06-22-2011, 08:57 AM   #1 (permalink)
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EROI...and why the easy times really are over....

One Scientist's Easily Understood Theory Offers a Radically Different Vision for How We Think About Energy | | AlterNet


Steep decline in energy returns

In a new analysis for Sustainability Journal (along with 19 other papers on EROI) Hall spells out how steep the decline in energy returns has become in the oil industry. The trend almost looks as dismal as catches for the wild salmon fishery.

In 1919 petrolistas got marvelous EROI returns for finding oil at 300 to one. (It simple terms, it took but one barrel to find 300 more, yielding perhaps the greatest energy surplus and capital gains in human history.) Today that EROI has dropped as low as five or three to one.

The energy returns for producing oil are plummeting too. In 1919 they hovered around 20 to one and then rose to 30 to one during the age of big oil field discoveries in the 1960s. Now they've declined to 10 to one. "Society is now living on old oil fields and we're spending more energy to find less and less energy," says Hall. Moreover North America has built a society dependent on energy returns higher than 10.

Given such grim declines, industry is exploiting ever more extreme and difficult resources (from the tar sands to Arctic oil). (Or it burns more oil to create ethanol from corn than ethanol's net return.) Yet these high-priced fuels deliver less and cost more in terms of water, land and capital. (Oil analyst Peter Tertzakian calculates that the energy-eating tar sands, for example, offer returns of seven to one for raw bitumen which drop to three to one once the junk crude has been upgraded and refined into gasoline.)

.....

Simple conclusions?

Big debts built on cheap energy....continual economic/population growth. Cheap energy disappearing...big debts still here....including big debts on military looking for new energy? Population increasing. US has painted itself into corner. Stay tuned for final chapter?

note: this isn't political. It's reality. It's about to bite.

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Old 06-22-2011, 11:30 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Not just EROI, but simple ROI, as I've tried to point out to the Drill, Baby, Drill type. When - just for example - your ocean-going drilling rig costs half a billion to build, and $1 million per day to operate... well, you've got to find & pump quite a few $100 barrels of crude to recover that cost before you start making a profit.

And when your rig explodes & burns, and you're stuck with cleanup costs, that just puts the return even further off.
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Old 06-22-2011, 03:17 PM   #3 (permalink)
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The ironic part is that a lot of energy companies are investing in renewables... to bump up their fossil fuel energy returns.

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