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Tom Wayburn and Gail Tverberg discuss ERoEI

General Ideas


·                     Gail Tverberg says:

June 11, 2013 at 8:03 am

The minimum ERoEI has to be a whole lot higher than 1.0. I am not sure what the right number is. I suspect it is something close to 9.0; certainly at least 5.0. The calculation leaves out way too much. In particular, it does not properly charge for energy which is generated by front-end inputs (it does not handle timing at all). It does not consider the need to generate a high enough return to support the need for government.

The idea of moving an economy to lower and lower ERoEI does not work. This is what leads to collapse.


First of all this is meant to be an apology for my inexcusable, childish, pathological, lousy, no good, furshlugginer posts reproduced at the end of this apology so that I never forget my 15 minutes of madness.   And I almost never get angry.  In my defense, I shall argue briefly that I was provoked.

Just the other day I realized something I had left completely out of account:  My readers may not be familiar with thought experiments and don’t know how to use them or interpret them.  Therefore, many of them might find it useful to read the brief Wikipedia entry at



·                     Tom Wayburn says:

June 11, 2013 at 8:26 am


Obviously, you have not read the material I have made available. Until you do, it is unfair, misleading, and wrong to make these kinds of comments. All of that is taken care of, even the energy costs of the technology’s share of government. The Principle of Substitution covers many of your objections. Yes, absolutely, sustainability is possible for ERoEI* = 1.0. This is the case of the Autonomous Alternative Energy District supporting itself and exporting nothing. Do you think I would make a mistake about this? Of course, I did not cover every detail; but, you can see how to handle anything that comes up by how it has been done in some other category.


The above explanation just about covers it, except Gail reminds me that a little more emphasis on taxes might help not hinder the case for discarding American-style so-called capitalism.  In my earlier article  “On Capitalism”, I pointed out that the movie The Trouble with Harry reminded me of capitalism.  If you remember, the trouble with Harry was that he was dead.

But, the thing that set me off, was Gail missed completely what was so ingenious about my thought experiment, namely, that it constituted a constructive proof of just whose living expenses should be included in the energy-invested term and whose should not.  Moreover, it showed how to make ERoEI truly useful as a tool to determine sustainability or not.   I am just one old man who has spent most of his life pursuing other goals; but, during the last 30 years or so, I have served the human race without concerning myself too much with the extent to which it will be appreciated or even accepted.  But, this thought experiment is the real deal.   I know it; and, you will know it too if you just let it tell you what it can.  By the way, check out the figure that indicates ERoEI decreasing toward collapse:



·                     Gail Tverberg says:

June 13, 2013 at 12:53 pm

I told Charlie Hall (in my talk at the Biophysical Economic conference at the University of Vermont this week) that the current average EReEI of society is too low–it is leading to collapse in the near term. If we are to prevent collapse (which I don’t really think is possible), we need to be raising the average ERoEI. The current average ERoEI of society is clearly a lot higher than 1.0, no matter how it is defined.

I don’t know where you are coming from, but it doesn’t make sense to me. As society becomes more complex (what Tainter talks about) the cost of government becomes greater both absolutely and relative to other costs. This strongly suggests that after a certain point, average ERoEI needs to be increasing to prevent collapse.

Gail doesn’t understand that the thought experiment is contrived so that the cost of government and other business costs (including interest on debt and private profit – and the energy budgets of the profiteers) go in the Energy-Invested term.  So, yes, the ERoEI can be precisely equal to 1.0 under the strange circumstance where the stakeholders know all of the other relevant numbers and, therefore, how much to take for themselves.  They are entitled to live from the work they do even if it is not very much.  People know better than to quibble about who did what.

Suppose none of the proceeds are exported and all the energy investment data is known and sums to EI’.   If the Energy Recovered is known for the entire life cycle, then ER- EI’ can be distributed to the stakeholders leaving ERoEI = 1.0 exactly and everything paid for.

Of course the Energy Recovered is used by the community where it was generated.  Is there a problem with that?   One notices that in this exercise everything of value is measured in emergy units, which in my system are electricity-like units such as emjoules or emkilowatt-hours.  This is not a personal practice.  I’ll tell you when I am doing something that only I do.


·                     thomaslwayburn says:

June 13, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Charlie doesn’t understand either. It seems that many people have trouble getting their heads around this idea. I think, if you read this very short piece a couple of times, you will get it. I am not that much smarter than the rest of you. Part of the problem is that I put a number of items in the energy-invested term that are not strictly investments. In fact, normally, analysts do not debit the process for inconveniences of time and space, or the necessity to convert some portion of the energy produced to another form with a low efficiency process. They do not charge the process for environmental degradation or resource depletion.

[from ]

Let us suppose that a group of people representing all of the trades and professions wishes to support itself completely by relying on a single alternative, renewable energy technology for all of its energy needs. Let us suppose further that all of the natural resources necessary to do this are available within the Autonomous Alternative Energy District (AAED) [and the repositories of such natural resources can be retained at steady state from the detritus of the AAED including superannuated installations of the technology].

Nothing is imported from outside the District whereas energy and only energy is exported. If a man needs a car to drive from his home (in the District) to his job (in the District), the car is built, maintained, and fueled in the District. If his wife is sick the doctor in the District will treat her with medicine made in the District from chemicals produced there from raw materials mined there and subsequently recycled agressively. The ERoEI of the new energy technology is the total energy produced, ER, divided by the quantity ER minus the quantity EX, where EX is the energy exported; i. e., EX = ER – EI. If the District is able to export any energy at all the ERoEI ratio exceeds one and the technology is feasible – at least.

In the case of a single energy technology, the energy produced by each technology can be assigned a transformity of unity and the value of emergy is quantitatively the same as the Gibbs availability, which, at room temperature, is the Gibbs free energy. I prefer to report emergy values in units of emquads rather than quads, emjoules rather than joules, etc. Thus, the units of transformity are emquads per quad, for example. [snip]

If this doesn’t make sense to you, think harder. I mean it. This is important. If you don’t understand it, you don’t understand sustainability. There are a lot of people addressing the multitudes who don’t know what they are talking about. Don’t be one of them. I heard a lot of silly stuff in Austin at the ASPO conference. I couldn’t begin to speak as there is too much they don’t know. The finiteness of the world is just the beginning. You must close the energy balance in terms of consumption as well as production. If the AAED does not export energy, ERoEI* is at most equal to 1.0. If the District needs to import energy to keep going, ERoEI* is less than 1.0. Thus, if all of society is in the collapse phase, it is because the composite ERoEI* for all energy technologies properly matched is less than 1.0.

·                     John Christian says:

June 14, 2013 at 2:01 am

Its possible to make a lot of nice calculations around utopia like distribution of energy and resources, but I do believe Gail is more rooted in our current predicament for the finiteness we encounter in the industrial civilization. That the current set of living arrangements will hit a steep decline curve soon due to our misuse of resources. I also think she is sober in the way that she knows you can’t really turn enough people to believe in this utopia when so many of us cant even embrace simple ideas within socialism and sharing of wealth. I do believe many of us here knows whats wrong with the system and have all kinds of ideas how to improve it – but there is no chance we will be able to implement a fraction of these before a complete and utter collapse. Small pockets within society might find a better lifestyle more in pact with the limits of nature and approach some sort of equilibrium with how much you take out of it and how much you give back.

From a mathematical point of view there is also the unavoidable concept of entropy which cannot be left out in any processing of resources. Stuff rust and decay, and take a form that is very hard to recycle unless you have a fantastic device that gathers atoms and reassemble them in a clean form. The best engine for recycling today is the organic one with how soil, plants, animals interact with water and air. Any single species impact on his planet has been fine tuned over millions of years shaping synergies where the nature is somewhat self sustainable as long as no single species “take over”. Homo Sapiens (a name we don’t deserve) has basically been raping and pillaging this natural world for resources in a way that is just insanely destructive on a planetary scale. We have also bred our species completely out of proportions so no matter how much you plan to conserve, recycle and aim for renewables – continued breeding will require a substantial number of us to become part of the soil again. No doubt for us to have any chance at all to find some sort of equilibrium with the planet again we need to cut our numbers dramatically. The question is whether we do it willingly or not – realistically I cant see any other option besides the finiteness of the planet forcing the population down. That might start with an oil or energy shock or it might be because of major climate change incidents as the Arctic is thawing and releasing massive amounts of methane and CO2 to the atmosphere.

John Christian probably believes a good deal of the same things I do (or visa versa), but this is not about some utopia.  It’s a very good way to understand what should go into the energy-invested term.

Suppose I started with Houston, Texas, and made a list of all the full-time workers and other stakeholders who get 100% of their livelihoods from Energy Plant X (not forgetting the wives and children).  I might compile a list of energy either of the type produced or transformed into the type produced.  But, many of their fellow citizens spend a small part of their time (energy) serving these Plant X workers, like the dentist and the man at H & R Block.   But, that’s a hell of a tangle.  How will I ever compile a list of energy expended on behalf of Plant X much less list the pro-rata portion of the energy budget of the man who cuts the hair of the man who shines the shoes of the man who does the taxes for the Plant X worker.

Suppose, however, that energy is the only product of District A in Houston.  Everyone either works for Energy Plant X or depends upon it for a livelihood.   Everything other than energy that is produced in District A must be part of the cost of producing energy.  We know exactly what to do.  Let’s consider additional products and districts.


We don’t need to know exactly who belongs to each district.  We need to know how much of each product including energy is produced and we need to have a number that describes the labor density for each product.  Finally, we need the total production for the city.  We may need some further description of the economy; but the result we seek can be a rough approximation and still be good enough to determine sustainability or not.

·                     Tom Wayburn says:

June 11, 2013 at 1:55 pm


Please do not assume that you know what I am going to say and that, therefore, you don’t have to read it. What I have said is very different from what you seem to expect. You made an unfair criticism of ERoEI* replete with numerous incorrect statements. An ERoEI* = 1 corresponds to the Autonomous Alternative Energy District of supplying all of its own needs and exporting nothing. In my blog at   I indicated how each of your objections can be handled. I didn’t specifically mention that the costs of government appear in the energy-invested term; but, you should realize how that would be done by analogy with the specifics of other details I offered as examples. I thought I answered your objections previously, but I can’t find my answer on your blog. Sorry if this is a repetition.


Gail’s next comment is what set me off.  You cannot imagine how enraged I became.   She thought I was describing how things work.  My definitions are not different  from the standard definitions except in the more  technical aspects of the problem to which I did not expose her.   The only possibility that Gail failed to consider was that perhaps I am right and, perforce, everyone else is wrong.


In any case, Gail, I apologize for my outburst.  It is not likely to happen again.  The world will eventually adopt my definition of ERoEI* or one that is even more like my definition than mine is.   It doesn’t matter that someone else will take credit for it or simply say they always did it that way.   I agree with nearly everything you say.   But, they also  say that you always hurt the one you love.


·                     Gail Tverberg says:


June 13, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I am sorry but I do not have time to figure out your personal view of how things work, with definitions different from the standard ones. It is difficult enough dealing with standard definitions.

·                     Tom Wayburn says:

June 13, 2013 at 6:51 pm


You are hopeless. You don’t want to learn anything you don’t already know and most of that is irrelevant or wrong. The rest of you know where to find me.

·                     Jan Steinman says:

June 13, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Tom, if you need to have a superior attitude, at least you can be civil!

Gail does a lot of good. Calling someone “hopeless” because they are unwilling to cater to your whims is hardly a way to make friends and influence people.


Jan, you are right.  I am ashamed of my outburst.  The Autonomous Alternative Energy District is one of the best ideas I ever had.  Naturally, I expected a much different reception for it.  It’s a good thing there’s no  crying in chemical engineering.

·                     Scott says:

June 13, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Jan, I think Tom sees something that he is having trouble communicating to the group and perhaps he is frustrated by that. I wish I could understand all the things he has written, I get some of it but much of it hard for most of us to grasp. I noticed we do have several doctors of science writing on the site and I hope they stay with us so I can try to understand their thesis. Sometimes scientist fail to understand the human aspect of things since they are hung up on math and facts. I would like to understand Tom’s ideas and I hope he stays with us but try to post in a way that we can understand as I have very little college.

I am trying to write so as to be more easily understood.   A lot of my difficulties come from years of writing only for myself.

·                     Thomas L Wayburn, PhD in chemical engineering says:

June 14, 2013 at 3:22 am

My definition of ERoEI* corrects all the defects of the standard definition which is what the critics of ERoEI usually complain about. But, you already know everything that you need to know. You don’t need no stinking scientific progress. I have been ahead of all you Peak Oil superstars no matter how late you jumped on the bandwagon. They tell me that I am hard to understand. What did you expect? It is always thus with true genius. I am afraid I shall have to give up on Gail Tverberg, the entertainer, who has no business addressing public policy. The rest of you know where to find me.

This is one of the worst things I ever wrote.  Perhaps it’s because I like and admire Gail so much.   Sorry Gail.  I don’t suppose you would let me take you to dinner.




And, that’s the way it ends.  I suppose I should contact Jan Steinman whom I know from The Solution Magazine and its ancillary activities; but, I see a catering to “notability” there too and I am reasonably certain no good will come from that quarter.  They are not sincere.  I appreciate Scott’s defense of me.  I am afraid I am writing for a rather select audience.  As time goes on, it seems that fewer and fewer understand me until, I suppose,  I shall be writing for no one.  By the way, I am not sure I am a “true genius”.  But, I’m not sure I’m not.  As I said to Albert Bartlett, average intelligence is decreasing; but, the single highest intelligence, corresponding to the right-most point under the bell curve, is getting higher.  There must be many people much more intelligent than me.

16 Comments on "Tom Wayburn and Gail Tverberg discuss ERoEI"

  1. TomWayburn on Sun, 22nd Nov 2020 7:40 pm 

    When I wrote the above, I distinguished what I wrote yesterday from the older writing by writing it with blue type. This didn’t make it into this copy of the piece; so, it’s sometimes a little hard to tell who is writing. Can someone please tell me how to edit this post so that I can date the new comments.

  2. FamousDrScanlon on Sun, 22nd Nov 2020 10:45 pm 

    You can use the number of Bull Shit jobs to loosely track available energy.

    White’s law

    “White’s law, named after Leslie White and published in 1943, states that, other factors remaining constant, “culture evolves as the amount of energy harnessed per capita per year is increased, or as the efficiency of the instrumental means of putting the energy to work is increased”.

    “White spoke of culture as a general human phenomenon and claimed not to speak of ‘cultures’ in the plural. His theory, published in 1959 in The Evolution of Culture: The Development of Civilization to the Fall of Rome, rekindled the interest in social evolutionism and is counted prominently among the neoevolutionists. He believed that culture – meaning the sum total of all human cultural activity on the planet – was evolving.

    White differentiated between three components of culture:


    Sociological and

    Ideological, and argued that it was the technological component which plays a primary role or is the primary determining factor responsible for the cultural evolution”

    “”Argument Synopsis

    White’s materialist approach is evident in the following quote: “man as an animal species, and consequently culture as a whole, is dependent upon the material, mechanical means of adjustment to the natural environment”.[1] This technological component can be described as material, mechanical, physical and chemical instruments, as well as the way people use these techniques. White’s argument on the importance of technology goes as follows:[2]

    Technology is an attempt to solve the problems of survival.
    This attempt ultimately means capturing enough energy and diverting it for human needs.
    Societies that capture more energy and use it more efficiently have an advantage over other societies.
    Therefore, these different societies are more advanced in an evolutionary sense.

    For White “the primary function of culture” and the one that determines its level of advancement is its ability to “harness and control energy.” White’s law states that the measure by which to judge the relative degree of evolvedness of culture was the amount of energy it could capture (energy consumption). White differentiates between five stages of human development. In the first, people use energy of their own muscles. In the second, they use energy of domesticated animals. In the third, they use the energy of plants (so White refers to agricultural revolution here). In the fourth, they learn to use the energy of natural resources: coal, oil, gas. In the fifth, they harness nuclear energy.”

    It’s no coincidence that NASCAR, Monster Trucks, Drive in movies, Singing Bass on a plaque & a whole bunch of other obscene energy wasting pastimes came out of American culture. It’s the oil what dun it. Culture à la Guns, Germs & Steel. We did it because we could. The MPP rules.

    On a happier note many ‘gender & multicultural studies’ professors will soon be unemployed due to declining net energy.

  3. TomWayburn on Mon, 23rd Nov 2020 12:28 am 

    Dr. Scanlon,

    I have been searching for a proof of the Maximum Power Principle for some time. I had more or less given up. Do you know where one can be found?


  4. zero juan on Mon, 23rd Nov 2020 3:38 am 

    Ppee juan, you are not famous, you are a fuck and low IQ high school drop out. Please leave this place for rational adults and go get therepy

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    FamousDrScanlon said There was a book that was published 1972 all about…

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    TomWayburn said When I wrote the above, I distinguished what I wro…

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  5. Alain Le Gargasson on Mon, 23rd Nov 2020 7:30 am 

    Endless recycling is not possible for several reasons:
    Even if you had infinite energy this does not guarantee you infinite raw materials, the circular economy is also a large consumer of energy and an impossibility in the medium term for several reasons:
    · We still have a loss on melting metal, example: recycling case of aluminum beer cans, of the recovered quantity only 95% is available again.
    There are thousands of steel alloys with noble metals: niobium, vanadium, tungsten, chromium, etc., only two classifications when it comes to recycling, carbon steel which will be used in construction as medium steel and l ‘stainless steel. Which never go back to the original use,
    · Automotive industry, on average 10 years of life. For recycling, draining liquids and melting in an electric furnace, mixes up to 10 alloys of steel, copper from the electrical circuit, aluminum engine casing and combustion plastics.
    · Disperse use, metal oxides used as colorants in paints (walls, prints, plastics, cosmetics, fireworks, etc.). The most emblematic case is titanium oxide, a universal white dye (paints, resins, cosmetics, toothpaste, etc.) 95% terminated in landfills, rivers and seas. Nanotechnology prevents recycling like the silver used in socks to prevent odors. Mobile phone with more than 40 different mendeleiev table elements (nano elements).
    · Natural wear: Today, for example, in the streets, asphalt contains a higher concentration of palladium or platinum than certain mines, due to the exhaust of cars, copper and zinc from tires.
    • No substitute for copper for electrical conductors, nickel for stainless steel, tin for soldering, tungsten for cutting tools, silver or platinum for the chemical and electronic industry, phosphorus for agriculture etc …
    Agriculture: totally disperse, diesel from 100 to 150 liters per cultivated hectare, limestone in the correction of agricultural land, fertilizers (NPK- nitrogen, potash, phosphorus) phytosanitary products (herbicides, fungicides, insecticides …) which will end up in rivers and sea, as well as arable land due to erosion.
    Renewable energies, wind turbine of 5 MW 1000t of steel and concrete at the base, 250t of the steel mast, the 50t of the 3 blades of fiberglass, carbon fiber and plastic resin, permanent magnet motor, in steel alloy with neodymium. Photovoltaic panel, with gallium, indium, selenium, cadmium or tellurium. Today not recyclable.
    · Everything that spins needs lubricant. 50 million tonnes / year.
    The improved return to life in 1800 is therefore assured around 2050 with a maximum of 1 or 2 billion inhabitants. In a constrained world, you can forget about democracy and going back to slavery.

  6. Davy on Mon, 23rd Nov 2020 7:54 am 

    How many times we got to tell you your not famous FamousDrScanlon.


  7. Antius on Mon, 23rd Nov 2020 2:57 pm 

    EROEI of nuclear fission with light water reactors is 43-81. EROEI for wind (without storage) = 6-80; Solar PV = 2.1-12.

    In Europe, we could run a minimalist civilisation on wind power, provided we could adapt to intermittency and use it without wasting energy on poorly designed storage solutions. We would need a lot of installed capacity. In terms of EROEI, onshore wind is likely to be superior (and cheaper). Infrastructure will have longer lifespan, less material invested in foundations and easier logistics overall. Solar PV is far more problematic, due to low EROEI. It seems doubtful that solar would have been more than a niche technology without zero interest rates and QE. Wind power, especially onshore, would have fared better.

  8. Antius on Mon, 23rd Nov 2020 3:45 pm 

    Some thoughts on wind power.

    (1) Traditional windmill towers were built from brick or stone and blades were made of wood. These are materials with low embodied energy. There are practical size limitations for wooden blades. For medium sized onshore wind turbines, wood can be used for blades and masonry for towers. The only steel needed is the hub and the shafts.

    (2) Rare earth elements are used in high strength permanent magnets. They are an advantage in the design of compact autonomous generators, but are hardly an essential component. Iron based electromagnets with copper or aluminium coils could be used. They would be a little bulkier.

    (3) In fact, wind turbines could be designed to pump hydraulic fluid or compressed air to a central generator plant, with dozens of turbines providing hydraulic power to a single electrical generator station. In this case, the turbines themselves would contain hydraulic pumps or air compressors, but would not need generators. No special materials needed, just carbon steel and some polymers, with masonry towers and wooden blades.

    Just because something is done in a certain way, doesn’t always mean that it has to be done that way.

  9. Cloggie on Mon, 23rd Nov 2020 4:29 pm 

    “Traditional windmill towers were built from brick or stone and blades were made of wood. These are materials with low embodied energy.”

    I was surprised myself how low the cost of the steel tower is: 1.9% !!!

    “Breakdown Costs Offshore Windfarm”

    And again my hobbyhorse: making a new wind turbine tower from an old one takes 4 times less energy than making a new one from iron ore. So, once you have constructed a steel wind tower from iron ore, the next wind tower, recycled from the first generation, will require a fraction of the energy cost, vastly increasing EROI.

    Primary production, in which steel is made from iron ore and aluminum from bauxite ore, is energy intensive. However, secondary production, which involves the use of recycling scrap to make steel and aluminum, is much more energy efficient. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that secondary steel production uses about 74% less energy than the production of steel from iron ore, while the U.S. Department of Energy reports that secondary aluminum production requires 90% less energy than primary production.

  10. Gaia on Mon, 23rd Nov 2020 4:35 pm 

    All men should go their own way. The
    mainstream media rarely mentions about violence against men. Marriage is a scam and divorce is the same.

  11. TomWayburn on Mon, 23rd Nov 2020 6:20 pm 

    I do not agree with Antius and I believe what I have written about ERoEI* is sufficient to reject ERoEI* of 43 for anything. My computations and lucubrations are all over the internet and depend upon all of you to review because I have no desire to deal with the corporate-controlled journals and the peer-review system I have been very much a part of and which I investigated to my own satisfaction and found unsatisfactory.

    However,Alain Le Gargasson has raised a serious and very real concern. I agree with him except for a few mitigating facts, which you can bet are going to save my thesis if I have anything to do with it. I have already thanked Denis Frith for pushing me closer and closer to a complete solution. Let’s face it: Denis had a better grip on the difficulty of solving the recycle problem than I did. There I said it and Denis is OK in my book.

    BUT, I don’t have to solve the recycle problem for everything – only the renewable energy candidate under investigation. Lately, I have decided to investigate the case of tellurium. Begin by establishing a rule: No one gets a new panel without returning the old panel or the pieces of it. I’ll report myself unless Alain wants to do it and report on .

    Remember too that we may have any number of years before we have to come up with a workable plan for recycling most things. As for structural metals, I would argue that the heat of fusion is an upper limit for the cost of recycling. If you recall, I expect that most of the structural and delivery components are amenable to do-it-yourself and decentralization. But, if not, they are going to sink a whole lot of systems whose purveyors don’t even take the trouble to compute ERoEI* they are so over-confident.

    I guess was not so far ahead of its time that I couldn’t take another look at it after fifteen years. But this is not merely another opportunity to complain about how shabbily I have been treated by the scientific community. I don’t suppose my socialist,communist,syndicalist, and dechrematisticalist sympathies had anything to do with it.

    Tom Wayburn

    “Any society that permits private profit is doomed.”

  12. Antius on Tue, 24th Nov 2020 2:43 am 

    “I do not agree with Antius and I believe what I have written about ERoEI* is sufficient to reject ERoEI* of 43 for anything. My computations and lucubrations are all over the internet and depend upon all of you to review because I have no desire to deal with the corporate-controlled journals and the peer-review system I have been very much a part of and which I investigated to my own satisfaction and found unsatisfactory.”

    Can you provide a link to the ERoEI analysis that you have carried out for nuclear reactors and wind turbines? I have read some of your work and find it interesting.

    I would posit that the minimal functional EROI needed to sustain a civilisation is unlikely to be a constant. Tim Morgan of the Surplus Energy Economics blog has shown that Japanese GDP started shrinking when Energy Cost of Energy rose above 5%. However, the Chinese economy was able to continue growing rapidly at this point and real GDP has only recently started to plateau. This indicates that minimum sustainable EROI for an economy has a lot to do with complexity.

    I would agree that a hydrogen economy does not appear to be a practical proposition beyond certain niche applications. The energy cost of liquefaction and all of the logistical problems of distributing a deep cryogen, mean that liquid hydrogen will not be affordable as a mass produced diesel and gasoline substitute. Gaseous hydrogen is too diffuse in my opinion to be suitable for long distance piping as is foreseen under the plans for a Europe-wide hydrogen network. Whikst it isn’t technically impossible to make it work, it is not a desirable option, due to the low energy density of the gas and the low pressure drop achievable in the (inevitably) low pressure pipelines.

    But gaseous hydrogen may have niche applications in short term electricity storage in gasometer tanks (remember Town Gas?) and as a reducing agent in metal production and feedstock for biomass refining and ammonia production. All of this applications would involve storing hydrogen as gas at roughly atmospheric pressure and using it close to where it is made, shortly after it is made. So there could be a hydrogen economy of sorts.

  13. Antius on Tue, 24th Nov 2020 4:24 am 

    A summary of Weisbach’s EROI study, which is generally considered to be the most reliable.

    EROI of onshore wind power in northern Germany is ~16. It is worth noting that EROI will be different depending upon turbine design, where it is situated (I.e. wind speed) and its effective lifetime.

    An EROI of 16 implies an ECoE of 6.25% – which is marginal but still workable. The ability of wind power to support industrial civilisation depends largely on our ability to harness it without wasting exergy. That means minimising energy transitions, energy lost in storage and transmission, etc.

    That implies in my mind that we should avoid wasteful solutions like the hydrogen economy or battery electric cars and concentrate instead on direct use of the electrical and mechanical energy as it is produced. That means grid connected electric transport like trains and trams and industrial manufacturing powered by grid electric wind power. We need to adapt to intermittent energy, by having some functions that are capable of responding to supply. For example, heating and cooling can be switched off when electricity supply is low, if thermal inertia is built into the system. Transport can run more slowly if energy levels are lower. Manufacturing can postpone some functions when energy levels are low. This is how it will need to work. Labour productivity will be lower.

    EROI of light water nuclear reactors is estimated to be 75. This is superior to any fossil fuel power generation, with the possible exception of natural gas. But there is institutional inertia to the use of nuclear energy that may prove difficult to overcome. In China, where fewer such limitations exist, nuclear power is expanding rapidly.

  14. Cloggie on Thu, 26th Nov 2020 4:18 am 

    Massive hydrogen push underway in Europe:

    – in Italy they produce pasta with hydrogen
    – in Germany 1300 diesel locomotives could be replaced by hydrogen
    – the EU contemplates to ban new diesel and gasoline cars as early as 2025:

    Things are moving with breakneck speed.

  15. Cloggie on Thu, 26th Nov 2020 5:19 am 

    “Massive Hydrogen Push Underway in Europe”

  16. Antius on Thu, 26th Nov 2020 6:56 am 

    “Massive Hydrogen Push Underway in Europe”

    Trains, buses and short range trucks are workable using hydrogen, because you can get good range using hydrogen stored at low pressure. What’s more, they are big enough to make use of solid oxide fuel cells.

    Where hydrogen is less likely to be workable is in powering cars. Electric cars will not be affordable for most people and hydrogen offers poor range. Cars are too inefficient to be valuable in a renewable energy economy. It turns out that car culture was the road to nowhere. Kunstler certainly got that right. Long live the tram, the train, the bicycle, the velomobile, the bus.

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