The following is a non-exhaustive list of books in the English language relevant to the field of biophysical economics. These books are not all dedicated to biophysical economics as such, and their authors are not all associated with the biophysical economics line of thought. All however provide information or data on how the flows of energy and matter shape and are shaped by the economy’s structures and evolutions, and therefore contribute to a biophysical reading of the economic process as well as of past and ongoing economic trends and developments. Most of these books are authored by renowned academics, even if some books authored by journalists or independent analysts and intended for a wider audience are also included. These books are presented here for information purposes only. BiophysEco does not necessarily support or endorse the views expressed by their authors.
Books by publication year:
Energy and Civilization: A History
By Vaclav Smil
MIT Press, April 2017
Energy is the only universal currency; it is necessary for getting anything done. The conversion of energy on Earth ranges from terra-forming forces of plate tectonics to cumulative erosive effects of raindrops. Life on Earth depends on the photosynthetic conversion of solar energy into plant biomass. Humans have come to rely on many more energy flows—ranging from fossil fuels to photovoltaic generation of electricity—for their civilized existence. In this monumental history, Vaclav Smil provides a comprehensive account of how energy has shaped society, from pre-agricultural foraging societies through today’s fossil fuel–driven civilization.
Humans are the only species that can systematically harness energies outside their bodies, using the power of their intellect and an enormous variety of artifacts—from the simplest tools to internal combustion engines and nuclear reactors. The epochal transition to fossil fuels affected everything: agriculture, industry, transportation, weapons, communication, economics, urbanization, quality of life, politics, and the environment. Smil describes humanity’s energy eras in panoramic and interdisciplinary fashion, offering readers a magisterial overview. This book is an extensively updated and expanded version of Smil’s Energy in World History (1994). Smil has incorporated an enormous amount of new material, reflecting the dramatic developments in energy studies over the last two decades and his own research over that time.
Failing States, Collapsing Systems: BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence
By Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
Springer, January 2017
This work executes a unique transdisciplinary methodology building on the author’s previous book, A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save it (Pluto, 2010), which was the first peer-reviewed study to establish a social science framework for the integrated analysis of crises across climate, energy, food, economic, terror and the police state. Since the 2008 financial crash, the world has witnessed an unprecedented outbreak of social unrest in every major continent. Beginning with the birth of the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring, the eruption of civil disorder continues to wreak havoc unpredictably from Greece to Ukraine, from China to Thailand, from Brazil to Turkey, and beyond. Yet while policymakers and media observers have raced to keep up with events, they have largely missed the biophysical triggers of this new age of unrest – the end of the age of cheap fossil fuels, and its multiplying consequences for the Earth’s climate, industrial food production, and economic growth. This book for the first time develops an empirically-ground theoretical model of the complex interaction between biophysical processes and geopolitical crises, demonstrated through the analysis of a wide range of detailed case studies of historic, concurrent and probable state failures in the Middle East, Northwest Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Europe and North America. Geopolitical crises across these regions, Ahmed argues, are being driven by the proliferation of climate, food and economic crises which have at their root the common denominator of a fundamental and permanent disruption in the energy basis of industrial civilization. This inevitable energy transition, which will be completed well before the close of this century, entails a paradigm shift in the organization of civilization. Yet for this shift to result in a viable new way of life will require a fundamental epistemological shift recognizing humanity’s embeddedness in the natural world. For this to be achieved, the stranglehold of conventional models achieved through the hegemony of establishment media reporting – dominated by fossil fuel interests – must be broken. While geopolitics cannot be simplistically reduced to the biophysical, this book shows that international relations today can only be understood by recognizing the extent to which the political is embedded in the biophysical. Although the book offers a rigorous scientific analysis, it is written in a clean, journalistic style to ensure readability and accessibility to a general audience. It contains a large number of graphical illustrations concerning oil production data, population issues, the food price index, economic growth and debt, and other related issues to demonstrate the interconnections and correlations across key sectors.
Energy: A Beginner’s Guide – 2nd Edition
By Vaclav Smil
Oneworld Publications, January 2017
With one famous equation, E=mc2, Einstein proved all matter can be described as energy. It is everywhere and it is everything. In this newly updated and engaging introduction, renowned scientist Vaclav Smil explores energy in all its facets – from the inner workings of the human body to what we eat, the car we drive and the race for more efficient and eco-friendly fuels.
Energy: A Beginner’s Guide highlights the importance of energy in both past and present societies, by shedding light on the science behind global warming and efforts to prevent it, and by revealing how our daily decisions affect energy consumption. Whether you’re looking for dinner table conversation or to further your own understanding, this book will amaze and inform, uncovering the truths and exposing the myths behind one of the most important concepts in our universe.
This authoritative guide, written by international expert Vaclav Smil, has been fully revised to reveal how every aspect of our existence is governed by one of the most important concepts in our universe.
The Economics Of Oil: A Primer Including Geology, Energy, Economics, Politics
By Sam W. Carmalt
Springer, January 2017
This book examines the ways that oil economics will impact the rapidly changing global economy, and the oil industry itself, over the coming decades. The predictions of peak oil were both right and wrong. Oil production has been constrained in relation to demand for the past decade, with a resulting four-fold increase in the oil price slowing the entire global economy. High oil prices have encouraged a small increase in oil production, and mostly from the short-lived “fracking revolution,” but enough to be able to claim that “peak oil” was a false prophecy. The high oil price has also engendered massive exploration investments, but remaining hydrocarbon stocks generally offer poor returns in energy (the energy return on investment or EROI) and financial terms, and no longer replace the reserves being produced. As a result, the economically powerful oil companies are under great pressure, both financially and politically, as oil remains the backbone of the global economy. Development scenarios and political pressure for growth as a means of solving economic woes both require more net energy, which is the amount of energy available after energy (and thus financial) inputs required for new sources to come on line are deducted. In today’s economy, more energy usually means more oil. Although a barrel of oil from any source may look the same, “tight oil” and oil from tar sands require much higher prices to be profitable for the producer; these expensive sources have very different economic implications from the conventional oil supplies that underpinned economic growth for most of the 20th century. The role of oil in the global economy is not easily changed. Since currently installed infrastructure assumes oil, a change implies more than just substitution of an energy source. The speed with which such basic structural changes can be made is also constrained, and ultimately themselves dependent on fossil fuel inputs. It remains unclear how this scenario will evolve, and that uncertainty adds additional economic pressure to the investment decisions that must be made. “Drill baby drill” and new pipeline projects may be attractive politically, but projections of economic and associated oil production growth based on past performance are clearly untenable.
Energy in Agroecosystems: A Tool for Assessing Sustainability
Edited by Gloria I. Guzman Casado, Manuel Gonzalez de Molina
CRC Press, December 2016
Energy in Agroecosystems: A Tool for Assessing Sustainability is the first book on energy analysis that is up-to-date and specifically dedicated to agriculture. It is written from an agroecological perspective and goes beyond the conventional analysis of the efficient use of energy. The book provide a methodological guide to assess energy efficiency and sustainability from an eco-energetic point of view.
Case studies from both Europe and America, which are representative of today’s most used scales of analysis (crop, farm, local or national) and the different farm management practices (traditional, industrialized, and contemporary organic), apply this methodology This book will be of primary interest to researchers, practitioners, and students working in the areas of agroecology, sustainable agriculture, environmental science, energy analysis, natural resources management, rural development and international development.
Energy Return on Investment: A Unifying Principle for Biology, Economics, and Sustainability
By Charles A.S. Hall
Springer, November 2016
This authoritative but highly accessible book presents the reader with a powerful framework for understanding the critical role of the energy return on investment (EROI) in the survival and well-being of individuals, ecosystems, businesses, economies and nations. Growth and development are fundamental and ubiquitous processes at all scales, from individuals to food crops to national economies. While we are all familiar with the concepts of economic growth and living standards as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), we often take for granted the energy use that underpins GDP and our expectations for year-on-year growth. In this book, you will learn how these measures of “progress” are completely dependent on the balance that can be achieved between energy costs (inputs) and gains. Nothing is made or moved without an energy surplus, and it is the EROI of available energy sources more than any other single factor that determines the shape of civilization.
Nearly all politics and economics assume that policy and market forces are the levers upon which future outcomes will hinge. However, this book presents many examples of historical and current events that can be explained much more clearly from an energetic perspective. In addition, a future scenario is developed that gives a central place to EROI in assessing the potential of governmental and private initiatives to substitute so-called renewable energy sources for diminishing stocks of fossil fuels. When cheap fossil fuels are no longer available in the abundance needed to mask economic problems and power business as usual, it will be EROI more than the plethora of “green” technologies that creates the boundary conditions for a sustainable future.
Energy Transitions: Global and National Perspectives, 2nd Edition
By Vaclav Smil
Praeger, October 2016
This book provides a detailed, global examination of energy transitions, supplying a long-term historical perspective, an up-to-date assessment of recent and near-term advances in energy production technology and implementation, and an explanation of why efforts to limit global warming and to shift away from fossil fuels have been gradual.
Based on the best international and national statistical sources, the second edition of Energy Transitions: Global and National Perspectives supplies an in-depth evaluation of how economies and nations around the world are striving to move away from traditional energy sources, the unfolding decarbonization process, and problems with intermittent energies and national transition plans. It supplies readers with a clear introduction to the basic properties of energy systems and key concepts of their appraisal, puts energy transition patterns in long-term historical perspective, and looks at the energy transition in eight of the world’s leading economies. The last chapters focus on the advances in the decarbonization of the global energy supply and consider how the energy transition will continue in the coming decades.
This fully updated and substantially expanded edition addresses the many new developments affecting energy supply, such as the recent expansion of hydraulic fracturing, oil price fluctuations, the Fukushima nuclear power plant catastrophe, advances in solar and wind generation, adoption of combined cycle gas turbines, and increased availability of electric cars. The coverage highlights the differences in the pace of transitions in various countries, thereby providing a complete and accurate picture of the current state of energy development in different parts of the world. The book serves as an invaluable resource for students as well as for anyone interested in a realistic appraisal of the current state of energy transitions in various nations and regions and the likely future development of the global energy supply.
Rethinking Climate and Energy Policies: New Perspectives on the Rebound Phenomenon
Edited by Tilman Santarius, Hans Jakob Walnum, Carlo Aall
Springer, August 2016
This book calls for rethinking current climate, energy and sustainability policy-making by presenting new insights into the rebound phenomenon; i.e., the driving forces, mechanisms and extent of rebound effects and potential means of mitigating them. It pursues an innovative and novel approach to the political and scientific rebound discourse and hence, supplements the current state-of-knowledge discussed in the field of energy economics and recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Building on central rebound publications from the past four decades, this book is divided into three main sections: Part I highlights new aspects of rebound economics by presenting insights into issues that have so far not been satisfactorily researched, such as rebounds in countries of the Global South, rebounds on the producer-side, and rebounds from sufficiency behaviour (as opposed to rebounds from technical efficiency improvements). In turn, Part II goes beyond conventional economic rebound research, exploring multidisciplinary perspectives on the phenomenon, in particular from the fields of psychology and sociology. Advancing such multidisciplinary perspectives delivers a more comprehensive understanding of rebound’s driving forces, mechanisms, and policy options. Part III puts rebounds into practice and presents several policy cases and sector-specific approaches, including the contexts of labour markets, urban planning, tourism, information and communication technologies, and transport. Lastly, the book embeds the issue into the larger debate on decoupling, green growth and degrowth, and identifies key lessons learned for sustainable development strategies and policies at large. By employing such varied and in-depth analyses, the book makes an essential contribution to the discussion of the overall question: Can resource-, energy-use and greenhouse gas emissions be substantially reduced without hindering economic growth?
Energy, Complexity and Wealth Maximization
By Robert U. Ayres
Springer, July 2016
This book is about the mechanisms of wealth creation, or what we like to think of as evolutionary “progress.” The massive circular flow of goods and services between producers and consumers is not a perpetual motion machine; it has been dependent for the past 150 years on energy inputs from a finite storage of fossil fuels. In this book, you will learn about the three key requirements for wealth creation, and how this process acts according to physical laws, and usually after some part of the natural wealth of the planet has been exploited in an episode of “creative destruction.” Knowledge and natural capital, particularly energy, will interact to power the human wealth engine in the future as it has in the past. Will it sputter or continue along the path of evolutionary progress that we have come to expect? Can the new immaterial wealth of information and ideas, which makes up the so-called knowledge economy, replace depleted natural wealth? These questions have no simple answers, but this masterful book will help you to understand the grand challenge of our time.
Social Ecology: Society-Nature Relations across Time and Space
Edited by Helmut Haberl, Marina Fischer-Kowalski, Fridolin Krausmann, Verena Winiwarter
Springer, July 2016
This book presents the current state of the art in Social Ecology as practiced by the Vienna School of Social Ecology, globally one of the main research groups in this field. As a significant contribution to the growing literature on interdisciplinary sustainability studies, the book introduces the purpose and nature of Social Ecology and then places the “Vienna School” within the broader context of socioecological and other interdisciplinary environmental approaches. The conceptual and methodological foundations of Social Ecology are discussed in detail, allowing the reader to obtain a broad overview of current socioecological thinking. Issues covered include socio-metabolic transitions, socioecological approaches to land use, the relation between actor-centered and system approaches, a socioecological theory of labor and the importance of legacies, as conceived in Environmental History and in Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research. To underpin this overview empirically, the strengths of socioecological research are elucidated in cases of cutting-edge research, introducing a variety of themes the Vienna School has been tackling empirically over the past years. Given how the field is presented – reflecting research carried out on different scales, reaching from local to global as well as from past to present and future – and due to the way the book is structured, it is suitable for classroom use, as a primer, and also as an overview of how Social Ecology evolved, right up to its current research frontiers.
Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path for One Hundred Percent Clean Energy
By Richard Heinberg and David Fridley
Island Press, June 2016
The next few decades will see a profound energy transformation throughout the world. By the end of the century (and perhaps sooner), we will shift from fossil fuel dependence to rely primarily on renewable sources like solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal power. Driven by the need to avert catastrophic climate change and by the depletion of easily accessible oil, coal, and natural gas, this transformation will entail a major shift in how we live. What might a 100% renewable future look like? Which technologies will play a crucial role in our energy future? What challenges will we face in this transition? And how can we make sure our new system is just and equitable?
In Our Renewable Future, energy expert Richard Heinberg and scientist David Fridley explore the challenges and opportunities presented by the shift to renewable energy. Beginning with a comprehensive overview of our current energy system, the authors survey issues of energy supply and demand in key sectors of the economy, including electricity generation, transportation, buildings, and manufacturing. In their detailed review of each sector, the authors examine the most crucial challenges we face, from intermittency in fuel sources to energy storage and grid redesign. The book concludes with a discussion of energy and equity and a summary of key lessons and steps forward at the individual, community, and national level.
The transition to clean energy will not be a simple matter of replacing coal with wind power or oil with solar; it will require us to adapt our energy usage as dramatically as we adapt our energy sources. Our Renewable Future is a clear-eyed and urgent guide to this transformation that will be a crucial resource for policymakers and energy activists.
The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945
By John R. McNeill and Peter Engelke
Harvard University Press, April 2016
The Earth has entered a new age—the Anthropocene—in which humans are the most powerful influence on global ecology. Since the mid-twentieth century, the accelerating pace of energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and population growth has thrust the planet into a massive uncontrolled experiment. The Great Acceleration explains its causes and consequences, highlighting the role of energy systems, as well as trends in climate change, urbanization, and environmentalism.
More than any other factor, human dependence on fossil fuels inaugurated the Anthropocene. Before 1700, people used little in the way of fossil fuels, but over the next two hundred years coal became the most important energy source. When oil entered the picture, coal and oil soon accounted for seventy-five percent of human energy use. This allowed far more economic activity and produced a higher standard of living than people had ever known—but it created far more ecological disruption.
We are now living in the Anthropocene. The period from 1945 to the present represents the most anomalous period in the history of humanity’s relationship with the biosphere. Three-quarters of the carbon dioxide humans have contributed to the atmosphere has accumulated since World War II ended, and the number of people on Earth has nearly tripled. So far, humans have dramatically altered the planet’s biogeochemical systems without consciously managing them. If we try to control these systems through geoengineering, we will inaugurate another stage of the Anthropocene. Where it might lead, no one can say for sure.
Introduction to Peak Oil
By Roger W. Bentley
Springer, March 2016
This book examines the physical and economic characteristics of the global oil resource to explain why peak oil has been so poorly understood. The author draws on information held in oil industry datasets that are not widely available outside of the specialist literature, and describes a number of methods that have been successfully used to predict oil peaks. In contrast to the widely-held view that ‘all oil forecasts are wrong’, these methods correctly predicted the current peak in global conventional oil production. Current oil forecasts are then compared to evaluate the expected dates for regional and global oil peaks for conventional oil, all-oils, and all-liquids. The dates of global peaks in the production of all-oil and all-liquids appear to be reasonably soon, while the oil price that is needed to support these global production levels continues to rise. The world faces serious constraints in its oil supply, which accounts for about one-third of total world energy use, and over 90% of the fuel used for transportation. Readers of this book will gain a thorough understanding of the critical, but poorly understood, phenomenon of peak oil that has already had significant impacts on society in terms of high oil prices, and which will place increasing constraints on mankind’s supply of energy and economic well-being in the coming years.
Still the Iron Age: Iron and Steel in the Modern World
By Vaclav Smil
Butterworth-Heinemann, February 2016
Although the last two generations have seen an enormous amount of attention paid to advances in electronics, the fact remains that high-income, high-energy societies could thrive without microchips, etc., but, by contrast, could not exist without steel. Because of the importance of this material to contemporary civilization, a comprehensive resource is needed for metallurgists, non-metallurgists, and anyone with a background in environmental studies, industry, manufacturing, and history, seeking a broader understanding of the history of iron and steel and its current and future impact on society. Given its coverage of the history of iron and steel from its genesis to slow pre-industrial progress, revolutionary advances during the 19th century, magnification of 19th century advances during the past five generations, patterns of modern steel production, the ubiquitous uses of the material, potential substitutions, advances in relative dematerialization, and appraisal of steel’s possible futures, Still the Iron Age: Iron and Steel in the Modern World by world-renowned author Vaclav Smil meets that need.
America’s Most Sustainable Cities and Regions: Surviving the 21st Century Megatrends
By John W. Day and Charles A.S. Hall
Springer, January 2016
This book takes you on a unique journey through American history, taking time to consider the forces that shaped the development of various cities and regions, and arrives at an unexpected conclusion regarding sustainability. From the American Dream to globalization to the digital and information revolutions, we assume that humans have taken control of our collective destinies in spite of potholes in the road such as the Great Recession of 2007-2009. However, these attitudes were formed during a unique 100-year period of human history in which a large but finite supply of fossil fuels was tapped to feed our economic and innovation engine. Today, at the peak of the Oil Age, the horizon looks different. Cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas are situated where water and other vital ecological services are scarce, and the enormous flows of resources and energy that were needed to create the megalopolises of the 20th century will prove unsustainable. Climate change is a reality, and regional impacts will become increasingly severe. Economies such as Las Vegas, which are dependent on discretionary income and buffeted by climate change, are already suffering the fate of the proverbial canary in the coal mine.
Finite resources will mean profound changes for society in general and the energy-intensive lifestyles of the US and Canada in particular. But not all regions are equally vulnerable to these 21st-century megatrends. Are you ready to look beyond “America’s Most Livable Cities” to the critical factors that will determine the sustainability of your municipality and region? Find out where your city or region ranks according to the forces that will impact our lives in the next years and decades.
The Path to Sustained Growth: England’s Transition from an Organic Economy to an Industrial Revolution
By E. A. Wrigley
Cambridge University Press, January 2016
Before the industrial revolution prolonged economic growth was unachievable. All economies were organic, dependent on plant photosynthesis to provide food, raw materials, and energy. This was true both of heat energy, derived from burning wood, and mechanical energy provided chiefly by human and animal muscle. The flow of energy from the sun captured by plant photosynthesis was the basis of all production and consumption. Britain began to escape the old restrictions by making increasing use of the vast stock of energy contained in coal measures, initially as a source of heat energy but eventually also of mechanical energy, thus making possible the industrial revolution. In this concise and accessible account of change between the reigns of Elizabeth I and Victoria, Wrigley describes how during this period Britain moved from the economic periphery of Europe to becoming briefly the world’s leading economy, forging a path rapidly emulated by its competitors.
When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation
By Alice J. Friedemann
Springer, December 2015
In lively and engaging language, this book describes our dependence on freight transport and its vulnerability to diminishing supplies and high prices of oil. Ships, trucks, and trains are the backbone of civilization, hauling the goods that fulfill our every need and desire. Their powerful, highly-efficient diesel combustion engines are exquisitely fine-tuned to burn petroleum-based diesel fuel. These engines and the fuels that fire them have been among the most transformative yet disruptive technologies on the planet. Although this transportation revolution has allowed many of us to fill our homes with global goods even a past emperor would envy, our era of abundance, and the freight transport system in particular, is predicated on the affordability and high energy density of a single fuel, oil. This book explores alternatives to this finite resource including other liquid fuels, truck and locomotive batteries and utility-scale energy storage technology, and various forms of renewable electricity to support electrified transport. Transportation also must adapt to other challenges: Threats from climate change, financial busts, supply-chain failure, and transportation infrastructure decay. Robert Hirsch, who wrote the “Peaking of World Oil Production” report for the U.S. Department of Energy in 2005, said that planning for peak world production must start at least 10, if not 20 years ahead of time. What little planning exists focuses mainly on how to accommodate 30 percent more economic growth while averting climate change, ignoring the possibility that we are at, or near, the end of growth. Taken for granted, the modern transportation system will not endure forever. The time is now to take a realistic and critical look at the choices ahead, and how the future of transportation may unfold.
The Unity of Science and Economics: A New Foundation of Economic Theory
By Jing Chen
Springer, November 2015
This book presents a new economic theory developed from physical and biological principles. It explains how technology, social systems and economic values are intimately related to resources. Many people have recognized that mainstream (neoclassical) economic theories are not consistent with physical laws and often not consistent with empirical patterns, but most feel that economic activities are too complex to be described by a simple and coherent mathematical theory. While social systems are indeed complex, all life systems, including social systems, satisfy two principles. First, all systems need to extract resources from the external environment to compensate for their consumption. Second, for a system to be viable, the amount of resource extraction has to be no less than the level of consumption. From these two principles, we derive a quantitative theory of major factors in economic activities, such as fixed cost, variable cost, discount rate, uncertainty and duration. The mathematical theory enables us to systematically measure the effectiveness of different policies and institutional structures at varying levels of resource abundance and cost.The theory presented in this book shows that there do not exist universally optimal policies or institutional structures. Instead, the impacts of different policies or social structures have to be measured within the context of existing levels of resource abundance. As the physical costs of extracting resources rise steadily, many policy assumptions adopted in mainstream economic theories, and workable in times of cheap and abundant energy supplies and other resources, need to be reconsidered. In this rapidly changing world, the theory presented here provides a solid foundation for examining the long-term impacts of today’s policy decisions.
Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Environmental Studies
Edited by Matthias Ruth
Edward Elgar, October 2015
This volume presents methods to advance the understanding of interdependencies between the well-being of human societies and the performance of their biophysical environment. It showcases applications to material and energy use; urbanization and technological transition; economic growth and social vulnerabilities; development and governance of social and industrial networks; the role of history, culture, and science itself in carrying out analysis and guiding policy; as well as the role of theory, data, and models in guiding decisions.
Natural Gas: Fuel for the 21st Century
By Vaclav Smil
Wiley, September 2015
Natural gas is the world’s cleanest fossil fuel; it generates less air pollution and releases less CO2 per unit of useful energy than liquid fuels or coals. With its vast supplies of conventional resources and nonconventional stores, the extension of long-distance gas pipelines and the recent expansion of liquefied natural gas trade, a truly global market has been created for this clean fuel.
Natural Gas: Fuel for the 21st Century discusses the place and prospects of natural gas in modern high-energy societies. Vaclav Smil presents a systematic survey of the qualities, origins, extraction, processing and transportation of natural gas, followed by a detailed appraisal of its many preferred, traditional and potential uses, and the recent emergence of the fuel as a globally traded commodity. The unfolding diversification of sources, particularly hydraulic fracturing, and the role of natural gas in national and global energy transitions are described. The book concludes with a discussion on the advantages, risks, benefits and costs of natural gas as a leading, if not dominant, fuel of the 21st century.
This interdisciplinary text will be of interest to a wide readership concerned with global energy affairs including professionals and academics in energy and environmental science, policy makers, consultants and advisors with an interest in the rapidly-changing global energy industry.
Beyond GDP: National Accounting in the Age of Resource Depletion
By Matthew Kuperus Heun, Michael Carbajales-Dale, and Becky Roselius Haney
Springer, May 2015
This book uses the metaphor “The economy is society’s metabolism” as a springboard to develop a rigorous theoretical framework for a better system of national accounts which goes “Beyond GDP” and is relevant to the age of resource depletion. Society is entering a new era in which biophysical limits related to natural resource extraction rates and the biosphere’s waste assimilation capacity are becoming binding constraints on mature economies. Unfortunately, the data needed for policy-makers to understand and manage economic growth in this new era are not universally available. All stakeholders need a new way to understand our economy in the context of the biosphere’s ability to provide essential natural capital, and we suggest that detailed information about materials, energy, embodied energy, and energy intensity should be routinely gathered, analyzed, and disseminated from a centralized location to provide markets and policymakers with a more comprehensive understanding of the biophysical economy. However, a firm theoretical foundation is needed before proceeding along this new path, which this book is intended to provide.
After arguing that the stock of manufactured capital is an important driver of material and energy demands imposed upon the biosphere, a new accounting framework is derived from the laws of thermodynamics to reflect the fact that material and embodied energy accumulate within the capital stock of economic sectors. This framework extends the Energy Input-Output (EI-O) techniques first developed by Bullard, Herendeen, and others to estimate energy intensity of economic products. Implications from the new framework are discussed, including the value of economic metrics for policy-making, the need for physically-based rather than product-based EI-O formulations, a re-assessment of the concept of economic “growth,” and an evaluation of recycling, reuse, and dematerialization. The framework also provides an opportunity to assess an array of definitions for Daly’s “steady-state economy” in relation to the ideal of a sustainable economy.
The book ends with a list of steps to be taken in creating a more comprehensive system of national accounts.
Power Density: A Key to Understanding Energy Sources and Uses
By Vaclav Smil
MIT Press, May 2015
In this book, Vaclav Smil argues that power density is a key determinant of the nature and dynamics of energy systems. Any understanding of complex energy systems must rely on quantitative measures of many fundamental variables. Power density—the rate of energy flux per unit of area—is an important but largely overlooked measure. Smil provides the first systematic, quantitative appraisal of power density, offering detailed reviews of the power densities of renewable energy flows, fossil fuels, thermal electricity generation, and all common energy uses.
Smil shows that careful quantification, critical appraisals, and revealing comparisons of power densities make possible a deeper understanding of the ways we harness, convert, and use energies. Conscientious assessment of power densities, he argues, proves particularly revealing when contrasting the fossil fuel–based energy system with renewable energy conversions.
Smil explains that modern civilization has evolved as a direct expression of the high power densities of fossil fuel extraction. He argues that our inevitable (and desirable) move to new energy arrangements involving conversions of lower-density renewable energy sources will require our society—currently dominated by megacities and concentrated industrial production—to undergo a profound spatial restructuring of its energy system.
Afterburn: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels
By Richard Heinberg
New Society Publishers, April 2015
Climate change, along with the depletion of oil, coal, and gas dictate that we will inevitably move away from our profound societal reliance on fossil fuels; but just how big a transformation will this be? While many policy-makers assume that renewable energy sources will provide an easy “plug-and-play” solution, author Richard Heinberg suggests instead that we are in for a wild ride; a “civilization reboot” on a scale similar to the agricultural and industrial revolutions.
Afterburn consists of 15 essays exploring various aspects of the 21st century migration away from fossil fuels including: short-term political and economic factors that impede broad-scale, organized efforts to adapt; the origin of longer-term trends (such as consumerism), that have created a way of life that seems “normal” to most Americans, but is actually unprecedented, highly fragile, and unsustainable; potential opportunities and sources of conflict that are likely to emerge.
From the inevitability and desirability of more locally organized economies, to the urgent need to preserve our recent cultural achievements and the futility of pursuing economic growth above all, Afterburn offers cutting-edge perspectives and insights that challenge conventional thinking about our present, our future, and the choices in our hands.
Rethinking Economic Growth Theory From a Biophysical Perspective
By Blair Fix
Springer, December 2014
Neoclassical growth theory is the dominant perspective for explaining economic growth. At its core are four implicit assumptions: 1) economic output can become decoupled from energy consumption; 2) economic distribution is unrelated to growth; 3) large institutions are not important for growth; and 4) labor force structure is not important for growth. Drawing on a wide range of data from the economic history of the United States, this book tests the validity of these assumptions and finds no empirical support. Instead, connections are found between the growth in energy consumption and such disparate phenomena as economic redistribution, corporate employment concentration, and changing labor force structure. The integration of energy into an economic growth model has the potential to offer insight into the future effects of fossil fuel depletion on key macroeconomic indicators, which is already manifested in stalled or diminished growth and escalating debt in many national economies. This book argues for an alternative, biophysical perspective to the study of growth, and presents a set of “stylized facts” that such an approach must successfully explain. Aspects of biophysical analysis are combined with differential monetary analysis to arrive at a unique empirical methodology for investigating the elements and dependencies of the economic growth process.
Peak Oil, Economic Growth, and Wildlife Conservation
Edited by J. Edward Gates,David L. Trauger, and Brian Czech
Springer, November 2014
The book focuses on one of the most important issues affecting humankind in this century – Peak Oil or the declining availability of abundant, cheap energy—and its effects on our industrialized economy and wildlife conservation. Energy will be one of the defining issues of the 21st Century directly affecting wildlife conservation wherever energy extraction is a primary economic activity and indirectly through deepening economic recessions. Since cheap, abundant energy has been at the core of our industrial society, and has resulted in the technological advancements we enjoy today, the peak in world oil extraction would potentially have major impacts on civilization unless we prepare well in advance. One potential economic solution covered in the book would be a Steady State Economy with a stable population and per capita consumption, particularly in such industrialized countries as the United States. Furthermore, the lack of cheap, abundant energy directly and indirectly affects conservation efforts by professional societies and federal and state agencies, and NGOs concerned with wildlife issues. We need to recognize these potential problems and prepare, as much as possible, for the consequences stemming from them.
Thanatia: The Destiny of the Earth’s Mineral Resources – A Thermodynamic Cradle-to-Cradle Assessment
By Antonio Valero Capilla and Alicia Valero Delgado
World Scientific Publishing Company, October 2014
Is Gaia becoming Thanatia, a resource exhausted planet? For how long can our high-tech society be sustained in the light of declining mineral ore grades, heavy dependence on un-recycled critical metals and accelerated material dispersion? These are all root causes of future disruptions that need to be addressed today.
This book presents a cradle-to-cradle view of the Earth’s abiotic resources through a novel and rigorous approach based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics: heat dissipates and materials deteriorate and disperse. Quality is irreversibly lost. This allows for the assessment of such depletion and can be used to estimate the year where production of the main mineral commodities could reach its zenith. By postulating Thanatia, one acquires a sense of destiny and a concern for a unified global management of the planet’s abiotic resource endowment.
The book covers the core aspects of geology, geochemistry, mining, metallurgy, economics, the environment, thermodynamics and thermochemistry. It is supported by comprehensive databases related to mineral resources, including detailed compositions of the Earth’s layers, thermochemical properties of over 300 substances, historical energy and mineral resource inventories, energy consumption and environmental impacts in the mining and metallurgical sector and world recycling rates of commodities.
The Basic Environmental History
Edited by Mauro Agnoletti, Simone Neri Serneri
Springer, October 2014
This book is an introductory instrument to the main themes of environmental history, illustrating its development over time, methodological implications, results achieved and those still under discussion. But the overriding aspiration is to show that the doubts, methods and knowledge elaborated by environmental history have a heuristic value that is far from negligible precisely in its attitude to the most consolidated major historiography. For this reason, this book gives an overview of environmental history as it is an essential component of the basic knowledge of global history. At the same time, it introduces specific aspects which are useful both for anyone wanting to deepen his/her studies of environmental historiography and for those interested in one of the many disciplinary areas – from rural history to urban history, from the history of technology to the history of public health, etc. with which environmental history develops a dialogue.
The Interrelationship Between Financial and Energy Markets
by Sofia Ramos and Helena Veiga
Springer, August 2014
In the last decade, energy markets have developed substantially due to the growing activity of financial investors. One consequence of this massive presence of investors is a stronger link between the hitherto segmented energy and financial markets. This book addresses some of the recent developments in the interrelationship between financial and energy markets. It aims to further the understanding of the rich interplay between financial and energy markets by presenting several empirical studies that illustrate and discuss some of the main issues on this agenda.
The Social Metabolism: A Socio-Ecological Theory of Historical Change
Manuel González de Molina, Víctor M. Toledo
Springer, June 2014
Over this last decade, the concept of Social Metabolism has gained prestige as a theoretical instrument for the required analysis, to such an extent that there are now dozens of researchers, hundreds of articles and several books that have adopted and use this concept. However, there is a great deal of variety in terms of definitions and interpretations, as well as different methodologies around this concept, which prevents the consolidation of a unified field of new knowledge. The fundamental aim of the book is to conduct a review of the past and present usage of the concept of social metabolism, its origins and history, as well as the main currents or schools that exist around this concept. At the same time, the reviews and discussions included are used by the authors as starting points to draw conclusions and propose a theory of socio-ecological transformations.
The theoretical and methodological innovations of this book include a distinction of two types of metabolic processes: tangible and intangible; the analysis of the social metabolism at different scales (in space and time) and a theory of socio-ecological change overcoming the merely “systemic” or “cybernetic” nature of conventional approaches, giving special protagonism to collective action.
Resource Accounting for Sustainability Assessment: The Nexus between Energy, Food, Water and Land Use
Edited by Mario Giampietro, Richard J. Aspinall, Jesus Ramos-Martin, Sandra G. F. Bukkens
Routledge, May 2014
The demands placed on land, water, energy and other natural resources are exacerbated as the world population continues to increase together with the expectations of economic growth. This, combined with concerns over environmental change, presents a set of scientific, policy and management issues that are critical for sustainability.
Resource Accounting for Sustainability Assessment: The nexus between energy, food, water and land use offers an approach for multi-scale, integrated assessment of this nexus. It presents a comprehensive and original method of resource accounting for integrated sustainability assessments. The approach is illustrated with three detailed case studies: the islands of Mauritius, the Indian state of Punjab, and the energy economy of South Africa. The relationships between flows of goods, services and materials in these case studies offer valuable insights. The book provides a much needed quality control on the information used in deliberative processes about policy and planning activities.
This innovative book will be of interest to researchers, students and practitioners in the fields of sustainability science, international development, industrial ecology, sustainable resource management, geography and ecological economics.
The Bubble Economy: Is Sustainable Growth Possible?
By Robert U. Ayres
MIT Press, May 2014
The global economy has become increasingly, perhaps chronically, unstable. Since 2008, we have heard about the housing bubble, subprime mortgages, banks “too big to fail,” financial regulation (or the lack of it), and the European debt crisis. Wall Street has discovered that it is more profitable to make money from other people’s money than by investing in the real economy, which has limited access to capital – resulting in slow growth and rising inequality. What we haven’t heard much about is the role of natural resources – energy in particular – as drivers of economic growth, or the connection of “global warming” to the economic crisis. In The Bubble Economy, Robert Ayres – an economist and physicist – connects economic instability to the economics of energy.
Ayres describes, among other things, the roots of our bubble economy (including the divergent influences of Senator Carter Glass – of the Glass-Steagall Law – and Ayn Rand); the role of energy in the economy, from the “oil shocks” of 1971 and 1981 through the Iraq wars; the early history of bubbles and busts; the end of Glass-Steagall; climate change; and the failures of austerity.
Finally, Ayres offers a new approach to trigger economic growth. The rising price of fossil fuels (notwithstanding “fracking”) suggests that renewable energy will become increasingly profitable. Ayres argues that government should redirect private savings and global finance away from home ownership and toward “de-carbonization”–investment in renewables and efficiency. Large-scale investment in sustainability will achieve a trifecta: lowering greenhouse gas emissions, stimulating innovation-based economic growth and employment, and offering long-term investment opportunities that do not depend on risky gambling strategies with derivatives.
Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth Is Plundering the Planet
By Ugo Bardi
Chelsea Green Publishing, April 2014
As we dig, drill, and excavate to unearth the planet’s mineral bounty, the resources we exploit from ores, veins, seams, and wells are gradually becoming exhausted. Mineral treasures that took millions, or even billions, of years to form are now being squandered in just centuries–or sometimes just decades.
Will there come a time when we actually run out of minerals? Debates already soar over how we are going to obtain energy without oil, coal, and gas. But what about the other mineral losses we face? Without metals, and semiconductors, how are we going to keep our industrial system running? Without mineral fertilizers and fuels, how are we going to produce the food we need?
Ugo Bardi delivers a sweeping history of the mining industry, starting with its humble beginning when our early ancestors started digging underground to find the stones they needed for their tools. He traces the links between mineral riches and empires, wars, and civilizations, and shows how mining in its various forms came to be one of the largest global industries. He also illustrates how the gigantic mining machine is now starting to show signs of difficulties. The easy mineral resources, the least expensive to extract and process, have been mostly exploited and depleted. There are plenty of minerals left to extract, but at higher costs and with increasing difficulties.
The effects of depletion take different forms and one may be the economic crisis that is gripping the world system. And depletion is not the only problem. Mining has a dark side–pollution–that takes many forms and delivers many consequences, including climate change.
The world we have been accustomed to, so far, was based on cheap mineral resources and on the ability of the ecosystem to absorb pollution without generating damage to human beings. Both conditions are rapidly disappearing. Having thoroughly plundered planet Earth, we are entering a new world.
Bardi draws upon the world’s leading minerals experts to offer a compelling glimpse into that new world ahead.
Routes of Power: Energy and Modern America
By Christopher F. Jones
Harvard University Press, April 2014
The fossil fuel revolution is usually rendered as a tale of historic advances in energy production. In this perspective-changing account, Christopher F. Jones instead tells a story of advances in energy access—canals, pipelines, and wires that delivered power in unprecedented quantities to cities and factories at a great distance from production sites. He shows that in the American mid-Atlantic region between 1820 and 1930, the construction of elaborate transportation networks for coal, oil, and electricity unlocked remarkable urban and industrial growth along the eastern seaboard. But this new transportation infrastructure did not simply satisfy existing consumer demand—it also whetted an appetite for more abundant and cheaper energy, setting the nation on a path toward fossil fuel dependence.
Between the War of 1812 and the Great Depression, low-cost energy supplied to cities through a burgeoning delivery system allowed factory workers to mass-produce goods on a scale previously unimagined. It also allowed people and products to be whisked up and down the East Coast at speeds unattainable in a country dependent on wood, water, and muscle. But an energy-intensive America did not benefit all its citizens equally. It provided cheap energy to some but not others; it channeled profits to financiers rather than laborers; and it concentrated environmental harms in rural areas rather than cities.
Today, those who wish to pioneer a more sustainable and egalitarian energy order can learn valuable lessons from this history of the nation’s first steps toward dependence on fossil fuels.
Energy and the Financial System: What Every Economist, Financial Analyst, and Investor Needs to Know
by Roger Boyd
Springer, February 2014
The modern financial system was developed to support the rapid economic growth that took off about 200 years ago with the phenomenal amounts of cheap energy made available through the exploitation of fossil fuels. As a result, its viability is completely dependent upon the continuation of that growth. Unfortunately, the more recent fossil fuel discoveries, especially for oil, have tended to have lower production levels than earlier ones. In addition, greater amounts of energy are required to extract the fossil fuels leading to less net energy available for society. The Energy Return On Investment (EROI) for oil has fallen from 30:1 in the 1970’s to 10:1 today. Thus, newer energy finds produce lower extraction rates and more of the energy provided is offset by the energy used in the extraction processes. The result has been economic stagnation or even contraction, with growth in China and India etc. only possible due to the extensive use of local coal reserves, and recession-induced drops in OECD country energy use. Renewable sources of energy will not be able to expand fast enough to replace the 87% of energy supplies provided by fossil fuels, and apart from hydro and wind, tend to have very low EROI rates. They are also critically dependent upon the cheap energy infrastructure provided by fossil fuels. The phenomenal amounts of path-dependent energy infrastructure will also greatly inhibit any move away from fossil fuels.
Without continued economic growth there will not be the extra output to fund loan interest payments, nor the revenue and profit growth to support share price/earnings multiples. The financial system acts as a time machine, creating asset prices based upon perceptions of the future. As an increasing percentage of investors come to accept the future reality of at best, financial asset prices will fall to reflect a realistic future. The resulting crash will remove the underpinnings of the banking, brokerage, mutual fund, pension fund, and insurance industries. The comfortable futures of many will be shown to have been based upon a mirage of future growth that will not take place. With the financial system acting as the critical coordination system of the global economy, its crash will also intensify economic problems. Written by a retired financial industry executive with over 25 years of experience, this book describes how the crisis will affect different regions and industries to help identify the career and investment choices which may provide a relative safe harbour.
Power to the People: Energy in Europe over the Last Five Centuries
By Astrid Kander, Paolo Malanima, Paul Warde
Princeton University Press, January 2014
Power to the People examines the varied but interconnected relationships between energy consumption and economic development in Europe over the last five centuries. It describes how the traditional energy economy of medieval and early modern Europe was marked by stable or falling per capita energy consumption, and how the First Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century–fueled by coal and steam engines–redrew the economic, social, and geopolitical map of Europe and the world. The Second Industrial Revolution continued this energy expansion and social transformation through the use of oil and electricity, but after 1970 Europe entered a new stage in which energy consumption has stabilized. This book challenges the view that the outsourcing of heavy industry overseas is the cause, arguing that a Third Industrial Revolution driven by new information and communication technologies has played a major stabilizing role.
Power to the People offers new perspectives on the challenges posed today by climate change and peak oil, demonstrating that although the path of modern economic development has vastly increased our energy use, it has not been a story of ever-rising and continuous consumption. The book sheds light on the often lengthy and complex changes needed for new energy systems to emerge, the role of energy resources in economic growth, and the importance of energy efficiency in promoting growth and reducing future energy demand.
Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization
By Vaclav Smil
Wiley, November 2013
How much further should the affluent world push its material consumption? Does relative dematerialization lead to absolute decline in demand for materials? These and many other questions are discussed and answered in Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization.
Over the course of time, the modern world has become dependent on unprecedented flows of materials. Now even the most efficient production processes and the highest practical rates of recycling may not be enough to result in dematerialization rates that would be high enough to negate the rising demand for materials generated by continuing population growth and rising standards of living. This book explores the costs of this dependence and the potential for substantial dematerialization of modern economies.
Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization considers the principal materials used throughout history, from wood and stone, through to metals, alloys, plastics and silicon, describing their extraction and production as well as their dominant applications. The evolving productivities of material extraction, processing, synthesis, finishing and distribution, and the energy costs and environmental impact of rising material consumption are examined in detail. The book concludes with an outlook for the future, discussing the prospects for dematerialization and potential constrains on materials.
This interdisciplinary text provides useful perspectives for readers with backgrounds including resource economics, environmental studies, energy analysis, mineral geology, industrial organization, manufacturing and material science.
Handbook of Energy, Volume II: Chronologies, Top Ten Lists, and Word Clouds
By Cutler J. Cleveland, Christopher G. Morris
Elsevier Science, December 2013
Handbook of Energy, Volume II: Chronologies, Top Ten Lists, and Word Clouds draws together a comprehensive account of the energy field from the prestigious and award-winning authors of the Encyclopedia of Energy (2004), The Dictionary of Energy, Expanded Edition (2009), and the Handbook of Energy, Volume I (2013).
Handbook of Energy, Volume II takes the wealth of information about historical aspects of energy spread across many books, journals, websites, disciplines, ideologies, and user communities and synthesizes the information in one central repository. This book meets the needs of a diverse readership working in energy, and serves as a vital method of communication among communities including colleges and universities, nongovernmental organizations, government agencies, consulting firms and research institutes of energy, environmental, and public policy issues.
Snake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future
By Richard Heinberg
Post Carbon Institute, July 2013
The rapid spread of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has temporarily boosted US natural gas and oil production… and sparked a massive environmental backlash in communities across the country. The fossil fuel industry is trying to sell fracking as the biggest energy development of the century, with slick promises of American energy independence and benefits to local economies.
Snake Oil casts a critical eye on the oil-industry hype that has hijacked America’s energy conversation. This is the first book to look at fracking from both economic and environmental perspectives, informed by the most thorough analysis of shale gas and oil drilling data ever undertaken. Is fracking the miracle cure-all to our energy ills, or a costly distraction from the necessary work of reducing our fossil fuel dependence?
Handbook of Energy, Volume I: Diagrams, Charts, and Tables
By Cutler J. Cleveland, Christopher G. Morris
Elsevier Science, May 2013
Handbook of Energy, Volume I: Diagrams, Charts, and Tables provides a single, comprehensive, authoritative resource for all aspects of energy and its social, economic, political, historical, and environmental impacts. The book’s integrated approach emphasizes the importance of specific energy concepts in individual disciplines, and provides a central source for information and communication across seemingly disparate fields.
Organized in a visual, graphic, and tabular format, each subject category in Handbook of Energy contains easy-to-comprehend figures, technical diagrams, and tables displaying a vast array of data and concepts.
Spain’s Photovoltaic Revolution: The Energy Return on Investment
By Pedro A. Prieto and Charles A.S. Hall
Springer, January 2013
The Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI or EROEI) is the amount of energy acquired from a particular energy source divided by the energy expended, or invested, in obtaining that energy. EROI is an essential and seemingly simple measure of the usable energy or “energy profit” from the exploitation of an energy source, but it is not so easy to determine all of the energy expenditures that should be included in the calculation. Because EROI values are generally low for renewable energy sources, differences in these estimates can lead to sharply divergent conclusions about the viability of these energy technologies. This book presents the first complete energy analysis of a large-scale, real-world deployment of photovoltaic (PV) collection systems representing 3.5 GW of installed, grid-connected solar plants in Spain. The analysis includes all of the factors that limit and adjust the real electricity output through one full-year cycle, and all of the fossil fuel inputs required to achieve these results. The authors’ comprehensive analysis of energy inputs, which assigns energy cost estimates to all financial expenditures, yields EROI values that are less than half of those claimed by other investigators and by the solar industry. Sensitivity analysis is used to test various assumptions in deriving these EROI estimates. The results imply that the EROI of current, large-scale PV systems may be too low to seamlessly support an energy and economic transition away from fossil fuels. Given the pervasiveness of fossil fuel subsidies in the modern economy, a key conclusion is that all components of the system that brings solar power to the consumer, from manufacturing to product maintenance and life cycle, must be improved in terms of energy efficiency. The materials science of solar conversion efficiency is only one such component.
Sunny Spain represented an ideal case study as the country had the highest penetration of solar PV energy at 2.3 percent of total national demand as well as state-of-the-art expertise in solar power including grid management of intermittent, modern renewable systems. This book, written by a uniquely qualified author team consisting of the chief engineer for several major photovoltaic projects in Spain and the world’s leading expert on the concept and application of EROI, provides a comprehensive understanding of the net energy available to society from energy sources in general and from functioning PV installations under real-world conditions in particular. The authors provide critical insight into the capacity of renewable energy sources to fill the foreseeable gap between world energy demand and depletion rates for fossil fuels.
The First Half of the Age of Oil: An Exploration of the Work of Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrère
By Charles A.S. Hall and Carlos A. Ramírez-Pascualli
Springer, December 2012
According to the conventional wisdom, we live in a post-industrial information age. This book, however, paints a different picture: We live in the age of oil. Petroleum fuels and feedstocks are responsible for much of what we take for granted in modern society, from chemical products such as fertilizer and plastics, to the energy that moves people and goods in a global economy. Oil is a nearly perfect fuel: energy dense, safe to store, easy to transport, and mostly environmentally benign. Most importantly, oil has been cheap and abundant during the past 150 years. In 1998, two respected geologists, Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrère, published a detailed article announcing that the “end of cheap oil” would happen before 2010, which meant that the world would face a peak, or at least a plateau, in global daily oil production in the first decade of the new millennium. Today, two billion people under the age of 14 have lived the majority of their lives past the point when this century-long growth in oil supplies came to an end, which also marks the end of the first half of the age of oil. This transition has ushered in a new reality of high oil prices, stagnating oil supplies, and sluggish economies. In this book, a leading authority on energy explores the contributions and continuing legacy of Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrère, the two geologists who modified the terms of the debate about oil. The book provides a unique perspective and state-of-the-art overview of today’s energy reality and its enormous economic and social implications.
Harvesting the Biosphere: What We Have Taken from Nature
By Vaclav Smil
MIT Press, December 2012
The biosphere – the Earth’s thin layer of life – dates from nearly four billion years ago, when the first simple organisms appeared. Many species have exerted enormous influence on the biosphere’s character and productivity, but none has transformed the Earth in so many ways and on such a scale as Homo sapiens. In Harvesting the Biosphere, Vaclav Smil offers an interdisciplinary and quantitative account of human claims on the biosphere’s stores of living matter, from prehistory to the present day. Smil examines all harvests – from prehistoric man’s hunting of megafauna to modern crop production – and all uses of harvested biomass, including energy, food, and raw materials. Without harvesting of the biomass, Smil points out, there would be no story of human evolution and advancing civilization; but at the same time, the increasing extent and intensity of present-day biomass harvests are changing the very foundations of civilization’s well-being.
In his detailed and comprehensive account, Smil presents the best possible quantifications of past and current global losses in order to assess the evolution and extent of biomass harvests. Drawing on the latest work in disciplines ranging from anthropology to environmental science, Smil offers a valuable long-term, planet-wide perspective on human-caused environmental change.
Practical Approach to Exergy and Thermoeconomic Analyses of Industrial Processes
By Enrique Querol, Borja Gonzalez-Regueral, and Jose Luis Perez-Benedito
Springer, November 2012
Although the exergy method has been featured as the subject of many publishing papers in scientific and engineering journals and at conferences, very few comprehensive books on this subject have been published so far. Practical Approach to Exergy and Thermoeconomic Analyses of Industrial Processes details the exergetic and thermoeconomic analyses of industrial processes using Aspen Plus and a novel Microsoft Excel Application developed by the authors which can be applied to industrial processes across the board.
Employing a practical approach to an innovative and complex energy process, every chapter contains extensive explanations of a complex and real case and numerous examples whose solution demonstrates the application of theory to a wide range of real and practical problems. Illustrations, tables and graphs support and illustrate the new methodology to build a deep understanding of the real employment of the fuel used and the cost formation and increase inside the process.
Practical Approach to Exergy and Thermoeconomic Analyses of Industrial Processes provides users, students and practitioners of process analysis, power plant design and fuel use optimization, with a broad introduction and approach to computer aided process optimization. It also serves as a comprehensive guide to the operational application of the MHBT to real cases analysis.
ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth
Edited by Tom Butler and George Wuerthner, with an introduction by Richard Heinberg
Foundation for Deep Ecology in collaboration with Watershed Media and Post Carbon Institute, October 2012
In a large-format, image-driven narrative with over 150 breathtaking color photographs, ENERGY explores the impacts of the global energy economy: from oil spills and mountaintop-removal coal mining to oversized wind farms and desert-destroying solar power plants.
Featuring essays by more than thirty of the world’s most provocative thinkers in the fields of energy, society, and ecology, ENERGY lifts the veil on the harsh realities of our pursuit of energy at any price, revealing the true costs, benefits, and limitations of all our energy options.
Contributing writers: Doug Tompkins, Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry, Sandra Lubarsky, Lester Brown, James Hansen, Richard Heinberg, Charles Hall, David Fridley, David Ehrenfeld, James Woolsey, John Michael Greer, David Murphy, David Hughes, Richard Bell, Jeff Goodell, Sandra Steingraber, Juan Pablo Orrego, Rachel Smolker, Brian Horesji, ETC Group, Erik Molvar, Amory Lovins, Robert King, Harvey Locke, Bill McKibben, Philip Cafaro, Sheila Bowers, Bill Powers, Lisi Krall.
Winner of the ‘Outstanding Book of the Year’ 2014 Independent Publisher Book Awards.
Energy Analysis for a Sustainable Future: Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism
By Mario Giampietro, Kozo Mayumi, Alevgül H. Şorman
Routledge, August 2012
The vast majority of the countries of the world are now facing an imminent energy crisis, particularly the USA, China, India, Japan and EU countries, but also developing countries having to boost their economic growth precisely when more powerful economies will prevent them from using the limited supply of fossil energy.
Despite this crisis, current protocols of energy accounting have been developed for dealing with fossil energy exclusively and are therefore not useful for the analysis of alternative energy sources. The first part of the book illustrates the weakness of existing analyses of energy problems: the science of energy was born and developed neglecting the issue of scale. The authors argue that it is necessary to adopt more complex protocols of accounting and analysis in order to generate robust energy scenarios and effective assessments of the quality of alternative energy sources.
The second part of the book introduces the concept of energetic metabolism of modern societies and uses empirical results. The authors present an innovative approach – Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism (MuSIASEM) – capable of characterizing the quality of alternative energy sources in relation to both environmental constraints and socio-economic requirements. This method allows the metabolic pattern of a society to be described in relation to its feasibility, when looking at biophysical factors, and desirability, when looking at socio-economic factors.
Addressing the issue of scale in energy analysis by cutting through the confusion found in current applications of energy analysis, this book should be of interest to researchers, students and policy makers in energy within a variety of disciplines.
The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude
By Andrew Nikiforuk
Greystone Books, August 2012
A radical analysis of our master-and-slave relationship to energy and a call for change.
Ancient civilizations routinely relied on shackled human muscle. It took the energy of slaves to plant crops, clothe emperors, and build cities. In the early nineteenth century, the slave trade became one of the most profitable enterprises on the planet, and slaveholders viewed religious critics as hostilely as oil companies now regard environmentalists. Yet when the abolition movement finally triumphed in the 1850s, it had an invisible ally: coal and oil. As the world’s most portable and versatile workers, fossil fuels dramatically replenished slavery’s ranks with combustion engines and other labour-saving tools. Since then, oil has transformed politics, economics, science, agriculture, gender, and even our concept of happiness. But as Andrew Nikiforuk argues in this provocative book, we still behave like slaveholders in the way we use energy, and that urgently needs to change.
Many North Americans and Europeans today enjoy lifestyles as extravagant as those of Caribbean plantation owners. Like slaveholders, we feel entitled to surplus energy and rationalize inequality, even barbarity, to get it. But endless growth is an illusion, and now that half of the world’s oil has been burned, our energy slaves are becoming more expensive by the day. What we need, Nikiforuk argues, is a radical new emancipation movement.
2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years
By Jorgen Randers
Chelsea Green Publishing, June 2012
Forty years ago, The Limits to Growth study addressed the grand question of how humans would adapt to the physical limitations of planet Earth. It predicted that during the first half of the 21st century the ongoing growth in the human ecological footprint would stop-either through catastrophic “overshoot and collapse”-or through well-managed “peak and decline.”
So, where are we now? And what does our future look like? In the book 2052, Jorgen Randers, one of the coauthors of Limits to Growth, issues a progress report and makes a forecast for the next forty years. To do this, he asked dozens of experts to weigh in with their best predictions on how our economies, energy supplies, natural resources, climate, food, fisheries, militaries, political divisions, cities, psyches, and more will take shape in the coming decades. He then synthesized those scenarios into a global forecast of life as we will most likely know it in the years ahead.
The good news: we will see impressive advances in resource efficiency, and an increasing focus on human well-being rather than on per capita income growth. But this change might not come as we expect. Future growth in population and GDP, for instance, will be constrained in surprising ways-by rapid fertility decline as result of increased urbanization, productivity decline as a result of social unrest, and continuing poverty among the poorest 2 billion world citizens. Runaway global warming, too, is likely.
So, how do we prepare for the years ahead? With heart, fact, and wisdom, Randers guides us along a realistic path into the future and discusses what readers can do to ensure a better life for themselves and their children during the increasing turmoil of the next forty years.
Peeking at Peak Oil
By Kjell Aleklett
Springer, May 2012
The term “Peak Oil” was born in January 2001 when Colin Campbell formed the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (ASPO). Now, Peak Oil is used thousands of times a day by journalists, politicians, industry leaders, economists, scientists and countless others around the globe. Peak Oil is not the end of oil but it tells us the end is in sight. Anyone interested in food production, economic growth, climate change or global security needs to understand this new reality.
In Peeking at Peak Oil Professor Kjell Aleklett, President of ASPO International and head of the world’s leading research group on Peak Oil, describes the decade-long journey of Peak Oil from extremist fringe theory to today’s accepted fact: Global oil production is entering terminal decline. He explains everything you need to know about Peak Oil and its world-changing consequences from an insider’s perspective. In simple steps, Kjell tells us how oil is formed, discovered and produced. He uses science to reveal the errors and deceit of national and international oil authorities, companies and governments too terrified to admit the truth. He describes his personal involvement in the intrigues of the past decade.
What happens when a handful of giant oil fields containing two thirds of our planet’s oil become depleted? Will major oil consumers such as the EU and US face rationing within a decade? Will oil producing nations conserve their own oil when they realize that no one can export oil to them in the future? Does Peak Oil mean Peak Economic Growth? If you want to know the real story about energy today and what the future has in store, then you need to be “Peeking at Peak Oil”.
The End of Growth
By Jeff Rubin
Vintage Canada, May 2012
In an urgent follow-up to his best-selling Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller, Jeff Rubin argues that the end of cheap oil means the end of growth. What it will be like to live in a world where growth is over?
Economist and resource analyst Jeff Rubin is certain that the world’s governments are getting it wrong. Instead of moving us toward economic recovery, measures being taken around the globe right now are digging us into a deeper hole. Both politicians and economists are missing the fact that the real engine of economic growth has always been cheap, abundant fuel and resources. But that era is over. The end of cheap oil, Rubin argues, signals the end of growth–and the end of easy answers to renewing prosperity.
Rubin’s own equation is clear: with China and India sucking up the lion’s share of the world’s ever more limited resources, the rest of us will have to make do with less. But is this all bad? Can less actually be more? Rubin points out that there is no research to show that people living in countries with hard-charging economies are happier, and plenty of research to show that some of the most contented people on the planet live in places with no-growth or slow-growth GDPs. But it doesn’t matter whether it’s bad or good, it’s the new reality: our world is not only about to get smaller, our day-to-day lives are about to be a whole lot different.
Efficiency Evaluation of Energy Systems
By Mehmet Kanoğlu, Yunus A. Çengel, and Ibrahim Dincer
Springer, April 2012
Efficiency is one of the most frequently used terms in thermodynamics, and it indicates how well an energy conversion or process is accomplished. Efficiency is also one of the most frequently misused terms in thermodynamics and is often a source of misunderstanding. This is because efficiency is often used without being properly defined first. This book intends to provide a comprehensive evaluation of various efficiencies used for energy transfer and conversion systems including steady-flow energy devices (turbines, compressors, pumps, nozzles, heat exchangers, etc.), various power plants, cogeneration plants, and refrigeration systems. The book will cover first-law (energy based) and second-law (exergy based) efficiencies and provide a comprehensive understanding of their implications. It will help minimize the widespread misuse of efficiencies among students and researchers in energy field by using an intuitive and unified approach for defining efficiencies. The book will be particularly useful for a clear understanding of second law (exergy) efficiencies for various systems. It may serve as a reference book to the researchers in energy field. The definitions and concepts developed in the book will be explained through illustrative examples.
Energy and the Wealth of Nations: Understanding the Biophysical Economy
By Charles A.S. Hall and Kent Klitgaard
Springer, October 2011
For the past 150 years, economics has been treated as a social science in which economies are modeled as a circular flow of income between producers and consumers. In this “perpetual motion” of interactions between firms that produce and households that consume, little or no accounting is given of the flow of energy and materials from the environment and back again. In the standard economic model, energy and matter are completely recycled in these transactions, and economic activity is seemingly exempt from the Second Law of Thermodynamics. As we enter the second half of the age of oil, and as energy supplies and the environmental impacts of energy production and consumption become major issues on the world stage, this exemption appears illusory at best.
In Energy and the Wealth of Nations, concepts such as energy return on investment (EROI) provide powerful insights into the real balance sheets that drive our “petroleum economy.” Hall and Klitgaard explore the relation between energy and the wealth explosion of the 20th century, the failure of markets to recognize or efficiently allocate diminishing resources, the economic consequences of peak oil, the EROI for finding and exploiting new oil fields, and whether alternative energy technologies such as wind and solar power meet the minimum EROI requirements needed to run our society as we know it. This book is an essential read for all scientists and economists who have recognized the urgent need for a more scientific, unified approach to economics in an energy-constrained world, and serves as an ideal teaching text for the growing number of courses, such as the authors’ own, on the role of energy in society.
The Metabolic Pattern of Societies: Where Economists Fall Short
By Mario Giampietro, Kozo Mayumi, Alevgül H. Şorman
Routledge, October 2011
It is increasingly evident that the conventional scientific approach to economic processes and related sustainability issues is seriously flawed. No economist predicted the current planetary crisis even though the world has now undergone five severe recessions primed by dramatic increases in the price of oil. This book presents the results of more than twenty years of work aimed at developing an alternative method of analysis of the economic process and related sustainability issues: it is possible to perform an integrated and comprehensive analysis of the sustainability of socio-economic systems using indicators and variables that have been so far ignored by conventional economists.
The book’s innovative approach aims to provide a better framework with which we can face the predicaments of sustainability issues. It begins by presenting practical examples of the shortcomings of conventional economic analysis and examines the systemic problems faced when trying to use quantitative analysis for governance. In providing a critical appraisal of current applications of economic narratives to the issue of sustainability, the book presents several innovative concepts required to generate a post-Newtonian approach to quantitative analysis in the Musiasem approach. An empirical section illustrates the results of an analysis of structural changes in world and EU countries. Finally, the book, using the insight gained in the theoretical and empirical analysis, exposes the dubious quality of many narratives currently used in the sustainability debate.
Overall, the performance of modern economies across different hierarchical levels of organization and across different disciplinary knowledge systems is fully analyzed and a more realistic measure of happiness and well-being is devised. The book should be of interest to researchers and students looking at the issue of sustainability within a variety of disciplines.
Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil
By Timothy Mitchell
Verso Books, October 2011
Oil is a curse, it is often said, that condemns the countries producing it to an existence defined by war, corruption and enormous inequality. Carbon Democracy tells a more complex story, arguing that no nation escapes the political consequences of our collective dependence on oil. It shapes the body politic both in regions such as the Middle East, which rely upon revenues from oil production, and in the places that have the greatest demand for energy.
Timothy Mitchell begins with the history of coal power to tell a radical new story about the rise of democracy. Coal was a source of energy so open to disruption that oligarchies in the West became vulnerable for the first time to mass demands for democracy. In the mid-twentieth century, however, the development of cheap and abundant energy from oil, most notably from the Middle East, offered a means to reduce this vulnerability to democratic pressures. The abundance of oil made it possible for the first time in history to reorganize political life around the management of something now called “the economy” and the promise of its infinite growth. The politics of the West became dependent on an undemocratic Middle East.
In the twenty-first century, the oil-based forms of modern democratic politics have become unsustainable. Foreign intervention and military rule are faltering in the Middle East, while governments everywhere appear incapable of addressing the crises that threaten to end the age of carbon democracy—the disappearance of cheap energy and the carbon-fuelled collapse of the ecological order.
In making the production of energy the central force shaping the democratic age, Carbon Democracy rethinks the history of energy, the politics of nature, the theory of democracy, and the place of the Middle East in our common world.
Drilling Down: The Gulf Oil Debacle and Our Energy Dilemma
By Joseph A. Tainter and Tadeusz W. Patzek
Springer, September 2011
For more than a century, oil has been the engine of growth for a society that delivers an unprecedented standard of living to many. We now take for granted that economic growth is good, necessary, and even inevitable, but also feel a sense of unease about the simultaneous growth of complexity in the processes and institutions that generate and manage that growth. As societies grow more complex through the bounty of cheap energy, they also confront problems that seem to increase in number and severity. In this era of fossil fuels, cheap energy and increasing complexity have been in a mutually-reinforcing spiral. The more energy we have and the more problems our societies confront, the more we grow complex and require still more energy. How did our demand for energy, our technological prowess, the resulting need for complex problem solving, and the end of easy oil conspire to make the Deepwater Horizon oil spill increasingly likely, if not inevitable? This book explains the real causal factors leading up to the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history, a disaster from which it will take decades to recover.
The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality
By Richard Heinberg
New Society Publishers, September 2011
Economists insist that recovery is at hand, yet unemployment remains high, real estate values continue to sink, and governments stagger under record deficits. The End of Growth proposes a startling diagnosis: humanity has reached a fundamental turning point in its economic history. The expansionary trajectory of industrial civilization is colliding with non-negotiable natural limits.
Richard Heinberg’s latest landmark work goes to the heart of the ongoing financial crisis, explaining how and why it occurred, and what we must do to avert the worst potential outcomes. Written in an engaging, highly readable style, it shows why growth is being blocked by three factors: resource depletion; environmental impacts; and crushing levels of debt.
These converging limits will force us to re-evaluate cherished economic theories and to reinvent money and commerce.
The End of Growth describes what policy makers, communities, and families can do to build a new economy that operates within Earth’sbudget of energy and resources. We can thrive during the transition if we set goals that promote human and environmental well-being, rather than continuing to pursue the now-unattainable prize of ever-expanding GDP.
The Finite Planet: How resource scarcity will affect our environment, economy and energy supply
By Peter Berg
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, September 2011
The world is entering the most critical times since the end of the Second World War. A sense of fundamental change is in the air, except nobody knows exactly what is about to happen. However, a general perception emerges that our path along exponential growth on a finite planet with limited resources must come to an end one day. This day might be closer than we think. This book is about the limits of the Earth and how physical constraints are increasingly setting boundaries for the future development of our species. It is a multi-faceted topic, encompassing environmental, energy and economic issues. An inter-disciplinary approach is taken in this work that highlights many aspects of life in North America, and the world, that are about to be transformed: energy supplies, climate, exponential growth, debts, transportation, agriculture, technology and cities. Time is of the essence. The current global crisis which appears fiscal and economic in nature, and puts food and energy security on the map, might be foreboding what our planet has in stock.
The Second Law of Economics: Energy, Entropy, and the Origins of Wealth
By Reiner Kümmel
Springer, June 2011
Nothing happens in the world without energy conversion and entropy production. These fundamental natural laws are familiar to most of us when applied to the evolution of stars, biological processes, or the working of an internal combustion engine, but what about industrial economies and wealth production, or their constant companion, pollution? Does economics conform to the First and the Second Law of Thermodynamics? In this important book, Reiner Kümmel takes us on a fascinating tour of these laws and their influence on natural, technological, and social evolution. Analyzing economic growth in Germany, Japan, and the United States in light of technological constraints on capital, labor, and energy, Professor Kümmel upends conventional economic wisdom by showing that the productive power of energy far outweighs its small share of costs, while for labor just the opposite is true. Wealth creation by energy conversion is accompanied and limited by polluting emissions that are coupled to entropy production. These facts constitute the Second Law of Economics. They take on unprecedented importance in a world that is facing peak oil, debt-driven economic turmoil, and threats from pollution and climate change. They complement the First Law of Economics: Wealth is allocated on markets, and the legal framework determines the outcome. By applying the First and Second Law we understand the true origins of wealth production, the issues that imperil the goal of sustainable development, and the technological options that are compatible both with this goal and with natural laws. The critical role of energy and entropy in the productive sectors of the economy must be realized if we are to create a road map that avoids a Dark Age of shrinking natural resources, environmental degradation, and increasing social tensions.
The Limits to Growth Revisited
By Ugo Bardi
Springer, May 2011
“The Limits to Growth” (Meadows, 1972) generated unprecedented controversy with its predictions of the eventual collapse of the world’s economies. First hailed as a great advance in science, “The Limits to Growth” was subsequently rejected and demonized. However, with many national economies now at risk and global peak oil apparently a reality, the methods, scenarios, and predictions of “The Limits to Growth” are in great need of reappraisal. In The Limits to Growth Revisited, Ugo Bardi examines both the science and the polemics surrounding this work, and in particular the reactions of economists that marginalized its methods and conclusions for more than 30 years. “The Limits to Growth” was a milestone in attempts to model the future of our society, and it is vital today for both scientists and policy makers to understand its scientific basis, current relevance, and the social and political mechanisms that led to its rejection. Bardi also addresses the all-important question of whether the methods and approaches of “The Limits to Growth” can contribute to an understanding of what happened to the global economy in the Great Recession and where we are headed from there.
When Oil Peaked
By Kenneth S. Deffeyes
Hill and Wang, September 2010
In two earlier books, Hubbert’s Peak (2001) and Beyond Oil (2005), the geologist Kenneth S. Deffeyes laid out his rationale for concluding that world oil production would continue to follow a bell-shaped curve, with the smoothed-out peak somewhere in the middle of the first decade of this millennium—in keeping with the projections of his former colleague, the pioneering petroleum geologist M. King Hubbert.
Deffeyes sees no reason to deviate from that prediction, despite the ensuing global recession and the extreme volatility in oil prices associated with it. In his view, the continued depletion of existing oil fields, compounded by shortsighted cutbacks in many exploration-and-development projects, virtually assures that the mid-decade peak in global oil production will never be surpassed.
In When Oil Peaked, he revisits his original forecasts, examines the arguments that were made both for and against them, adds some new supporting material to his overall case, and applies the same mode of analysis to a number of other finite gifts from the Earth: mineral resources that may be also in shorter supply than “flat-Earth” prognosticators would have us believe.
Energy and the English Industrial Revolution
By E. A. Wrigley
Cambridge University Press, September 2010
The industrial revolution transformed the productive power of societies. It did so by vastly increasing the individual productivity, thus delivering whole populations from poverty. In this new account by one of the world’s acknowledged authorities the central issue is not simply how the revolution began but still more why it did not quickly end. The answer lay in the use of a new source of energy. Pre-industrial societies had access only to very limited energy supplies. As long as mechanical energy came principally from human or animal muscle and heat energy from wood, the maximum attainable level of productivity was bound to be low. Exploitation of a new source of energy in the form of coal provided an escape route from the constraints of an organic economy but also brought novel dangers. Since this happened first in England, its experience has a special fascination, though other countries rapidly followed suit.
Energy Myths and Realities: Bringing Science to the Energy Policy Debate
By Vaclav Smil
AEI Press, August 2010
There are many misconceptions about the future of global energy often presented as fact by the media, politicians, business leaders, activists, and even scientists―wasting time and money and hampering the development of progressive energy policies. Energy Myths and Realities: Bringing Science to the Energy Policy Debate debunks the most common fallacies to make way for a constructive, scientific approach to the global energy challenge.
When will the world run out of oil? Should nuclear energy be adopted on a larger scale? Are ethanol and wind power viable sources of energy for the future? Vaclav Smil advises the public to be wary of exaggerated claims and impossible promises. The global energy transition will be prolonged and expensive―and hinges on the development of an extensive new infrastructure. Established technologies and traditional energy sources are persistent and adaptable enough to see the world through that transition.
Energy Myths and Realities brings a scientific perspective to an issue often dominated by groundless assertions, unfounded claims, and uncritical thinking. Before we can create sound energy policies for the future, we must renounce the popular myths that cloud our judgment and impede true progress.
Prime Movers of Globalization: The History and Impact of Diesel Engines and Gas Turbines
By Vaclav Smil
MIT Press, July 2010
The many books on globalization published over the past few years range from claims that the world is flat to an unlikely rehabilitation of Genghis Khan as a pioneer of global commerce. Missing from these accounts is a consideration of the technologies behind the creation of the globalized economy. What makes it possible for us to move billions of tons of raw materials and manufactured goods from continent to continent? Why are we able to fly almost anywhere on the planet within twenty-four hours? In Prime Movers of Globalization, Vaclav Smil offers a history of two key technical developments that have driven globalization: the high-compression non-sparking internal combustion engines invented by Rudolf Diesel in the 1890s and the gas turbines designed by Frank Whittle and Hans-Joachim Pabst von Ohain in the 1930s. The massive diesel engines that power cargo ships and the gas turbines that propel jet engines, Smil argues, are more important to the global economy than any corporate structure or international trade agreement. Smil compares the efficiency and scale of these two technologies to prime movers of the past, including the sail and the steam engine. The lengthy processes of development, commercialization, and diffusion that the diesel engine and the gas turbine went through, he argues, provide perfect examples of gradual technical advances that receive little attention but have resulted in epochal shifts in global affairs and the global economy.
Energy Transitions: History, Requirements, Prospects
By Vaclav Smil
Praeger, May 2010
This bold and controversial argument shows why energy transitions are inherently complex and prolonged affairs, and how ignoring this fact raises unrealistic expectations that the United States and other global economies can be weaned quickly from a primary dependency on fossil fuels.
Energy transitions are fundamental processes behind the evolution of human societies: they both drive and are driven by technical, economic, and social changes. In a bold and provocative argument, Energy Transitions: History, Requirements, Prospects describes the history of modern society’s dependence on fossil fuels and the prospects for the transition to a nonfossil world. Vaclav Smil, who has published more on various aspects of energy than any working scientist, makes it clear that this transition will not be accomplished easily, and that it cannot be accomplished within the timetables established by the Obama administration.
The book begins with a survey of the basic properties of modern energy systems. It then offers detailed explanations of universal patterns of energy transitions, the peculiarities of changing energy use in the world’s leading economies, and the coming shifts from fossil fuels to renewable conversions. Specific cases of these transitions are analyzed for eight of the world’s leading energy consumers. The author closes with perspectives on the nature and pace of the coming energy transition to renewable conversions.
Globalization as Energy Rent Seeking
By Bernard C. Beaudreau
Lulu, March 2010
Provides an alternative account of the forces underlying globalization. Argues that energy rents in general and the search for new sources of energy rents following the productivity slowdown in the 1980s in particular lie at the root of globalization. Prior to the two energy crises (1973 and 1979), energy rents were generated by massive energy deepening. Wanting to restore growth levels in their aftermath, the West turned to globalization as a means of increasing energy availability and energy rents. It is shown that while globalization has restored energy rents to investors, it has failed to restore growth to its former level (i.e. pre-Productivity Slowdown). Also, it has prompted the transfer of massive energy rents from the South to the North as the result of the delocalization of manufacturing (i.e. from the North to the South).
The Economic Growth Engine: How Energy and Work Drive Material Prosperity
By Robert U. Ayres and Benjamin Warr
Edward Elgar Publishing, in association with The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), December 2009
The historic link between output (GDP) growth and employment has weakened. Since there is no quantitively verifiable economic theory to explain past growth, this unique book explores the fundamental relationship between thermodynamics (physical work) and economics.
The authors take a realistic approach to explaining the relationship between technological progress, thermodynamic efficiency and economic growth. Their findings are a step toward the integration of neo-classical and evolutionary perspectives on endogenous economic growth, concluding in a fundamental explanation of endogenous growth that is both quantifiable and consistent with the laws of thermodynamics. For two centuries fossil and other sources of energy (work) have been replacing human and animal muscles. Now our civilization is truly addicted to fossil energy availability at ever low prices. Can increasing efficiency compensate for coming scarcity? This is the crucial question. The most important implication of this is that future economic growth is not guaranteed because the efficiency gains that have driven growth in the past may not continue in the future.
Exploring the theory of growth with an emphasis on the role of energy, useful work and technological change, this book will be of great interest to academics and students focussing on growth theory, energy and ecological economics. It will also prove insightful to those concerned with policy making or responding to changes in policy related to the energy-growth nexus.
Crossing the Energy Divide: Moving from Fossil Fuel Dependence to a Clean-Energy Future
By Robert U. Ayres and Edward H. Ayres
Pearson FT Press, December 2009
The world is facing two immense and intimately linked challenges: we must move away from fossil fuels, and revive the global economy at the same time. If we continue our highly inefficient, dangerous energy usage, we’re headed straight for both economic and environmental catastrophe. However, the hard truth is that alternative fuels can’t fully replace fossil fuels for several decades. What’s more, new research indicates that energy inefficiencies are retarding economic growth even more than most experts ever realized. Crossing the Energy Divide is about solving all these problems at once. Robert Ayres, a leading expert in energy and environmental economics, shows how massive improvements in energy efficiency can bridge the global economy until the time that clean renewables can fully take over. The authors demonstrate how we can radically reform the way we manage our existing energy systems to double the amount of “energy service” we get from every drop of fossil fuel we use. These techniques don’t require scientific breakthroughs: thousands of companies and institutions are using them right now. What’s needed is a real energy management strategy: one that sweeps away ideological blind-spots, structural barriers, bad habits, and outmoded laws. The result will be lower carbon emissions, greater energy security, more jobs, and faster economic growth and this book offers a complete roadmap to get us there.
Concise Encyclopedia of the History of Energy
By Cutler J. Cleveland
Academic Press, October 2009
The Concise Encyclopedia of the History of Energy draws together in a single volume a comprehensive account of the field from the prestigious and award-winning Encyclopedia of Energy (2004). This volume covers all aspects of energy history with authoritative articles authoritatively contributed and edited by an interdisciplinary team of experts. Extensively revised since the original publication of the Encylopedia of Energy, this work describes the most interesting historical developments of the past five years in the energy sector.
The Biofuel Delusion: The Fallacy of Large Scale Agro-Biofuels Production
By Mario Giampietro and Kozo Mayumi
Earthscan, August 2009
Faced with the twin threats of peak oil and climate change, many governments have turned for an answer to the apparent panacea of biofuels. Yet, increasingly, the progressive implementation of this solution demonstrates that the promise of biofuels as a replacement to fossil fuels is in fact a mirage that, if followed, risks leaving us short of power, short of food and doing as much damage to the climate as ever – let alone the consequent impact on biodiversity due to additional loss of habitat for agricultural production and on rural development due to the additional stress on traditional farming systems. Worse still, these risks are being ignored. In this definitive exposé, Mario Giampietro and Kozo Mayumi present a theoretical framework and exhaustive evidence for the case against large scale biofuel production from agricultural crops. This book will be vital, sobering reading for anyone concerned with energy or agricultural policy, or bioenergy as a complex system.
Dictionary of Energy – Expanded Edition
By Cutler J. Cleveland, Christopher Morris
Elsevier Science, August 2009
Written by the editor of The Encyclopedia of Energy (2004), Cutler Cleveland, this dictionary gives professionals across the multi-disciplinary field of energy a tool to better communicate on energy matters and understand energy issues and opportunities. The Dictionary of Energy contains over 10,000 entries covering some 40 scientific disciplines and topics, as well as essays by scientists, biographical entries on key individuals, and historical comments and quotes on energy matters.
Blackout: Coal, Climate, and the Last Energy Crisis
By Richard Heinberg
New Society Publishers, April 2009
Coal fuels about 50 percent of US electricity production and provides a quarter of the country’s total energy. China and India’s ferocious economic growth is based almost entirely on coal-generated electricity.
Coal currently looks like a solution to many of our fast-growing energy problems. However, while coal advocates are urging full steam ahead, increasing reliance on the dirtiest of all fossil fuels has crucial implications for the global climate, energy policy, the world economy, and geopolitics.
Blackout goes to the heart of the tough energy questions that will dominate every sphere of public policy throughout the first half of this century, and is a must-read for planners, educators, and anyone concerned about energy consumption, peak oil and climate change.
Biofuels, Solar and Wind as Renewable Energy Systems: Benefits and Risks
Edited by David Pimentel
Springer, July 2008
With shortages of fossil energy, especially oil and natural gas, and heavy biomass energy use occurring in both developed and developing countries, a major focus has developed worldwide on renewable energy systems. Renewable energy systems include wind power, biomass, photovoltaics, hydropower, solar thermal, thermal ponds, and biogas.
Currently, a heavy focus is on biofuels made from crops, such as corn, sugarcane, and soybeans, for use as renewable energy sources. Wood and crop residues also are being used as fuel. Though it may seem beneficial to use renewable plant materials for biofuel, the use of crop residues and other biomass for biofuels raises many concerns about major environmental problems, including food shortages and serious destruction of vital soil resources.
All renewable energy systems need to be investigated because humankind has only about 40 years of oil and gas reserves remaining. There is a 50 to 100 year supply of coal resources in the ground, but coal will become increasingly difficult to extract and will greatly increase the global warming threat.
Serious energy conservation and research on viable renewable energy technologies are needed. This book considers the effectiveness and economics of several renewable energy technologies of current interest, including biofuels, solar and wind.
Oil: A Beginner’s Guide
By Vaclav Smil
Oneworld Publications, February 2008
Packed with fascinating facts and insight, this book will fuel dinner party debate, and provide readers with the science and politics behind the world’s most controversial resource. Without oil, there would be no globalisation, no plastic, little transport, and a global political landscape that few would recognise. It is the lifeblood of the modern world, and humanity’s dependence upon it looks set to continue for decades to come. In this captivating book, the author of the acclaimed Energy: A Beginner’s Guide, Vaclav Smil, explains all matters related to the ‘black stuff’, from its discovery in the earth, right through to the political maelstrom that surrounds it today.
Energy in Nature and Society: General Energetics of Complex Systems
By Vaclav Smil
MIT Press, December 2007
Energy in Nature and Society is a systematic and exhaustive analysis of all the major energy sources, storages, flows, and conversions that have shaped the evolution of the biosphere and civilization. Vaclav Smil uses fundamental unifying metrics (most notably for power density and energy intensity) to provide an integrated framework for analyzing all segments of energetics (the study of energy flows and their transformations). The book explores not only planetary energetics (such as solar radiation and geomorphic processes) and bioenergetics (photosynthesis, for example) but also human energetics (such as metabolism and thermoregulation), tracing them from hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies through modern-day industrial civilization. Included are chapters on heterotrophic conversions, traditional agriculture, preindustrial complexification, fossil fuels, fossil-fueled civilization, the energetics of food, and the implications of energetics for the environment. The book concludes with an examination of general patterns, trends, and socioeconomic considerations of energy use today, looking at correlations between energy and value, energy and the economy, energy and quality of life, and energy futures. Throughout the book, Smil chooses to emphasize the complexities and peculiarities of the real world, and the counterintuitive outcomes of many of its processes, over abstract models. Energy in Nature and Society provides a unique, comprehensive, single-volume analysis and reference source on all important energy matters, from natural to industrial energy flows, from fuels to food, from the Earth’s formation to possible energy futures, and can serve as a text for courses in energy studies, global ecology, earth systems science, biology, and chemistry.
The Jevons Paradox and the Myth of Resource Efficiency Improvements
By John M. Polimeni, Kozo Mayumi, Mario Giampietro, and Blake Alcott
Earthscan, December 2007
The ‘Jevons Paradox’, which was first expressed in 1865 by William Stanley Jevons in relation to use of coal, states that an increase in efficiency in using a resource leads to increased use of that resource rather than to a reduction. This has subsequently been proved to apply not just to fossil fuels, but other resource use scenarios. For example, doubling the efficiency of food production per hectare over the last 50 years (due to the Green Revolution) did not solve the problem of hunger. The increase in efficiency increased production and worsened hunger because of the resulting increase in population. The implications of this in today’s world are substantial. Many scientists and policymakers argue that future technological innovations will reduce consumption of resources; the Jevons Paradox explains why this may be a false hope. This is the first book to provide a historical overview of the Jevons Paradox, provide evidence for its existence and apply it to complex systems. Written and edited by world experts in the fields of economics, ecological economics, technology and the environment, it explains the myth of efficiency and explores its implications for resource usage (particularly oil). It is a must-read for policymakers, natural resource managers, academics and students concerned with the effects of efficiency on resource use.
Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines
By Richard Heinberg
New Society Publishers, September 2007
The 20th century saw unprecedented growth in population, energy consumption and food production. As the population shifted from rural to urban, human impacts on the environment increased dramatically.
The 21st century ushered in an era of declines, including: oil, natural gas and coal extraction; yearly grain harvests; climate stability; economic growth; fresh water; minerals and ores, such as copper and platinum.
To adapt to this profoundly different world, we must begin now to make radical changes to our attitudes, behaviors and expectations.
Peak Everything addresses many of the cultural, psychological and practical changes we will have to make as nature dictates our new limits. This landmark work from Richard Heinberg, author of three of the most important books on Peak Oil, touches on vital aspects of the human condition at this unique moment in time.
A combination of wry commentary and sober forecasting on subjects as diverse as farming and industrial design, this book describes how to make the transition from The Age of Excess to the Era of Modesty with grace and satisfaction, while preserving the best of our collective achievements. Peak Everything is a must-read for individuals, business leaders and policy makers serious about effecting real change.
Children of the Sun: A History of Humanity’s Unappeasable Appetite for Energy
By Alfred W. Crosby
W.W. Norton, August 2007
We don’t often recognize the humble activity of cooking for the revolutionary cultural adaptation that it is. But when the hearth fires started burning in the Paleolithic, humankind broadened the exploitation of food and took one of several great leaps forward.
All life on earth is dependent on energy from the sun, but one species has evolved to be especially efficient in tapping that supply. This is the story of the human species and its dedicated effort to sustain and elevate itself by making the earth’s stores of energy its own. A story of slow evolutionary change and sharp revolutionary departures, it takes readers from the origins of the species to our current fork in the road.
With a winning blend of wit and insight, Alfred W. Crosby reveals the fundamental ways in which humans have transformed the world and themselves in their quest for energy. When they first started, humans found fuel much like other species in the simple harvesting of wild plants and animals. A major turn in the human career came with the domestication of fire, an unprecedented achievement unique to the species. The greatest advantage from this breakthrough came in its application to food. Cooking vastly increased the store of organic matter our ancestors could tap as food, and the range of places they could live. As they spread over the earth, humans became more complicated harvesters, negotiating alliances with several other species—plant and animal—leading to the birth of agriculture and civilizations. For millennia these civilizations tapped sun energy through the burning of recently living biomass—wood, for instance. But humans again took a revolutionary turn in the last two centuries with the systematic burning of fossilized biomass. Fossil fuels have powered our industrial civilization and in turn multiplied our demand for sun energy. Here we are then, on the verge of exceeding what the available sources of sun energy can conventionally afford us, and suffering the ill effects of our seemingly insatiable energy appetite. A found of the field of global history, Crosby gives a book that glows with illuminating power.
Socioecological Transitions and Global Change: Trajectories of Social Metabolism and Land Use
Edited by Marina Fischer-Kowalski and Helmut Haberl
Edward Elgar Publishing, July 2007
This significant new book analyses fundamental changes in society-nature interaction: the socioeconomic use of materials, energy and land. The volume presents a number of case studies addressing transitions from an agrarian to an industrial socioecological regime, analysed within the materials and energy flow accounting (MEFA) framework. It is argued that by concentrating on the biophysical dimensions of change in the course of industrialization, social development issues can be explicitly linked to changes in the natural environment.
From the historical transition in Europe, to current transitions in developing countries, the book offers a broad and comprehensive analysis of transition processes across scales, from local to national. The comparison of historical and current assessments allows a theory of the underlying patterns of the agrarian-industrial transition to emerge. On this basis, future trends and possible pathways towards (or indeed further departures from) sustainability are discussed.
Empirical in character and cautious in its assumptions, this insightful book provides rich and in-depth material for further studies in socioecological research. It will be essential reading for students and researchers of ecological economics, industrial ecology, human ecology, environmental sociology, environmental history, geography as well as land, energy and development studies.
Environment, Power, and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy
By Howard T. Odum
Columbia University Press, June 2007
Howard T. Odum (1924-2002) possessed one of the most innovative minds of the twentieth century. He pioneered the fields of ecological engineering, ecological economics, and environmental accounting, working throughout his life to better understand the interrelationships of energy, environment, and society and their importance to the well-being of humanity and the planet. This volume is a major modernization of Odum’s classic work on the significance of power and its role in society, bringing his approach and insight to a whole new generation of students and scholars. For this edition Odum refines his original theories and introduces two new measures: emergy and transformity. These concepts can be used to evaluate and compare systems and their transformation and use of resources by accounting for all the energies and materials that flow in and out and expressing them in equivalent ability to do work. Natural energies such as solar radiation and the cycling of water, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen are diagrammed in terms of energy and emergy flow. Through this method Odum reveals the similarities between human economic and social systems and the ecosystems of the natural world. In the process, we discover that our survival and prosperity are regulated as much by the laws of energetics as are systems of the physical and chemical world. Odum’s student and colleague Mark Brown completed the revisions.
Funds, Flows and Time: An Alternative Approach to the Microeconomic Analysis of Productive Activities
By Pere Mir-Artigues and Josep González-Calvet
Springer, June 2007
This book sheds new light on long-established concepts of microeconomic production theory and combines general theoretical analysis with references to management tools. It deals with concepts of microeconomic production theory, using the fund-flow model of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen as a basic reference. This long-neglected model allows for a representation of productive operations that can easily be accommodated to empirical application.
Making World Development Work: Scientific Alternatives to Neoclassical Economic Theory
Edited by Grégoire Leclerc and Charles A.S. Hall
University of New Mexico Press, June 2007
Making World Development Work is about economic development and its relation to population, environment and resource issues in less affluent countries. The essays presented here criticize the way most large development projects are designed and conducted and are written by professionals from a broad range of disciplines involved in current development research.
Making World Development Work explains why overly simplistic economic models of development have led to many failures and unnecessary environmental destruction. The editors contend the preferred method of development is through a systematic process that integrates the natural sciences with economics and one that is based on scientific method instead of ideology.
Leclerc and Hall review the logical and methodological basis of neoclassical economics and its application to development. They provide a series of historical perspectives, including less developed countries that have improved successfully and others that have not been as successful. They complete the demonstration with a portfolio of current development research innovations in the social and economic sciences as well as in the natural sciences, including a new logical basis for economics called biophysical economics.
Making World Development Work offers new ways to consider development including the limitations of cheap energy, environmental degradation, and human population growth as the fundamental issues for any economic model that can have any hope of working in the future.
The history of the twentieth century is most often told through its world wars, the rise and fall of communism, or its economic upheavals. In his startling new book, J. R. McNeill gives us our first general account of what may prove to be the most significant dimension of the twentieth century: its environmental history. To a degree unprecedented in human history, we have refashioned the earth’s air, water, and soil, and the biosphere of which we are a part. Based on exhaustive research, McNeill’s story—a compelling blend of anecdotes, data, and shrewd analysis—never preaches: it is our definitive account.