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Looking for a Silver Lining: The Possible Positives of Declining Energy Return on Investment (EROI)

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  • Jack P. Manno

    ()
    (SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA)

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    Abstract

    Declining energy return on investment (EROI) of a society’s available energy sources can lead to both crisis and opportunity for positive social change. The implications of declining EROI for human wellbeing are complex and open to interpretation. There are many reasons why frugal living and an energy diet could be beneficial. A measure of wellbeing or welfare gained per unit of energy expended (WROEI) is proposed. A threshold is hypothesized for the relation between energy consumption and wellbeing. The paper offers a biophysical-based social science explanation for both the negative and positive possible implications of declining EROI. Two sets of future scenarios based on environmental and economic trends are described. Six types of social change activism are considered essential if the positives of declining EROI are to balance or exceed the negatives.

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    File URL: http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/3/11/2071/pdf
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    File URL: http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/3/11/2071/
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by MDPI, Open Access Journal in its journal Sustainability.

    Volume (Year): 3 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 11 (October)
    Pages: 2071-2079

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    Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:3:y:2011:i:11:p:2071-2079:d:14554

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    Web page: http://www.mdpi.com/

    Related research

    Keywords: energy; EROI; human wellbeing; thresholds; degrowth; scenarios; social change;

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    1. Max-Neef, Manfred, 1995. "Economic growth and quality of life: a threshold hypothesis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 115-118, November.
    2. Niccolucci, Valentina & Pulselli, Federico M. & Tiezzi, Enzo, 2007. "Strengthening the threshold hypothesis: Economic and biophysical limits to growth," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(4), pages 667-672, February.
    3. Goodland, Robert, 1997. "Environmental sustainability in agriculture: diet matters," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 189-200, December.
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