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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)

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Jack P. Manno, 2011. "Looking for a Silver Lining: The Possible Positives of Declining Energy Return on Investment (EROI)," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(11), pages 1-9, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:3:y:2011:i:11:p:2071-2079:d:14554
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Goodland, Robert, 1997. "Environmental sustainability in agriculture: diet matters," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 189-200, December.
    2. Max-Neef, Manfred, 1995. "Economic growth and quality of life: a threshold hypothesis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 115-118, November.
    3. 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.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Macías, Arturo & Matilla-García, Mariano, 2015. "Net energy analysis in a Ramsey–Hotelling growth model," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 562-573.
    2. Tello, E. & Galán, E. & Sacristán, V. & Cunfer, G. & Guzmán, G.I. & González de Molina, M. & Krausmann, F. & Gingrich, S. & Padró, R. & Marco, I. & Moreno-Delgado, D., 2016. "Opening the black box of energy throughputs in farm systems: A decomposition analysis between the energy returns to external inputs, internal biomass reuses and total inputs consumed (the Vallès Count," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 160-174.

    More about this item

    Keywords

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

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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