Well, this is one post I had thought about writing and, thankfully, the New Economics Foundation (nef) has surpassed anything I could have got together. In January (2010), nef published ‘Growth isn’t possible: why we need a new economic direction’. As ever, I’m a few months behind the times. Not only does it have a wonderful Introduction (which explains the slightly bemusing cover image), it goes on to mention my pet hamster subject, net energy.
While they do not factor the declining net energy gains from fossil fuel extraction into their model assumptions, they at least recognise it. The lack of data is one reason why even those aware of the problem are often reduced to leaving it out of the equation. There is a whole section on peak oil, gas and coal, which includes a good explanation of the falling energy returns and why it’s a problem. If the energy return for a fuel falls to 1:1, it ceases to be a source of energy – you’ve put as much energy in as you get out of the other end, as previously discussed on this site (which, interestingly, has not yet elicited any comments…hmmm).
And finally, they even recognise that carbon capture and storage (CCS), one of the technofixes punted by some as the answer to rising atmospheric carbon levels, reduces the net energy gained from a fuel. All energy alternatives are looked at, including energy efficiency, and while our needs could, some say, be met by renewables it’s growth which is the question. So have a look, or watch this space as this report is definitely on my ‘to read’ list.
PS Happy Solstice!