Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I feel very uncomfortable with the EROI-concept.

First, there is no common view on methodology. You have lots of different studies getting radically different results for the same energy processes, which means that EROI is a pretty useless tool for policymakers or managers.

Secondly, while EROI makes sense in a generalised top-down way ("we need net energy to run our civilization") it says absolutely nothing about if we should use a specific energy source or process at all.

Imagine an oil field with an EROI of less than 1. EROI-theory tells us this is useless, we are better off leaving the stuff in the ground. But this is only due to the simplification that all energy sources are made equal, which they obviously aren't. Liquid fuel is far more useful than solid or gaseous fuel, for example, and we could have access to almost limitless amounts of carbon-free electricity if we felt like it.

So it might actually make perfect sense to exploit an oil field with an EROI of 0.5, if we could use another less useful sort of energy to get at the liquid stuff (say coal, gas, or even electricity). After all, we are absolutely dependent on a process with an EROI of 0.3-0.4, namely the combustion of fuels to make electricity. I don't think anyone argues we should stop that, despite the low EROI...

All in all, we have a far more useful tool with which to decide if a project should go forward or not: the pricing system of the market (augmented to the best of our ability to internalise external costs).

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Jul 24th, 2013 at 04:41:02 AM EST

Others have rated this comment as follows: