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Oil and Sustainability. Charles A. S. Hall SUNY ESF January 31, 2013. What are humanity’s critical resources ?. Water Energy (including food) Soil Breathable air. ). 33 HP animal power (controlled by 5 workers plus Land for feed, Human work, Water and soil, Stables.

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Oil and Sustainability

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Oil and sustainability

Oil and Sustainability

Charles A. S. Hall


January 31, 2013

What are humanity s critical resources

What are humanity’s critical resources ?


Energy (including food)


Breathable air

Oil and sustainability


33 HP animal power (controlled by 5 workers plus

Land for feed, Human work, Water and soil, Stables

Oil and sustainability

200 HP mechanical power (controlled by 1 worker)

I economic production correlates with energy production

I. Economic Production Correlates with Energy Production

O il problems i peak oil

Oil ProblemsI. Peak oil

King hubbert america s greatest scientist

King HubbertAmerica’s greatest Scientist?

  • Geophysicist at the Shell lab in Houston, Texas

  • In 1956, he wrote a paper with predictions for the peak year of US oil production

Oil and sustainability

The Epoch of Fossil Fuel Exploitation

(after Hubbert, 1969)



Trillion kwh per year






















“Hubbert’s pimple”

Iron in









Oil and sustainability

Villagers Su Jia Hong, 69, and Yan Man Bairen, 74, stand on the edge of the six-mile-wide toxic lake in Baotou, China that has devastated their farmland and ruined the health of the people in their community

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1350811/In-China-true-cost-Britains-clean-green-wind-power-experiment-Pollution-disastrous-scale.html#ixzz2L0RHvIogFollow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Depletion is easy to grasp

Depletion is Easy to Grasp

As every beer drinker knows:

“Glass starts full, and ends empty”

  • The quicker you drink it, the sooner it is gone

  • The same principle applies to oil and gas

    How has this self-evident reality been concealed ?

  • It is so obviousyet it is a


  • Oil and sustainability

    Peak oil? Then Peak petroleum? (Courtesy of Colin Campbell)

    Oil and sustainability

    Net exports

    Oil problem ii d eclining eroi

    Oil Problem II. Declining EROI

    Technology is real and important. But so is depletion

    The integral of their effects is reflected in EROI

    Oil and sustainability

    EROI: Origin of concept

    Oil and sustainability


    We used Yield per Effort concepts from fisheries…..

    Special issue of sustainability on eroi

    IV. We have a lot of new information about EROI

    1. We have many studies now that are based on physical data 2. These studies tend to be consistent with our earlier studies 3. All show relatively high but declining EROI for conventional fuels and low but occasionally increasing values for e.g. new solar4. All show decreasing EROI when effort is high

    Special issue of Sustainability on EROI:

    Petroleum production in norway in 1970 2008

    Petroleum production in Norway in 1970 – 2008

    Energetic cost of petroleum production in norway in 1991 2008

    Energetic cost of petroleum production in Norway in 1991 – 2008.

    Leena Grandell

    Eroi of norwegian petroleum production in 1991 2008

    EROI of Norwegian petroleum production in 1991 – 2008

    Iii the growth rate of many economies is declining

    IIi. The growth rate of many economies is declining

    Oil and sustainability

    The evidence:

    declining growth rate of US GDP

    Oil and sustainability

    Global petroleum

    Oil and sustainability

    Systems science has often been concerned with STABILITY

    Oil and sustainability

    4. Every recession since 1970 has been preceded by a spike in the price of oil

    Break even cost

    Break-Even Cost

    McKinsey GEM, 2010 using IEA, Wood Mackenzie, Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission

    Oil and sustainability

    Why is this the case?

    Why is the economic growth in the US (and OECD and maybe the world) slowing down?

    Are we just in an economic downturn or are we on a slope?



    What about alternatives to oil

    What about alternatives to oil?

    Oil and sustainability

    Average EROI for gas wells in Indiana County Pennsylvania. It is an EROI for gas at the well head only.

    EROI - tight gas wells in Appalachia

    Oil and sustainability

    Scope of the problem.

    This concentrator photovoltaic collector can generate 138 kilowatt-hours per day, half the energy consumption

    of an average American.

    Oil and sustainability

    R. Hersh

    So i hope to have shown you that

    So I hope to have shown you that:

    The evolution of human society has been mostly about sequestering more energy

    That additional energy has allowed the human population to grow

    That fossil fuels, and especially oil, are the main reason that human numbers and economies have grown

    Human societies cannot possibly be sustainable at anything like our present level without a large flow of cheap (i.e. high EROI) energy

    That the availability of oil in the immediate future is of considerable concern

    That this may be our greatest issue related to sustainability of humans and civilization

    As far as I know it I and my students are about the only to think about this.

    Oil and sustainability


    My final professional goal

    Neoclassical economics

    Oil and sustainability


    Thanks to the Santa Barbara Family Foundation

    Oil and sustainability

    Another way of looking at the same data

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