said that if oil were priced by the benefit that humans received, every barrel should cost $1 million. But because it takes relatively little human effort to obtain oil, it sells for only about $100 per barrel today (and $50 in early 2015, as another is collapsing). Similarly, the Sun’s energy powers the , without which there would not be land-based life. If humans had to desalinate water instead of rely on the Sun for the energy to provide fresh water, and humanity did not have an energy source such as fossil fuels, humans would quickly go extinct. But because nature provides the water that humans use and nobody pays for it (a concept that is eroding, as corporations are busy ), neoclassical economists ignore the critical economic benefits provided by the hydrological cycle. Homogenizing everything with market prices and then creating differential calculus analytics is not helpful for understanding how the world really works. Neoclassical economists have tried to divorce energy consumption from economic production, but such analyses only have seeming validity if the way that the world actually works is ignored. American food production takes nearly 20% of the USA’s energy use, and more than 10 calories of fossil fuels are burned to provide every calorie of food eaten. The concept of diminishing returns and energy consumption applies to national economies. Poorer nations receive a relatively large benefit for incremental energy use, while the industrialized nations do not get as great a proportional increase. But statistics such as worker productivity in the USA had a tight linear relationship with energy use for 80 years, from 1905 to 1984, when the Reagan administration ceased collecting the data.
At this juncture, I will ask my readers to perform an exercise that I first saw described by Peak Oil advocate , which is to lay aside data and graphs and just think about how energy makes everything in our daily lives possible. Think about your food, water, mode of transportation, and materials that comprise your home and possessions, and think of the role that energy played in providing them. Think about the energy that you use each day in powering your home and in your transportation, even if it is just walking. Then imagine running out of energy. When you flipped on a light switch, nothing happened. When you turned on the tap, no water came out. Your refrigerator stopped working, food deliveries to your community ceased, and no electricity, oil, gas, coal, or even wind or water power was available. Everything in your life would come to a sudden halt. When people have tried to demote energy below spirituality, social relations, or even made it irrelevant to economics, my question is for them to see what they can forego the longest: prayer/meditation, social interaction, sex, or energy. The fossil fuels burned to power industrial civilization provide several hundred energy slaves for each American and no less than hundreds per person in every industrialized nation. All that those energy-leveraged humans do is direct the energy, like holding the reins of a gigantic beast that each person rides each day. Airline pilots half-joke that they begin their workday by strapping jet airliners to their waists. Without that energy to direct in the myriad ways that industrialized humans use it, modern civilization would come to an abrupt end.
After newly exposed forest soils have produced a few crops, the yield will decline due to nutrient depletion. When the croplands receive less precipitation, yields drop. When soils wash away due to erosion, crop yields in those eroded soils will decline. Those effects reduce the EROI and surplus energy of farming those lands. When cropland is abandoned due to aridity, nutrient depletion, and erosion, and lands farther from Rome were conquered, deforested, and farmed, it took more energy to transport those crops to Rome than with farms closer to Rome. That also depressed the EROI and surplus energy. When harbors silted up and needed dredging, or were eventually abandoned and a port was built farther away, that also reduced the EROI and surplus energy of Rome-bound food. When food was used to feed soldiers who traveled increasingly vast distances to conquer and plunder peoples and their lands, those would be lower-EROI ventures than conquests closer to Rome. That dynamic has also been called in academic parlance, but in scientific terms, it is really just sucking the dregs of low-EROI resources after high-EROI energy sources have been depleted. Rome’s decline was really just another resource-depletion dynamic. Humanity’s first one was , and Rome only experienced what , , , , and numerous other early civilizations already suffered. Rome just did it on an unprecedented scale.
Energy is the master resource of all organisms, all ecosystems, and all economies. When a civilization centralizes its energy consumption, which were food and wood in preindustrial civilizations, to a central city, and it has to keep expanding farther and farther from that city to obtain that energy, the is going to reduce the EROI of those increasingly distant energy resources, and hence reduce the . Also, the practices of and agriculture provide short-term agricultural yields, but the wood would be almost instantly used (about 90% of the wood imported to Rome was burned, which was the typical ratio for ancient cities). The soils became eroded, depleted, and often abandoned as the land could no longer support farming, partly because the entire process made the land more arid. If they could import water to irrigate (usually a rare situation), that could help ameliorate the process, but it took more time and effort and made it more difficult. There were no accountants, scientists, or engineers monitoring and measuring the process, but all of those dynamics would reduce the system’s EROI and surplus energy and make it less resilient, so it was vulnerable to disruptive shocks.
In the Eastern Woodlands of North America, natives began domesticating plants before 2500 BCE. It may well be an independent domestication event. Those horticulturalists largely became matrilineal societies. The was succeeded by the , in which maize seems to have made its way from Mesoamerica. Around 500 CE, the , the bow and arrow supplanted the spear and atlatl, and the "" - maize, beans, and squash - began dominating food production. When the began around 800 CE, intensive maize production began and spread, which led to rapid population growth and the rise of , which led to the only pre-Columbian North American city, at , which collapsed, almost certainly from environmental over-taxation and a cooling climate, before 1400 CE. The mound-building Mississippian culture had a familiar trajectory, as intensive agriculture led to an agricultural surplus. Men, who controlled the surplus and rose to dominance, commandeered the local religion into granting them divine status or sanction and erected monumental architecture to themselves and their divine yet invisible patrons. As in , they made their structures from earth instead of stone. Soil fertilization for maize-growing was not practiced, which rapidly depleted the soils (there were no domestic animals to provide manure, and the Indians did not adopt the night soil practices of East Asia), and the cooling of the , along with declining soil fertility, spelled the decline of Mississippian culture before Europe's first invasions of the Columbian era. The and its aftermath was a catastrophe for Mississippian peoples. Later European invaders . By the 1600s, when England began invading the Eastern Woodlands, the Mississippian culture had vanished, and by the late 1700s, the Southeastern Indians not only retained no memory of who made those mounds that they lived near, they also had no memory of the social order that built them. The Cherokee seemed to retain some vestigial memory of Mississippian culture, as they had stories of despotic Indians that the Cherokee annihilated, but the mounds had become the source of a myth that spirit warriors lived in the mounds and could issue forth and fight Cherokee enemies.
Most of this energy comes from fossil fuels, whichsupply nearly 75% of the world's energy (see note 5). Butfossil fuels are being depleted a hundred thousand times fasterthan they are being formed (Davis, 1990, P. 56). At current ratesof consumption, known reserves of Petroleum will be gone in aboutthirty-five years; natural gas in fifty-two years; and coal insome two hundred years PRIMED, 1990, p. 145).
The term is usually restricted to the liquid form, commonly called crude oil, but as a technical term it also includes natural gas and the viscous or solid form known as bitumen.
The system that sustains world population isalready under stress. The growth in per-capita energy use, whichhad been increasing continually since the advent of fossil fuels,began to slow down some twenty years ago -- and the acceleratingpace at which it has been slowing down suggests that there willbe no growth at all by the year 2000 (Figure 4). Agriculture isin trouble; it takes more and more fertilizer to compensate forlost topsoil (Ehrlich & Ehrlich, 1990, p. 92), and nearlyone-fifth of the world's population is malnourished (Corson,1990, p. 68). In fact, the growth rate of the earth's humanpopulation has already begun to fall (Figure 5).
Hydropower furnishes about 5.5% of the energycurrently consumed (see note 5). Its potential may be as much asfive times greater (Weinberg & Williams, 1990, p. 147), butthis is not sufficient to take over from fossil fuels, and hugedams would submerge rich agricultural soils.
Naturally, man being what he is, was not content to let well alone, and soon petra- oleum (rock oil) and its associated products were being used in many delightful ways to cripple and annihilate his fellow men.
However since petroleum is not a renewable resource some day in the future humans will consume up all the petroleum reserves and it will come to a point that human must alter their ways life.
The company, which was the pioneer of the Middle Eastern oil industry, having discovered oil in Iran before World War I, is now engaged in all aspects of oil exploration, production, refining, transportation, and marketing....
By 1892, while still not selling gas products, Standard Oil companies was providing lubricating products to keeps parts on horse drawn wagons moving friction-free.