Net Energy, Ecology and Economics

Read about the potential hazards of a growth economy, the relationships between our economic systems and our biosphere, and the dangers of the coming energy shortage in this reprint of Professor Howard T. Odum's Energy, Ecology and Economics.

| May/June 1974

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    Figure 1 A. Generalized world model of man and nature based on one-shot fossil fuel usages and steady solar work. Pathways are flows of energy from outside source (circle) through interactions (pointed blocks marked 'X' to show multiplier action) to final dispersion of dispersed heat. The tank symbol refers to storage. Here world fuel reserve storage helps build a storage of structure of man's buildings, information, population, and culture.
    ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
  • 027-006-01-John-Todd
    Howard T. Odum, PhD has many environmental credits to his name and offers a consideration of energy as a net product that incorporates the biosystem, humanity and our inventions, and our efforts to produce more conventional forms of energy, such as electricity and gasoline.
    PHOTO: ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
  • 027-006-01-graphs-simulatio
    Figure 1 B. Graphs resulting from simulation of the model in Figure 1 A. Available world fuel reserve was taken as 5 X 10 19 kilocalories and energy converted from the solar input and converged into man's productive system of growth and maintenance was 5 X 10 16 kilocalories when structure was 10 18 kilocalories. Peak of structural growth was variable over a 50-year period depending on amounts diverted into waste pathways.
    ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
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    Figure 1 C. The steady state observed in some simulations of Figure 1 A was an oscillating one as in the graph shown here.
    ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
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    Figure 3. Relationships of money cycles to the energy circuit loops.
    ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
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    Figure 2. Energy flow diagram illustrating energy laws, and the difference between net and gross energy flows.
    ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
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    Figure 4. Relationship of general structural maintenance to diversity and secondary energy sources.
    ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
  • 027-006-01-subsidized-agriculture
    Figure 5 C. Fossil-fuel-subsidized agriculture as a colonial member of a technological society of man with maximum possible solar conversion.
    ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
  • 027-006-01-minor-part
    Figure 5 A. Man a minor part of the complex forest ecosystem.
    ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
  • 027-006-01-major-partner
    Figure 5 B. Man a major partner in agricultural system on light alone.
    ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
  • 027-006-01-energy-sources
    Figure 6 A. Diagram showing how energy sources and energy loss pathways affect the balance of payments and general economic competition position of single country. Better balance results when one's own energy sources are better, and one's waste less.
    ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

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  • 027-006-01-John-Todd
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  • 027-006-01-money-cycles
  • 027-006-01-energy-flow
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A Note from MOTHER: In early November of 1973 — during a visit to MOTHER's new home in the mountains of western North Carolina — New Alchemist John Todd gave the magazine's editors about the 14th-generation Xerox copy of what can conservatively be described as a dynamite paper.

We had only to glance at this extraordinary document to realize that the paper (originally written at the request of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences) is one of the most concise — yet most sweeping — examinations yet made of the real problems of the world. Read it and see for yourself. The paper which follows — written by the same author for a press conference held in January 1974— is more of the same. 

The man who produced this work is Howard T. Odum, PhD, Director of the Center for Wetlands and a Graduate Research Professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville. In the past, he has been Professor of Ecology at the University of North Carolina, Chief Scientist for the Puerto Rico Nuclear Center and Director of the Institute of Marine Science of the University of Texas at Port Aransas. Professor Odum has many other environmental credits to his name including the book, Environment, Power and Society (John Wiley, 1972). 

We feel that Dr. Odum's papers, presented here with his permission and the permission of The Royal Academy of Sciences of Sweden, are important enough to replace the Plowboy Interview usually found in this section of the magazine. 




As long-predicted energy shortages appear, as questions about the interaction of energy and environment are raised in legislatures and parliaments, and as energy-related inflation dominates public concern, many are beginning to see that there is a unity of the single system of energy, ecology, and economics. The world's leadership, however, is mainly advised by specialists who study only a part of the system at a time.

Instead of a single system's understanding, we have adversary arguments dangerous to the welfare of nations and the role of man as the earth's information bearer and programmatic custodian. Many economic models ignore the changing force of energy, regarding effects of energy sources as an external constant; ecoactivists cause governments to waste energy in unnecessary technology; and the false gods of growth and medical ethics make famine, disease, and catalytic collapse more and more likely for much of the world. Some energy specialists consider the environment as an antagonist instead of a major energy ally in supporting the biosphere.

Tremain Jennings
11/18/2011 12:45:32 AM

This website 'Energy University' offers FREE online energy efficiency training. There are topics which cover the economics of investing­ in energy efficiency (OPEX CAPEX or return on investment). http://www.schneider-electric.com.au/sites/australia/en/company/energy-university-free-online-training.page







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