Interests - Biophysical Economics

Under this topic there are a number of things I want to post.  It's too much for one page, but it is all rather closely related.  Almost all of this is closely associated with my program to understand sustainable economics.  It is nevertheless somewhat esoteric.


Here's the list of related concepts:

In October 2012 I attended the 4th Conference in Biophysical Economics.  Many fascinating presentations were made, and many of the slides are still available from that site.  Check it out.


There were two slides, in particular, that were outstanding 'eye-openers', for sure, for me, and both came from presentations by C.A.S. Hall.  He seemed to the THE guru for biophysical economics present at the conference, though there many eminent names there.

Figure 1 - Hubbert's Curve - Historical context for modern society.

According to Dr Hall, we have lived through the first half of the age of oil, and are now approaching, or past, the peak of plentiful, cheap, easily accessible fossil fuels.  Projections made by the 'Club of Rome' in their infamous book 'Limits to Growth' in 1972 have all developed more or less as predicted.  It's based on physical science, however, not on economic theory.  Given that economists cannot make good predictions five years into the future, that's impressive.  This model suggests that there will be some significant downsizing in the economies of the world by 2015.   Hmmm!

Figure 2 - Energy Sources, By type, By quantity, By EROEI.

Now, I think this is an 'eye-popping' slide, also from a presentation by Dr Hall.  It has so much information packed into one slide.  Notice the following:

  • Good sources are high (EROEI) and to the right (plentiful)
  • Minimum required EROEI for civilization is about 6.
  • There is enough coal to last for a very long time, it has a high EROEI (unfortunately, it's also dirty).
  • Nuclear power has barely enough EROEI to support civilization.
  • The Canadian tar sands (bottom left corner) do not.
  • Most renewable sources of energy are barely on the chart, bottom left

I also attended the 5th Annual Biophysical Conference in June of 2013, at which I made a demonstration of my ModEco software, but the slides from those presentations do not seem to be online, only the pre-presentation abstracts.

My attendance at these two conferences confirmed for me that my original idea to study the dynamics of economies from the point of view of the laws and principles of physics, chemistry and biology was the right thing to do.  This is as opposed to from the perspective of the so-called 'laws of economics', of which there were apparently 31 at my last count.

Last updated: January 2015