I’m suspicious that the ERoEI argument has been hijacked by peak oil doomers to help push along the misanthropic meme. Peak oil doomerism is serious. I know of a young man who committed suicide over peak oil. He didn’t want to watch civilisation collapse.
According to a Danish study, wind has an ERoEI of 50 or more. Even according to a very conservative oil drum study, wind had an ERoEI of 24 or there abouts.
That beats imported oil today.
And here’s the thing, we’re pretty darn inefficient with that oil energy as well! We take this highly combustible liquid and BURN it in a highly inefficient Internal Combustion Engine. (ICE). Something like only 8% of the energy actually reaches the wheels.
So as Electric Car models like “Better Place” overcome various technical and economic hurdles with their battery swap program, we’ll see society transition to far more efficient means of ELECTRIC transport which delivers far more of the energy to the wheels.
Or we could take clean green renewable electrons and pump them into a super-efficient public transport system, say, like electric trolley buses and trolley trucks that are 5 times cheaper to build than trams!
In other words, we’ll make a lower ERoEI world do more by being cleverer with it.
A high ERoEI civilisation seems to have been a necessary stage in our development as we started with such crude technologies, but as we gradually transition into more sophisticated technologies a super-high ERoEI may not be as necessary.
I’m also a fan of energy efficient *cities*, such as the spread of New Urbanism and the Eco-city movement. My favourite article on energy efficient cities, and I’ve read MANY, is “My other car is a bright green city” by worldchanging.
If I ran the world, I would require all politicians and town planners to read this annually.
So while I agree with you that ERoEI from fossil fuels is a very serious issue worth watching closely, and peak oil hitting sooner rather than later will be catastrophic *economically*, I’m not so depressed about the long term future. New Urbanism is becoming more popular and public transport associations around the world seem to be making headway. New York is having traffic flow reductions to make various city centres more pleasant for pedestrians. New Urbanism meme’s of various descriptions are spreading.
We can do this!