Saturday, 21 February 2009
My father's father was Nikunu. His totem was a sacred rock, an unbreakable rock - Yunupingu - a name that my grandfather gave to his son, Mungurrawuy, who passed it to all his children. My totem is fire, rock and the saltwater crocodile. The crocodile - baru - is a flame of fire: the mouth, the teeth and the jaw are the fire and its jaw is death. It is always burning, and through it I have energy, power - strength.
My land is that of the Gumatj clan nation, which is carefully defined, with boundaries and borders set out in the maps of our minds and, today, on djurra, or paper. We have our own laws, repeated in ceremonial song cycles and known to all members of our clan nation. Sung into our ears as babies, disciplined into our bodies through dance and movement - we have learnt and inherited the knowledge of our fathers and mothers. We live on our land, with our laws, speaking our language, sharing our beliefs and living our lives bound together with the other great clan nations of the Gove Peninsula: Rirritjingu, Djapu, Wanguri, Djalwong, Mangalili, Malarrpa, Marrakulu, Dartiwuy, Naymil, Gumatj, Galpu, Djumbarrpiynu, Dhudi-Djapu.
These are the 13 clans of the Gove Peninsula, in east Arnhem Land. Each is independent and proud; each is bound to the others through the moieties of Yirritja and Dua. I am Yirritja and my clan is balanced by the Dua clans, my mother groups, most importantly the Galpu, Rirritjingu and Marrakulu clans.
The clans of east Arnhem Land join me in acknowledging no king, no queen, no church and no state. Our allegiance is to each other, to our land and to the ceremonies that define us. It is through the ceremonies that our lives are created. These ceremonies record and pass on the laws that give us ownership of the land and of the seas, and the rules by which we live. Our ceremonial grounds are our universities, where we gain the knowledge that we need. The universities work to a moon cycle, with many different levels of learning and different ‘inside' ceremonies for men and women: from the new moon to the full moon, we travel the song cycles that guide the life and the essence of the clan - keeping all in balance, giving our people their meaning. It is the only cycle of events that can ever give a Yolngu person - someone from north-east Arnhem Land - the full energy that he or she requires for life. Without this learning, Yolngu can achieve nothing; they are nobody.
As a clan we seek that moment in the ceremonial cycle where all is equal and in balance. Where older men have guided the younger ones and, in turn, taken knowledge from their elders; where no one is better than anyone else, everyone is equal, performing their role and taking their duties and responsibilities - then the ceremony is balanced and the clan moves in unison: there is no female, no male, no little ones and no big ones; we are all the same.
My inner life is that of the Yolngu song cycles, the ceremonies, the knowledge, the law and the land. This is yothu yindi. Balance. Wholeness. Completeness. A world designed in perfection, founded on the beautiful simplicity of a mother and her newborn child; as vibrant and as dynamic as the estuary where the saltwaters meet the freshwaters, able to give you everything you need.
I step back to the 1950s. I am a small boy, maybe eight years old, able to tell the difference between right and wrong. An event is to take place at Yirrkala and members of the 13 clans are called together. Every man, woman and child is given clean clothes and dresses for the occasion, and they come together with pretty flowers in their hands, dressed up cleanly. All are told to stand in a line, from the bottom of the hill to the top of the hill, to greet the chairman of the board of the Australian Synod of the Methodist Church. And he arrives in a four-wheel-drive with other people who jump out of their cars and are received by the local people. I remember this occasion perfectly well. We just stood there for show, dressed prettily, holding pretty flowers, to give a so-called welcome to the Methodist Church. The vehicles came to rest, the dignitaries got out, they received their flowers, they smiled, then they left and that was that. The clan leaders stood there expecting something that would acknowledge them and respect them, an exchange or a gift in return - but they received nothing. We were badly caught up that day and a poor example was set.
Now it is the early 1960s and a man called Harry Giese, the so-called protector of Aborigines in the Northern Territory, stands on a 44-gallon drum at the Yirrkala airport. He has called some people together to give them news - I am one of those people; my father is there also; Roy and Mawalan Marika; the Djapu leaders, too. A mine will be built here at Yirrkala, he tells us. It will mine the dirt that we stand on - our soil. The mining companies are coming and they will mine the land. They will take all the land and the boundary of that land will run to the edge of Yirrkala, and Yirrkala will be badly affected. Giese talks for 20 minutes, then he gets in his car and drives away. This is the first mining agreement on the Gove Peninsula.
My father sent me to school, although he worried that I might lose my Gumatj identity. I had a good teacher, Mr Ron Crocksford, who kept pestering Mum and Dad to keep me at school and who worked overtime on my learning. As I received my education from my clan leaders and from the balanda teachers, I watched as the world changed. Inevitably the miners came and started their work.
As I grew up I was recognised and set apart by my father. He set out tasks for me and challenged me in everything. I went to Bible college in Brisbane for two years but I returned always to the ceremonies and the law - in the end, I turned my back on the church and their god. I dedicated myself, under the direction of my father and the older men, to a Yolngu future.
It is 1977. My father is still alive and I am on a boat with a new prime minister, Malcolm Fraser. He has defeated Gough Whitlam, who first met my family when he was a pilot in World War II. With me is Toby Gangale, the senior Gundjehmi leader, steering us to a place where barramundi swim. Fraser has asked us to fish with him, and we hope there are words we can say to him that will halt his changes to the land-rights laws and overturn the government's decision to mine at Ranger. But Fraser only thinks about the fish. The fish bite and Fraser starts to pull them in. "Look at this one!" he yells. I bait his line again. Toby is silent. "And again - a bigger one." He baits his own line now - getting the hang of it. "You beauty, a barramundi!" All the time I try and put words in his mind about the importance of land, about the importance of respect, about giving things back in a proper way, not a halfway thing. But he has his mind on other things - he's not listening; he doesn't have to. He just keeps catching barramundi, enjoying himself.
On his deathbed, as his spirit started its journey to Badu, the spirit land, my father handed me his clapsticks and his authority. My senior family members saw the passing and told of it throughout the clan nations - it was the news of the day in the Yolngu world. It was 1979 and I was 31 years old. The year before I had been awarded an honour by the Australian nation: I was their Australian of the Year. I was the chairman of a new land council, the Northern Land Council, soon to be the most powerful in the nation. I had negotiated with prime ministers and men of state. I was a singer and a songwriter, a dancer and a painter. I had my father's clapsticks and with them I was sure that I could master the future.
I am with another new prime minister, Bob Hawke, at Barunga. Many clans, connected by distant but powerful songlines, have performed ceremony for this prime minister. It's 1988 and I've known Bob Hawke for many years. He had come to the Northern Territory to visit me when he was the president of the ACTU and, over a beer in Anula, I had told him that he had the common touch and that one day he would be the prime minister. At Barunga he is emotional and I am emotional as we embrace on the ceremonial ground. This is how it should be, I think. And I hear his words that there will be a treaty. A treaty! My heart leaps.
A few years later I travel to Canberra to hang a painting that was dreamed on that day: the Barunga Statement. I think that I am in Canberra for a celebration but it is a funeral - it is Bob's last day as prime minister and he sheds a tear as he hangs the painting. I am sure that his tears are for his own failure - we have no treaty; his promise was hollow and he has not delivered - but they are genuine tears from a genuine man who tried leadership and was caught out by politics.
It is 1994. Mabo has been and gone and is now a soft, useless law. At Eva Valley in 1993 I sat with many clan leaders from the North, and we talked about Mabo and set out our position. No one listened; there was too much talk going on in Canberra; I didn't see any landowners there negotiating, only big talkers. Then I see on television the politicians in parliament crying and kissing each other. What is this? I think to myself.
I wonder about Paul Keating, a prime minister I never really met - if anyone could have done something, surely Keating could've, I think.
We're celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Land Rights Act at the Old Parliament House. There is a new prime minister, John Howard, who has just been elected and he is looking to deliver something to the new Australian people. I am sitting at breakfast and I hear a radio tell me that the prime minister has taken millions of dollars of funding for housing and community programs. He is sending auditors and investigators to check us all out.
Later I sit at a long table, talking about ‘reconciliation'. Treaty has become reconciliation. There is all this talk about nothing. It is not connected to the real goings-on. Eventually I can't stand it any longer. I get up and leave the talkers to their talking and go back to Arnhem Land. Later, I send in my letter of resignation.
I am seeing now that too much of the past is for nothing. I have walked the corridors of power; I have negotiated and cajoled and praised and begged prime ministers and ministers, travelled the world and been feted; I have opened the doors to men of power and prestige; I have had a place at the table of the best and the brightest in the Australian nation - and at times success has seemed so close, yet it always slips away. And behind me, in the world of my father, the Yolngu world is always under threat, being swallowed up by whitefellas.
This is a weight that is bearing down on me; it is a pressure that I feel now every moment of my life - it frustrates me and drives me crazy; at night it is like a splinter in my mind. The solutions to the future, simple though I thought they were, have become harder and harder to grasp. I have learnt from experience that nothing is ever what it seems.
It is 2007. I am at the Garma Festival, surrounded by Aboriginal leaders from around Australia. They have come to meet me at my request - a challenge has been laid down by the commonwealth government, called an intervention.
John Howard is leading a government that is taking this hard action. I have been told that my land rights will be taken away and for me that is the end - for weeks now I feel a sickness creeping into my body; I have hardly slept in the past week. The Labor Party is with Howard. I meet Jenny Macklin. It is clear to me that she has her instructions. I think about the old people in their clean clothes holding flowers and, under a bower shelter, I am hard on Jenny with words like fire, but she does not budge. I throw my all at her; my sisters speak to her in language, I interpret, as does my favourite niece, the late Ms Marika, but she will not budge - she cannot.
That night I carve message sticks with my daughter, asking for a meeting with John Howard and Kevin Rudd at Garma. I reason that this must be the next step - to bring them to Aboriginal land for the clan nations to address them. Not with flowers, but with spears if need be. The other leaders fight over who will carry the sticks: I want my friend Jack Thompson to take the sticks, but others want to take on this task. I make a mistake - I empower others to speak for me. A delegation goes to Canberra but they do not meet with Howard or his minister, Mal Brough. Rudd agrees to meet with us, but he is steered away from Garma and the clan nations. Later, I hear that Jenny had booked her ticket to Garma to meet again with us but the meeting was foiled.
The ALP caucus convenes and they vote to support Howard, with a bit of lip service for good measure. I wait until late into the night, still camped at Garma. When I receive the news about the caucus decision, I ask to see Noel Pearson.
I'm back at Gulkula, the Garma site. Noel Pearson has come and he tells me about his vision. He seeks a balance in the balanda world in its treatment of Aboriginal people. A synthesis, he calls it, between Left and Right. Only when we have this balance can we go upwards, he tells me. He speaks my language but I am not yet convinced. Messages come to me from other leaders from outside east Arnhem Land and they say: Wait - Kevin Rudd will win the election. But this time I decide I won't play that game and be captured by one side of politics; I will stand in the middle if I can. I ask Noel to contact Mal Brough. I realise that my land rights have not been taken away, and I wonder about those who refused to meet with Brough and kept Rudd away from me. I want in on this discussion: I want to meet this man who has made such a noise and who says such incredible things, to see what he is really made of.
Mal Brough came and he drove out to meet me. I waited for him at the place of my fathers, Dhanaya. I waited for Mal on my father's land, looking over my mother's clan's waters - surrounded by memory and feeling. This is a place where freshwater, stirred up by the sacred stingray, meets saltwater. It is a rich, vibrant place, full of life. And for a fleeting moment, on this land, overlooking Port Bradshaw, with my family around me, we talked as men should - about the future of children and of failures and frustrations, and how we could turn it all around with action. He was frustrated and I was frustrated, and as fathers and leaders we saw a way forward. He talked straight and I talked straight, and each of us would honour our end of the discussion. We negotiated a lease that left me in charge of my land at my birthplace of Gunyangara - more in charge than I had ever been - while giving Canberra everything it wanted in terms of security and certainty. I supported his bans on drugs and kava, and promised him my support for the harsher parts of his plan if he could balance these measures with proper action. And I asked for one more thing: I wanted constitutional recognition, to bring my people in from the cold, bring us into the nation. There was a promise that he would talk with his prime minister.
Today, almost 30 years after my father passed away, I still hold his clapsticks and I am the leader of my clan - with other senior family members I am the keeper and teacher of our song cycles, our ceremonies, our laws and our future. I care for and protect my clan. But I have not mastered the future. I find that I now spend my days worrying about how I can protect the present from the future. I feel the future moving in on the Yolngu world, the Gumatj world, like an inevitable tide, except every year the tide rises further, moving up on us, threatening to drown us under the water, unable to rise again. The water sands under our feet shift and move so often - the land to which we can reach out is often distant, unknown.
I look around me at the Yolngu world. I worry about the lives of the little ones that I see around me, including my own children - my youngest daughter is barely eight years old. I have more than a dozen grandchildren. I look back now on a lifetime of effort and I see that we have not moved very far at all. For all the talk, all the policy, all the events, all the media spectaculars and fine speeches, the gala dinners, what has been achieved? I have maintained the traditions, kept the law, performed my role - yet the Yolngu world is in crisis; we have stood still. I look around me and I feel the powerlessness of all our leaders. All around me are do-gooders and no-hopers - can I say this? Whitefellas. Balanda. They all seem to be one and the same sometimes: talking, talking, talking - smothering us - but with no vision to guide them; holding all the power, all the money, all the knowledge for what to do and how to work the white world. Only on the ceremonial ground do our leaders still lead - everywhere else we are simply paid lip service. Or bound up in red tape.
And the ‘gap' that politicians now talk of grows larger as we speak, as I talk: as the next session of parliament starts or as the next speech is given by the next politician, the gap gets wider. I don't think anyone except the few of us who have lived our lives in the Aboriginal world understand this task that is called ‘closing the gap'.
There is no one in power who has the experience to know these things. There is not one federal politician who has any idea about the enormity of the task. And how could they? Who in the senior levels of the commonwealth public service has lived through these things? Who in the parliament? No one speaks an Aboriginal language, let alone has the ability to sit with a young man or woman and share that person's experience and find out what is really in their heart. They have not raised these children in their arms, given them everything they have, cared for them, loved them, nurtured them. They have not had their land stolen, or their rights infringed, or their laws broken. They do not bury the dead as we bury our dead.
I am a Gumatj man; I am fire; and that fire must burn until there is nothing left. That is what I have left to give to my family.
The future is my responsibility. I have brought my family back around me, taking what we can from where we can, working with people who will help us practically and in an honest way.
I have started to rebuild Garrathiya, our cattle station near Dhanaya, which sat still for many years. New yards are being built, fences are being fixed, weeds are being sprayed and a dormitory has been constructed out of local timber. Fifteen of the clan's young men are at Garrathiya or Dhanaya.
We are now harvesting our trees, carefully picking the trees; we have set up a mill and are cutting our own timber. With this timber, grown from our land, we are starting to build our own houses. No one in government has come to my aid, but that is OK - that is the way it should be. We will keep building these houses with our own timber, our own labour and with help from those who wish to help us. My family tells me that now they will build a market garden to grow food at Garrathiya, and my nieces have started their art again, asking me to help them buy materials for their efforts. My big sister, Gulumbu, has a healing centre and is teaching young girls while treating balanda women.
I am finally in formal negotiations with the mining company Rio Tinto, which inherited Harry Giese's mining agreement and whose predecessors took so much from our land - billions of dollars - leaving us very little. I have worked with their senior people and committed to a new deal that will, hopefully, bring greater economic opportunity for east Arnhem Land.
I have purchased a fishing boat with our royalty money and hope this will be a pathway to a fishing industry. I am leasing my land and putting that money towards these enterprises. I plan a property development, a marina, a new town built by Yolngu on Yolngu land.
This is about building our own lives, our own communities. If I can't give that opportunity to my clan, no one else can. What they achieve will be for them, out of their hard work, for their happiness and security - not for some outsider.
It's July 2008 and I wait for the new prime minister, Kevin Rudd. An event is taking place at Yirrkala and I have called the leaders of the 13 clans together. No children or young people will participate, only leaders, men and women who have proved themselves: delak. By my side are Djinyini Gondarra and the leaders of the Elcho clans, Richard Ganduwuy and Dunga Dunga Gondarra, Butharripi Gurruwiwi. Wilson Ganambarr, Gali Gurruwiwi, Gekurr Guyula and Timmy Burrawanga are there. Laklak and Dhuwarrwarr Marika are there, too, along with the great old man from Gan Gan, Garrawan Gumana. My cousin Banambi Wunungmurra brings the prime minister down to us. We have a petition for him.
"Nhanaburru, wangkanmala bapurru dhimirrunguru, arnhemland, nganaburrungu ngurrngu delak mala, nganthun yukurra nhuna 26th Prime Minister Australia-wu. Nhukala ganydjarr'yu nhunhi nhe ngurrungu walalangu malangura nhuma walala rrambangi, Australian Parliament-ngura, ga ngurrungu Dharuk-mirri nhangu Garraywu Queen Elizabeth-gu, yurru nhandarryun-marama djinawa-lili Australian-dhu luku-wu rom-dhu yurru dharangan ga galmuma nganapurrungu dhangang ga bukmak nha-mala nhanapurrungu:
- Nhanapurrungu walnga-mirri dhukarry ngudhudal-yana.
- Nhanapurrungu, wanga, wanga-ngaraka ga nguy gapu, ngunhi dhimirrunguru, arnhemland.
- Dharrima gungnharra, warkthunara, lukunydja rrupiya-yu wanga-wuy-ga gapu-wuy ga dhangangnha-yana ga lukunydjana yana.
- Dharray walnga-wuy ga djaka yurru nhanapurrung-gala-nguwu djamarrkuli-wu yalalangu-wu.
Dhuwalanydja rom dhuwalana bilina.
Dhuwalanydja rom wawungu wanga-wuy ngandarryunmarama Australian-gala bapurrulili.
Nganapurru marrliliyama nhukula ngurru-warryun-narayngu, marr yurru Commonwealth Parliament ngurru warrwun ga dharangan dhuwala rom ga marryuwak gumana dhayutakumana lukunydja rom.
We, the united clans of East Arnhem land, through our most senior delak, do humbly petition you, the 26th Prime Minister of Australia, in your capacity as the first amongst equals in the Australian Parliament, and as the chief adviser to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, to secure within the Australian Constitution the recognition and protection of our full and complete right to:
- Our way of life in all its diversity;
- Our property, being the lands and waters of East Arnhem land;
- Economic independence, through the proper use of the riches of our land and waters in all their abundance and wealth;
- Control of our lives and responsibility for our children's future.
These rights are self-evident.
These rights are fundamental to our place within the Australian nation.
We ask for your leadership to have the Commonwealth Parliament start the process of recognition of these rights through serious constitutional reform."
The ceremonial ground is prepared by the Dua clan nations, ready for the Yirritja. The Gumatj clan nation performs for the prime minister a special ceremony: gurtha - fire. The men move in unison - all perfect, all equal, all united. There is thunder overhead, and rain, and we become one. My brother Manduwuy's wife, Yalmay, of the Rirritjingu clan nation, reads the petition to the assembly in language. Her voice is strong and beautiful. The children of Yirrkala gather and take the petition to the prime minister and he welcomes it, holds it, and admires the design. He shakes my hand. The ceremony finishes and I leave Yirrkala.
Knowing these things might help readers to understand that the Northern Territory emergency intervention - any government intervention or program, while well intentioned and even when backed by money - will not fully solve anything. The intervention has simply started a process that, if the history I know is any guide, will end up failing. Not because of the reasons given by those well-meaning people in the cities, or those that have made a life out of being in the Aboriginal industry, or those who study, analyse and explore our lives. The intervention is good for these people - black and white - because it gives them oxygen, so they can show their importance and expertise. You must not listen to these people; they have let their ignorance get in the way of their thinking. The truth is, the intervention is about the welfare economy and the relationship between governments and Aboriginal people, and any good is fading as the old ways of doing business are reasserting their dominance. Soon even the talk will stop - there will be no more interest - and it will just be red tape again, business as usual.
I have a letter from Jenny Macklin about the lease that I negotiated with Mal Brough and Dr Peter Shergold, but there is no urgency there anymore. When I read it, I felt like dropping it to the floor. I want certainty and a solid foundation but I sense that the public servants, so-called, do not like my lease, never did. They want me to talk to them - to give them their power back. They hated that I talked with a minister or a prime minister, or that the new minister thinks I might have some important things to say. These red-tape men don't like my lease, because it leaves the power with Yolngu and they only know power from Canberra, or Darwin. They have us tied up in red tape at every level, and the minister too, I think.
Today, nearly all my people live in shambling, broken-down places with poor houses, poor roads, bad schools, little or no health care, with whitefellas in a welfare industry who service us when they can, if they want. We are captives of welfare, which means we are wards of the state relying on handouts from public servants to get by, and therefore our lives are controlled by governments and public servants who can do what they want, when they feel like it. And people suffer from their neglect - just look at our communities and the lives too many of our people are forced to endure. Although the wealth of the Australian nation has been taken from our soil, our communities and homelands bear no resemblance to the great towns and metropolises of the modern Australian nation. The intervention and what it promises is important. I do not set it aside completely. But I tell my family now: no government, no politician, no journalist or TV man, no priest, no greenie, no well-meaning dreamer from the city is going to put your life right for you. I have committed my clan to the future and my family supports me, even as it struggles with everyday life. And I will continue this commitment.
I will continue my work on my land, building a future. It is the only thing that is certain to me now and I want to advance while I can. I am trying to light the fire in our young men and women. We are setting fires to our own lives as we really should, and the flame will burn and intensify - an immense smoke, cloud-like and black, will arise, which will send off a signal and remind people that we, the Gumatj people, are the people of the fire. This will draw the other clan nations, all of which are related to the fire: the Blue Mud Bay people, all the way through to the people as far off as Maningrida. There are people of the fire around Alice Springs - and I reach out to them, too. We can then burn united, together.
Friday, 20 February 2009
Australia’s previous Liberal Party Prime Minister John Howard “came out swinging” last night in support of the policy agenda his government shared with the preceding Labor Party government of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating: ”neoliberalism” (for non-Australian readers, the Australian Liberal Party is closer to the US Republican Party or the UK’s Tories than the US vision of the word “Liberal”, while the Australian Labor Party is akin to the US Democratic Party or the UK’s Labour Party).
In Five great reforms are an essential legacy, Howard defends “neoliberalism”, and argues that the financial crisis was actually the result of distortions to the financial system by well-meaning but ill-advised government tampering with the financial system:
The world, including Australia, will not respond effectively to the global financial meltdown unless we properly understand its origins.
The subprime debacle originated in the United States, where the regulations about the making of loans were far too lax. It was a laudable social goal to spread home ownership as widely as possible, but the method involved the distortion of the financial system. Failures of regulation have contributed to the severe economic circumstances we now face. I do not seek to defend the excesses on Wall Street and elsewhere. However, these failures and the challenges we face do not represent a systemic failure of capitalism or indeed of the market system…
There is no doubt that government enthusiasm for promoting home ownership added to the current crisis, and much of this emanated from governments keen to reap the political benefits of extending home ownership to its electorate. A proud new home owner is likely to vote for the incumbent government whose “reforms” enabled him or her to gain the title deeds to a house, rather than merely handing over rent to a landlord–or so politicians appear to believe.
In the USA, this took the form of successive Republican and Democratic administrations promoting home ownership via the (to non-Americans!) laughably named institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In Australia, we had a panoply of enticements into home ownership that went beyond even the American bias, including encouragements not only to own one’s own home, but to be a landlord as well (I wonder how many politicians truly grasped the irony–and ultimate futility–of that combination?):
- A “First Home Buyer’s Grant” that gave those who had not previously owned a home a cash grant of, at various times, A$7,000, and $A14,000 to help them purchase that house. In an attempt to revive the now flagging Australian housing market, this grant has yet again been increased from $7,000 to $14,000 for the purchase of an existing house, and $21,000 for the purchase of a new dwelling. This boost is supposed to be temporary…;
- State top-ups of this scheme that increase it to $24,000;
- At various times the scheme has been temporarily boosted. Howard’s Government introduced the scheme as an allegedly temporary offset to the impact of introducing a Goods and Services Tax [GST] in 2000. He then doubled it in an attempt stimulate the economy during 2001. Now Rudd’s Government has done the same–and topped it by tripling it for the purchase of a new dwelling.
- No capital gains tax on sales of an owner-occupied house–so that the entire capital gain from selling your home on a rising market is tax-free;
- Tax deductibility of interest payments on purchases of additional houses, with the expectation that this will encourage the construction of accommodation for renters. Known as “negative gearing”, it allows a landlord to deduct interest payments from his/her rental receipts, and get a tax deduction if the rental income is less than the interest bill; and
- The rate of capital gains tax is half the rate of income tax–which encourages people to speculate on capital assets rather than work.
This perverse combination of incentives encourages both home buyers and speculators to compete against each other with leveraged funds on the Australian housing market.
Howard himself contributed to this farce by introducing the First Home Buyers Grant in the first place, never removing this “temporary” scheme after the GST adjustment phase was over, doubling its rate as an economic incentive during the 2001 downturn, and by setting the capital gains tax rate at half the income tax rate. His attribution of blame for the financial crisis to government intervention would have been somewhat more believable if his speech had included a “mea culpa” for his own contributions.
But even so, he presented a half-baked theory of what caused the crisis, and a view of economic reform that, in future years, will be derided as naive. He proposed that “five great reforms” were the core of the neoliberal agenda:
In 1980 our nation needed five great reforms. We needed to deregulate our financial system, fundamentally change our taxation system, make our labour markets freer, reduce excessively high tariffs and rid the government of ownership of commercial enterprises that would be better run privately. By 2007 these five great reforms had been achieved.
Those five reforms were an essential Australian contribution to what one might properly describe as the neo-liberal experiment of the past 30 years…
The merits of Howard’s final four “reforms” are still open to debate, but how anyone could champion the first reform–the deregulation of the financial system–as a “great” reform in today’s climate beggars belief.
As I argued in the Roving Cavaliers of Credit, financial deregulation was based on a misguided belief that the financial system operated like an ordinary market for goods, where the market itself would work out a sensible volume of and price for credit. A proper analysis of how money is created shows instead that a deregulated financial system will pump out as much credit as borrowers can be enticed to take on. In a world in which leveraged speculation on asset prices is possible, that will lead to the economy taking on so much debt that it will ultimately fall into a debt-induced crisis–which is where we are now.
Once in this situation, deregulated finance then amplifies the problem by going from supplying too much credit to cutting off the credit tap in a manner that reduces overall economic activity.
So the financial deregulation that Howard championed last night, and that successive Labor and Liberal governments introduced, led not to a better functioning economic system, but to a financial catastrophe that is still in its infancy.
To argue that the entire crisis was due just to the subprime scam, and lax financial regulation, is to ignore the obvious signs in the data that too much credit was being generated relative to income. These signs go back to mid-1964 in Australia, and to Armistice Day in the USA.
Right from day one of the post-WWII period, the US financial system grew debt faster than than the USA economy grew its GDP. As a result, the ratio of debt to GDP rose from a manageable 45% of GDP in 1945, to 290% now (without factoring in the impact of derivatives, etc., which will surely require drastic upward revisions of the recorded level of debt). In Australia, we practiced 20 years of prudent finance–from 1945 till 1964, all under a Liberal Government–before the days of profligate finance began–also under the same Liberal government.
Financial deregulation simply assisted the finance sector’s own innate tendency to pump out as much debt as it would manage, and each “rescue” of the financial system by regulators like the Fed in the USA and the RBA in Australia simply encouraged the centre of financial speculation to move from one asset class to another. The Subprime Scam was simply the last gasp of the system, which was pushed so far by the naive belief that conventional (”neoclassical”) economists have in free markets for everything that they stood by while the finance sector pretended to make money by lending money to people with a history of not honouring their debts.
Even though the Subprime Scam was extreme, it was simply the current system pushed to its extremes: it was not an aberration due to lax regulation, but the final gasp of a system that was always pumping out too much debt, and had already many times overextended itself into what should have caused a corrective crisis.
Now we are being held in a permanent financial crisis by governments attempting to revive the system while continuing to honour debts that should never have been issued in the first place.
The one aspect of Howard’s defence of his economic agenda that is plausible is his argument that Rudd “cherry-picked” history to describe everything the Liberal Party did as neoliberal, while portraying the Labor Party (ALP) as non-neoliberal. In reality, both parties supported a neoliberal agenda–the Liberals merely went further in following that “logic” to its inevitable denouement.:
However, it is not plausible for the Rudd Government to argue on the one hand that Australia has entered the financial crisis in better shape than just about any other nation, and yet declare my government guilty of the extreme neo-liberalism which has allegedly brought about the crisis. The strength of the Australian banking system is a direct result of a sensible balance between market forces and prudential regulation adopted by my government not long after it came to office…
The construct of Rudd’s essay in The Monthly is clear. The wicked neo-liberal governments of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and John Howard pursued policies of total deregulation that let the market rip, yet the more benign social democratic administrations such as the Hawke government, the British Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and the American Democrats under Bill Clinton followed a different path and got the balance right. It now falls, according to Rudd, to the social democrats to unite to save capitalism.
I expect that the belief that the Australian banking system is immune from the problems that have beset the rest of the world will be sorely tested in the next year or two, as the macroeconomic crisis caused by financial deregulation strikes at the heart of Australian homeownership. The level of household debt in Australia is as high as in America (when measured in terms of each country’s GDP), and though all the focus has been on the USA’s irresponsible lending to the Subprimes, in fact household debt in Australia grew three times as fast as it did in America in the last twenty years.
The Australian financial system is thus dependent on all Australian mortgage holders being able to service their debts, when the only source most of them now have to do that is their jobs. As jobs go as the crisis deepens, the solvency of the Australian financial system will be sorely tested.
No-one will then claim that financial deregulation was a “great reform”.
Thursday, 19 February 2009
Sunday they spoke decisively in favor by a 54.4% to 45.6% margin with over 94% of votes counted. Chavez didn't win. Venezuelans did for Bolivarian continuity and against oligarch dominance, no democracy, and back to an impoverished state.
Since 1999, Chavez transformed Venezuela to what it is today:
-- a Bolivarian republic based on "solidarity, fraternity, love, justice, liberty and equality" beyond the "free-market" model of worker exploitation for capital;
-- politically, economically, and socially changed; affirming quality health care for all as a "fundamental social right and....responsibility....of the state;" also education; affordable housing, food and other essentials; pensions; the highest minimum wage in Latin America; land reform; job training, micro-credit; free speech, ending discrimination, indigenous rights, and much more;
-- a participatory democracy empowering people at the grassroots;
-- a Constitution serving people, not elite interests;
-- using the nation's oil wealth for all Venezuelans, especially those most in need;
-- overall, a government of, by, and for the people; one that cares; an unimaginable one in America where freedoms are eroding, wealth is sucked from the public to the powerful, and elections are reduced to theater.
On February 16 at 2.41AM, Reuters reported that "Chavez wins re-election chance in economy's shadow." Around the same time, AP said "Chavez calls Venezuela vote mandate for socialism," and The New York Times headlined: "Chavez Decisively Wins Bid to End Term Limits."
From Caracas, reporter Simon Romero wrote:
"President Hugo Chavez (won a mandate that) inject(s) fresh vibrancy into his socialist-inspired revolution. The results (showed) his resilience after a decade in power as well as (a) fragmentation of his opposition....The vote (lets Chavez run again) in 2013, (and) could bolster his ambitious agenda as an icon of the left and a counterweight to American policies in Latin America."
"It also (poses) a challenge for the Obama administration," and a US president who claims that "Chavez has been a force that has impeded the progress in the region....We must be very firm when we see (that) Venezuela is exporting terrorist activities or backing malicious groups like the FARC. That creates problems that are unacceptable."
For his part, before and after America's election, Chavez offered friendship and conciliation, a change from George Bush's hostility and confrontation, and a new page between two hemispheric neighbors to advantage them both.
In Caracas, supporters were jubilant when Chavez appeared on the Miraflores balcony in triumph. Thousands turned out. Fireworks exploded, bugles blared, and people waved red flags, honked horns, sang the national anthem, and shouted "Chavez no se va" (Chavez isn't going anywhere), and "Viva Chavez."
Chavez answered: "Today we opened wide the gates of the future....Truth against lies (and) the dignity of the homeland have triumphed....Venezuela will not return to its past of indignity....Any attempt to take us down the path of violence, by failing to recognize the results of the people's will, will be neutralized....In 2012 there will be presidential elections, and unless God decides otherwise, unless the people decide otherwise, this soldier is already a candidate."
He read a congratulatory note from Fidel Castro quoting Bertolt Brecht to Jorge Luis Borges, then declared Bolivarianism is re-invigorated. "God grants victory to perseverance," he said. Even Brazil's Lula told Germany's Der Spiegel that "Chavez is without a doubt Venezuela's best president in the last 100 years," and an opposition Venezuelan journalist admitted privately that he didn't trust the old regime to take over again so he backed the referendum. One Chavista agreed saying: "They're not coming back. This is another victory for the revolution."
Romero also admitted that Chavez is "by far Venezuela's dominant political personality" and immensely popular. Opposition forces were subdued but not silent with Sumate leader Maria Corina Machado saying: "This was a victory imposed by the abuse of state power. This should not be seen as a defeat but as a national challenge" ahead of next year's National Assembly elections. For now, she accepts the results but not happily.
So did Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue, yet his comments were hostile in saying: "Chavez's intention is clear. He aspires to be president for life. He is convinced he embodies the popular will and is indispensable to the country's progress. But his capacity to pull this off is far from assured" given his ability to maintain social spending with much lower oil revenues after prices fell around 75% and may drop further.
Pomona College professor Miguel Tinker Salas had another view saying: "The greatest challenge the government now faces is governing in the face of crisis and not falling into triumphalism."
Opposition leader Omar Barboza unapologetically denounced the outcome: "Effectively this will become a dictatorship. Its control of all the powers, lack of separation of powers, unscrupulous use of state resources, (and) persecution of adversaries." Comments like these are typical and a clear case of sour grapes.
In contrast, Louis Riel of Toronto's Bolivarian Circle was joyful in "congratulat(ing) the people of Venezuela for a clean, transparent, orderly, efficient, and DEMOCRATIC voting process that allows ALL major elected officials to stand for election so that the people" can decide up or down whether to keep them."
"This is an enormous victory for the people of Venezuela who have once again shown their satisfaction and their confidence in President Chavez, in his long term vision for the country (for) a truly democratic, participatory, humanist, socialism of the XXI century....VIVA VENEZUELA AND VIVA CHAVEZ!"
At 9:35PM Sunday, however, Venezuelans rejoiced when National Electoral Council (CNE) President, Tibisay Lucena, announced the results with 94.2% of votes counted - an impressive Bolivarian triumph. Another defeat for generations favoring power over people. A hopeful sign that continuity under Chavez will inspire others to take over when he's gone.
Venezuela has 16,767,511 registered voters, 11,422 voting centers, and 126 others in overseas embassies and consulates. Turnout was nearly 70%. Voting proceeded smoothly with very few problems reported. Polls opened at 5:30AM and remained open as long as people were in lines. For the most part, they were short and moved quickly. Venezuela's electoral system is a model democratic process, a far cry from America's sham one.
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday through Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions of world and national issues with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Our overseas borrowing is the great unspoken. It is the one subject assiduously avoided in public by Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull, Ken Henry, APRA, the Reserve Bank and the big banks. They probably even gloss over the matter when chatting privately among themselves.
It is Australia's Ponzi scheme. Bernie Madoff goes to Bondi. We keep getting those foreign dollars in while sending plenty out, but never quite as much, hoping no one will blow the whistle lest the whole game end.
Same deal in the US, though far more menacing.
Our economy, like the US, UK and many in the developed world, is a chronic current account deficit nation, splashing year-in year-out on the national credit card and hoping the global bank keeps increasing the limit.
What is the limit? We don't know that, yet. Yet surely it must be tested one day.
And in light of the recent developments in the US and particularly in Austria and Eastern Europe, that day may arrive sooner rather than later. It is as close as a foreign lender or two saying, no thanks, we've got enough of that, can't take any more.
Let's put the Federal Government's stimulus package in perspective. Kevin Rudd reckons $42 billion will stimulate the economy through the hard months ahead, which it will to a point.
Crying Whitlam and Khemlani, Malcolm Turnbull reckons the package is simply more dollars borrowed from tomorrow to fund us today, which it is. It could be better spent.
Some will dissipate in dingy pokie parlours and in a frenzy of pink batts which, once domestic capacity is reached and the foreign pink batt players have sorted every house in the country, will leave a couple of barren pink batt factories.
To get to the point, fiscal stimulus is better than nothing. It will have some effect. Still, as a vision for the economic future it is akin to staring wistfully at the kitten in the room while ignoring the rogue elephant glowering behind it.
Looking at the numbers, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics we have about 21,374,000 or so people living in this country. Our combined national debt (taking all government, personal, private and business debt into account) is $2.32 trillion ($3.4 trillion including equity) as of September last year - and growing. A falling Aussie dollar makes it more expensive to repay, or roll over.
Each and every Australian then, including babies, accounts for foreign borrowings of nearly $110,500 dollars. If we use the same method to calculate what the cost of Prime Minster Rudd's ``stimulus package'' is to the nation, we end up with a cost of nearly $2,000 per head.
Inching to the edge
To put it another way, says macroeconomic consultant Mark Beavan, Kevin's rescue package is increasing the nation's net debt by little more than 1%.
''Malcolm might happily forget that while his former government colleagues were steering the good ship Australia, the nation's total debt soared from a mere $700 billion in 1997 up to $3.2 trillion by the close of their term. An increase of 387%''.
Deregulation brought growth alright. But there is a yin for every yang. The Opposition may well brag that it left office with zero debt - zero government debt that is - as the upshot of policy was to lump it onto the consumer.
That is something the nation has to live with for a long time. In the meantime, it will do the sovereign credit rating no favours.
''In the fluid deregulated markets, the government (past and present) didn't think for a second about regulating the extent and rate at which the nation got itself into debt,'' says Beavan.
''It is too hooked on the drug of national economic growth for economic growth's own sake and refuses to allow the dream of many Australians (who still believe that housing prices can only go up) to be punctured along with our economy''.
Inflating house prices
Beavan believes that if all that debt were stripped away, irrespective of land shortages, property prices would be half to two-thirds of what they are today. ''If homebuyers don't have money on loan from the banks, then they could not afford to pay the higher housing price - so the price would have to fall or the market would stagnate''.
''Why did we not index the rate of debt growth (15% per annum compounding for the last 12 years straight) to that of the country's economic growth (less than 3% when the debt is stripped out)? Surely a lending system predicated on genuine national economic growth would be a far more practical solution?''
If governments had constrained debt growth, bank profits could not have kept growing at 15% a year. Or executive salaries at 30% for that matter. (Not to mention state stamp duty revenues.)
It is no coincidence that the banks' profit numbers match the growth in national debt.
As the banks have racked up their record profits they have come at a price, but that price is yet to be crystalised. Anecdotal evidence suggests loan-to-valuation ratios of 90% are still on offer so the banks are keen to keep the residential mortgage-growth dream alive.
Against the backdrop of consumer debt at 174% of GDP (down slightly from its record high of 176.9% last May) is the spectre of banks not being about to roll their wholesale funding offshore.
On the ABS numbers for September (the December lot will be interesting), there is $654 billion of net debt owed to overseas parties - banks and others who have problems of their own.
The December quarter numbers will show a sharp increase over September. In little over two months the Aussie banks have run wild with the government guarantee on wholesale funding, raising some $50 billion - or half of their estimated $120 billion in wholesale funding needs for the year.
The average size of borrowings is up threefold and the rush is widely put down to the view that there is a fair risk of global credit markets icing over once more. Better soon than never is the gameplan.
The pricing of the issues has improved since the guarantee was brought in and overall the demand for Australian bank paper is a vote of confidence in the banks and the system. Indeed, racked up against the sorry state of most western banks, our banks are killing it.
A report from Boston Consulting group released last night estimated the global financial crisis has wiped some $US5.5 trillion from the market value of the world's banks, equivalent to 10% of global GDP.
The banking industry's market value fell $US4 trillion by the end of 2008, and shed a further $700 billion in the first three weeks of this year.
While US banks drop like flies and UK banks lapse into the hands of government, they are still producing loan growth before bad loan write-downs, and profits of $4 billion-plus per year.
Look no further than Westpac's $1.2 billion in cash earnings for the December quarter delivered yesterday. Revenue growth remained strong. Westpac, along with the rest of the Big Four are still pumping out the loans. Chief Gail Kelly conceded consumer delinquencies were on the rise, but the quantum is yet immaterial.
Thanks to the other government guarantee, the deposit guarantee, the banks have prevailed at the expense of non-bank institutions following a flight to safety last year. Bulking up their deposit-bases has also protected them, delivering far greater domestic funding.
Another 'D' word
Still, the worst is to come. The level of unemployment will largely determine the degree of mortgage defaults. Meanwhile, the great unspoken, the national debt, will continue to remain unspoken.
The monthly RBA bulletin was released today. A couple of countervailing trends: outstanding balances on credit cards were up from $44.7 billion to $45.2 billion, while growth in personal loans is down.
According to Professor Steve Keen, who keeps a close watch on Australia's debt situation (and is particularly bearish on the economy) these figures are evidence of people being cautious on taking on new debt but sufficiently hard-up they are not paying down their credit cards.
When it comes to indebtedness, on Keen's numbers Australia ranks third behind the UK (with household debt to GDP at an astounding 240%) and the US (180%). Australia's ratio has come back to 174.2% now. It is still way too high.
And it should be borne in mind asset values have been declining, so debt to equity ratios are going through the roof.
All this makes for a monumental challenge for the Government and the big banks.
Both have managed the crisis reasonably well until now but the cycle is likely to deteriorate from here and the big unknown is the potential for a foreign debt crunch.
While this report is focused on the prospects for alternative energy sources to replace fossil fuels, it is useful to apply the above criteria first to oil, coal, and gas so that comparisons can be made with their potential replacements.
Oil. As the world’s current primary energy source, oil fuels nearly all global transportation—cars, planes, trains, and ships (the exceptions, such as electric cars and subways, electric trains, and sailing ships, are statistically insignificant). Petroleum provides about 40 percent of total world energy, or about 40 EJ per year. The world currently uses about 74 million barrels of oil per day, or 30 billion barrels per year, and reserves amount to about one trillion barrels (though the figure is disputed).
Plus: Petroleum has become so widely relied upon because of its basic characteristics: it is highly transportable as a liquid at room temperature and is easily stored. It is energy dense (a cup of oil contains as much energy as 1 ½ lbs of wood, or 42 MJ per kilogram). Historically, oil has been cheap to produce, and easy to transport and use, and can be procured from a very small land footprint.
Minus: Oil’s downsides are as plain as its advantages.
Its environmental impacts are significant. Extraction is especially damaging in poorer nations such as Ecuador and Nigeria, where the industry tends to spend minimally on the kinds of remediation efforts that are required by law in the US; as a result, rivers and wetlands are fouled, air is polluted, and indigenous people see their ways of life threatened. Meanwhile, burning oil releases climate-changing CO2 (about 800 to 1000 lbs CO2 per barrel ), as well as other pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and particulates.
Oil is also non-renewable, and many of the world’s largest oilfields are already significantly depleted. Most oil-producing nations are seeing declining rates of extraction, and future sources of the fuel are increasingly concentrated in just a few countries—principally, the members of OPEC. The geographic occurrence of oil deposits has led to competition for supplies, and sometimes to war over access to the resource. As oil becomes scarcer due to depletion, even worse oil wars may occur.
EROEI: The net energy (compared to gross energy) from global oil production is difficult to ascertain precisely, because many of the major producing nations do not readily divulge statistics that would make detailed calculations possible. About 750 kilojoules of energy are required to lift 15kg of oil 5 meters—an absolute minimum energy investment for pumping oil that no longer flows out of the ground under pressure. But energy is expended also in exploration, drilling, refining, and so on. A rough total number can be derived by dividing the energy produced by the global oil industry by the energy equivalent of the dollars spent by the oil industry for exploration and production. According to Hall, this number—for oil and gas together—was about 23:1 in 1992, increased to about 32:1 in 1999, and has since declined steadily, reaching 19 in 2005. If the recent trajectory is projected forward, the EROEI for global oil and gas would decline to 10:1 soon after 2010.
It is important to remember that this number is a global average: some producers enjoy much higher net energy than others. There is every reason to assume that most of the high-EROEI oil producers are OPEC-member nations.
Prospects: Oil production has peaked and is in decline in most producing countries, and nearly all of the world’s largest oilfields are seeing falling production. The all-time peak of global oil production occurred in July, 2008 at 75.1 million barrels per day. At the time, the per-barrel price had skyrocketed to its all-time high of $147. Since then, declining demand and falling price have led producing nations to cut back on pumping significantly. Declining price has also led to a significant slowing of investment in exploration and production, which virtually guarantees production shortfalls in the future. It therefore seems unlikely that the July 2008 rate of production will ever be exceeded.
Declining EROEI and limits to global oil production will therefore constrain future world economic activity unless alternatives to oil can be found.
Natural Gas was formed by geological processes similar to those that produced oil, and it often occurs together with liquid petroleum. In the early years of the oil industry, gas was simply flared (burned); today, it is regarded as a valuable energy resource and is used globally for space heating and cooking fuel; it also has many industrial uses where high temperatures are needed, and is increasingly burned to generate electricity. Of the world’s total energy, natural gas supplies 23.5 percent; global reserves amount to about 6300 trillion cubic feet, which represents an amount of energy equivalent to 890 billion barrels of oil. 
Plus: Natural gas is the least carbon intensive of the fossil fuels (58 kg CO2 per GJ). Like oil, natural gas is energy dense (weight density, volume density), and is extracted from a small land footprint. It is easily transported through systems of pipelines and pumps, though it cannot be transported by ship as conveniently as oil, as that typically requires pressurization.
Minus: Natural gas is a hydrocarbon fuel, which means that burning it releases CO2 even if the amounts are less than would be the case to yield a similar amount of energy from coal or oil. Like oil, natural gas is non-renewable and depleting. Environmental impacts from the production of natural gas are similar to those with oil. Recent disputes between Russia, Ukraine, and Europe over Russian natural gas supplies underscore the increasing geopolitical competition for access to this valuable resource.
EROEI: The net energy of global natural gas is even more difficult to calculate than that of oil, because oil and gas statistics are often aggregated. A recent study that incorporates both direct energy (diesel fuel used in drilling and completing a well) and indirect energy (used to produce materials like steel and cement consumed in the drilling process) found that as of 2005, the EROEI for US gas fields was 10:1.  However, newer "unconventional" natural gas extraction technologies (coal bed methane and production from low-porosity reservoirs using "fracing" technology) probably have significantly lower net energy yields: the technology itself is more energy intensive, and wells deplete quickly, thus requiring increased drilling rates to yield equivalent amounts of gas. Thus as conventional gas depletes and unconventional gas makes up a greater share of total production, the EROEI of natural gas production will decline, possibly dramatically.
Prospects: During the past few years, North America has averted a natural gas supply crisis as a result of the deployment of new production technologies, but it is unclear how long the reprieve will last given the low EROEI of these production techniques (and the fact that the best unconventional deposits, such as the Barnett Shales of Texas, are being exploited first). European gas production is declining and Europe’s reliance on Russian gas is increasing—but it is difficult to tell how long Russia can maintain current flow rates. In short, while natural gas has fewer environmental impacts than the other fossil fuels, especially coal, its future is clouded by supply issues and declining EROEI.
Coal was the first fossil fuel and the primary energy source of the Industrial Revolution. While it formerly was used for space heating, cooking, and various industrial processes, coal is today burned mainly for the production of electricity and for making steel. Coal has been the fastest growing energy source (by quantity) in recent years due to prodigious consumption growth in China, which is by far the word’s foremost producer and user of the fuel. The world’s principal coal deposits are located in the US, Russia, India, China, Australia, and South Africa. World coal reserves are estimated at 850 billion metric tons (though this figure is disputed), with annual production running at just over four billion tons. Coal produces 134.6 EJoules annually, or 27 percent of total world energy. The US relies on coal for 49 percent of its electricity, and 23 percent of total energy.  Its energy density by weight is variable (from 30 MJ/kg for high-quality anthracite to as little as 5.5 MJ/kg for lignite).
Plus: Coal currently is a cheap, reliable source of electricity. It is easily stored, though bulky. However, long-distance transport makes economic sense only for higher-quality coals.
Minus: Coal has the worst environmental impacts of the conventional fossil fuels, both in the process of obtaining the fuel (mining) and in that of burning it to release energy. Because coal is the most carbon-intensive of the conventional fossil fuels (290 kg CO2 are emitted for every GJ of energy produced), it is the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions leading to climate change, even though it contributes less energy to the world economy than petroleum does.
Coal is non-renewable, and some nations (UK and Germany) have already used up most of their original coal reserves. Even the US, the "Saudi Arabia of coal," is seeing declining production from its highest quality deposits.
EROEI: Historically, the net energy from coal was very high, at an average of 177:1 according to one study , but it has fallen substantially to a range of 50:1 to 85:1. Moreover, the decline is continuing, with one estimate suggesting that by 2040 the EROEI for US coal will be .5:1 .
Prospects: While official reserves figures suggest that world coal supplies will be sufficient for a century or more, recent studies suggest that supply limits may appear globally, and especially regionally, much sooner. According to a 2007 study by Energy Watch Group of Germany, world coal production is likely to peak around 2025 or 2030, with a gradual decline thereafter. China’s production peak could come sooner if economic growth (and hence energy demand growth) returns soon. For the US, coal production may peak in the period 2030 to 2035.
New coal technologies such as carbon capture and storage could reduce the climate impact of coal, but at a significant economic and energy cost (by one estimate, about 40 percent of the energy from coal would go toward mitigating climate impact, with the other 60 percent being available for economically useful work). Coal prices increased substantially in 2007-2009, as the global economy heated up, which suggests that the existing global coal supply system was near its limit. Prices have declined sharply since then as a result of the world economic crisis and falling energy demand. Prices for coal will almost certainly increase in the future, in inflation- or deflation-adjusted terms, as high-quality deposits are exhausted and energy demand recovers.
Tar sands, sometimes called "oil sands," consist of bitumen embedded in sand or clay. The resource is essentially petroleum that formed without an impervious geological "cap," so that lighter hydrocarbon molecules rose to the surface and volatized long ago rather than remaining trapped underground.
The material is fairly useless in its raw state, and requires substantial processing or upgrading, the finished product being referred to as "syncrude." The process can be accomplished in situ through the underground injection of steam, or in above-ground refineries after the material has been mined with giant mechanized shovels.
The sites of greatest commercial concentration of the resource are in Alberta, Canada and the Orinoco Basin of Venezuela. Current production of syncrude from operations in Canada amounts to about 1.5 million barrels per day, which accounts for 1.7 percent of total world liquid fuels production, or a little less than 0.7 percent of total world energy. Reserves amount to about 1.7 trillion barrels of oil equivalent in Canada and 235 billion barrels of extra heavy crude in Venezuela, though it is likely that a large portion of what has been classified as "reserves" should be considered unrecoverable "resources" given the likelihood that deeper and lower-quality tar sands will require more energy for their extraction and processing than they will yield.
Plus: The only advantages of tar sands over conventional petroleum are that (1) large amounts remain to be extracted, and (2) the place where the resource exists in greatest quantity (Canada) is geographically close and politically friendly to the country that imports the most oil (the US).
Minus: Tar sands have all of the negative qualities associated with the other fossil fuels (they are nonrenewable, polluting, and climate-changing), but in greater measure than is the case with natural gas or conventional petroleum. Tar sands production is the fastest-growing source of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, with the production and use of a barrel of syncrude ultimately doubling the amount of CO2 that would be emitted by the production and use of a barrel of conventional petroleum. Extraction of tar sands has already caused extensive environmental damage across a broad expanse of Northern Alberta.
All of the techniques used to upgrade tar sands into syncrude require other resources: some of the technologies require significant amounts of water and natural gas—as much as 4.5 barrels of water and 1200 cubic feet (34 cubic meters) of natural gas for each barrel of syncrude.
As a result, syncrude is costly to produce. A fixed per-barrel dollar cost is relatively meaningless given the recent volatility in input costs; however, it is certainly true that production costs for syncrude are much higher than historic production costs for crude oil, and compare favorably only with the higher costs for the production of a new marginal barrel of crude using expensive new technologies.
EROEI for tar sands and syncrude production is difficult to assess directly. Various past net energy analyses for tar sands range from 1.5:1 to 7:1, with the most robust and recent of analyses suggesting a range of 5.2:1 to 5.8:1.  This is a small fraction of the net energy historically derived from conventional petroleum, and it is likely to be insufficient to enable tar sands to serve as a primary energy source for industrial economies.
Prospects: The International Energy Agency expects syncrude production in Canada to expand to 5 mb/d by 2030, but there are good reasons for questioning this. The environmental costs of expanding production to this extent may be unbearable. Further, investment in tar sands expansion is now declining, with more than US$60 billion worth of projects having been delayed in the last three months of 2008 as the world skidded into recession. A more realistic prospect for tar sands production may be a relatively constant production rate, rising perhaps only to two mb/d.
Oil shale. If tar sands are oil that was "spoiled," oil shale (or kerogen, as it is more properly termed) is oil that was undercooked: it consists of source material that was not buried at sufficient depth or for long enough to be chemically transformed into the shorter hydrocarbon chains found in crude oil or natural gas. Deposits of potentially commercially extractable oil shale exist in 33 countries, with the largest being found in the western region of the US (Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming). Oil shale is used to make liquid fuel in Estonia, Brazil, and China; it is used for power generation in Estonia, China, Israel, and Germany; for cement production in Estonia, Germany, and China; and for chemicals production in China, Estonia, and Russia. As of 2005, Estonia accounted for about 70 percent of the world’s oil shale extraction and use. The percentage of world energy currently derived from oil shale is negligible, but world reserves are estimated at 2.8 trillion barrels of liquid fuel. 
Plus: As with tar sands, the only real upside to oil shale is that there is a large quantity of the resource in place. In the US alone, shale oil resources are estimated at two trillion barrels, nearly twice the amount of the world’s remaining conventional oil resources.
Minus: Oil shale suffers from low energy density, about one sixth that of coal. The environmental impacts from its extraction and burning are very high, and include severe air and water pollution and the release of half again as much CO2 as the burning of conventional oil. The use of oil shale for heat is far more polluting than natural gas or even coal.
EROEI: Reported EROEI (energy return on investments) for oil produced from oil shale are generally in the range of 1.5:1 to 4:1 . Net energy for this process is likely to be lower than the production of oil from tar sands because of the nature of the material itself.
Prospects: During the past decades most commercial efforts to produce liquid fuels from oil shale have ended in failure. Production of oil shale worldwide has actually declined significantly since 1980. While low levels of production are likely to continue in several countries that have no other domestic fossil fuel resources, the large-scale development of production from oil shale deposits seems unlikely anywhere for both environmental and economic reasons.
Nuclear. Producing electricity from controlled nuclear fission reactions has long been a contentious way of providing energy for society. Currently, about 435 commercial power-generating reactors are operating worldwide, 103 of them in the US. Collectively they produce 2658 TWh world-wide, and 806 TWh in the US. This represents 3 percent of world energy, and 8 percent of all energy in the US. 
All commercial reactors in the US are variants of light water reactors. Other designs have been subjects of research (see below).
Plus: Nuclear electricity is reliable and relatively cheap (2.9 cents per kW/h) once the reactor is in place and operating. In the US, while no new nuclear power plants have been built in many years, the amount of nuclear electricity provided has grown during the past decade due to the increased efficiency and reliability of existing reactors.
The nuclear cycle emits much less CO2 than the burning of coal to produce an equivalent amount of energy (though uranium mining and enrichment, and plant construction still entail carbon emissions). This has led some climate protection spokespeople to favor nuclear power, at least as a temporary bridge to an all-renewable energy future.
Minus: Uranium, the fuel for the nuclear cycle, is a non-renewable resource. The peak of production is likely to occur between 2040 and 2050 , which means that nuclear fuel is likely to become more scarce and expensive over the next few decades. Already, the average grade of uranium has declined substantially in recent years as the best reserves have been depleted. Recycling of fuel and the employment of alternative nuclear fuels are possible, but the technology has not been adequately developed.
Nuclear power plants are so costly to build that unsubsidized nuclear plants are not economically competitive with similar-sized fossil-fuel plants. Government subsidies in the US include: 1) those from the military nuclear industry, 2) non-military government subsidies, and 3) artificially low insurance costs.
The nuclear fuel cycle entails substantial environmental impacts, which may be greater during the mining and processing stages than during plant operation even when radiation-releasing accidents are taken into account. Mining entails ecosystem removal, dust, large amounts of tailings (equivalent to 100 to 1,000 times the amount of uranium extracted), and radiation-emitting particles leaching into groundwater. During plant operation, accidents causing small to large releases of radiation can impact the local environment or much larger geographic areas, potentially making land uninhabitable (as with Chernobyl).
Storage of radioactive waste is highly problematic. High-level waste (like spent fuel) is much more radioactive and difficult to deal with than low-level waste, and must be stored onsite for several years before transferal to a geological repository.
The best-known way to deal with waste, which can contain lethal doses of radiation for thousands of years, is to store it in a geological repository, deep underground. Yucca Mountain in Nevada, the only site being investigated as a repository in the US, will begin accepting waste in 2017. More repositories will be needed, especially if the use of nuclear power is expanded in the US. Even then, over tens of thousands of years waste could possibly leak into the water table. The issue is controversial even after extremely expensive and extensive analyses by the Department of Energy.
Nearly all commercial reactors use water as a coolant. Heat pollution from coolant water discharged into lakes, rivers or oceans can disrupt aquatic habitats. In recent years, a few reactors have had to be shut down due to water shortages, highlighting a future vulnerability of this technology in a world where fresh water is becoming increasingly scarce.
Reactors must not be sited in earthquake-prone regions due to the potential for radiation release in the event of a serious quake. Nuclear reactors are often cited as potential terrorist targets and as potential sources of radioactive materials for the production of terrorist "dirty bombs."
EROEI: A review of net energy studies of nuclear power that have been published to date by Hall et al.  found the information to be "disparate, widespread, idiosyncratic, prejudiced, and poorly documented." The largest issue is often what the appropriate boundaries of analysis should be. The review concluded that the most reliable EROEI information is quite old, while newer information is either highly optimistic 10:1 or more) or pessimistic (low or even negative).
Prospects: The nuclear power industry is growing, with ten to twenty new power plants being considered in the US alone. But the scale of growth is likely to be constrained mostly for reasons discussed above.
Hopes for a large-scale deployment of new nuclear plants rest on the development of new technologies: pebble-bed and modular reactors, fuel recycling, and the use of thorium as a fuel. The ultimate technological breakthrough for nuclear power would be the development of a commercial fusion reactor. However, each of these new technologies is problematic for some reason. Fusion is still decades away and will require much costly research. The technology to extract useful energy from thorium is highly promising, but will require many years and expensive research and development to commercialize. The only breeder reactors in existence are closed, soon to be closed, abandoned, or awaiting re-opening after serious accidents: BN-600 (Russia, end of life 2010); Clinch River Breeder Reactor (U.S., construction abandoned in 1982 because the US halted its spent-fuel reprocessing program and thus made breeders pointless); Monju (Japan, being brought online again after serious sodium leak and fire in 1995); Superphénix (France, closed 1998). Therefore, realistically, nuclear power plants constructed in the short and medium term can only be incrementally different from current designs.
In order for the nuclear industry to grow sufficiently so as to replace a significant portion of energy now derived from fossil fuels, scores if not hundreds of new plants would be required, and soon. Given the expense and long lead time entailed in plant construction, the industry may do well merely to build enough new plants to replace old ones that are nearing retirement and decommissioning.
Hall et al. end their review of nuclear power by stating: "In our opinion we need a very high-level series of analyses to review all of these issues. Even if this is done, it seems extremely likely that very strong opinions, both positive and negative, shall remain. There may be no resolution to the nuclear question that will be politically viable."
Hydropower is electric current produced from the kinetic energy of flowing water. Water’s gravitational energy is relatively easily captured, and relatively easily stored behind a dam. Hydro projects may be enormous (as with China’s Three Gorges Dam) or very small ("microhydro") in scale. Large projects typically involve a dam, a reservoir, tunnels, and turbines; small-scale projects usually simply employ the "run of the river," harnessing energy from a river’s natural flow, without water storage.
Hydropower currently provides 2894 TWh of electricity annually worldwide, and about 264 TWh in the US, which represents 6 percent of total energy globally and 3 percent nationally. Of all electrical energy, hydropower supplies 19 percent worldwide (with 15 percent coming from large hydropower), and 6.5 percent in the US.
Plus: Unlike many other energy sources, for hydropower most energy and financial investment occurs during project construction, while very little is required for maintenance and operations. Therefore electricity from hydro is generally cheaper than electricity from other sources, which may cost two to three times as much to generate.
Minus: Energy analysts and environmentalists are divided on the environmental impacts of hydropower. Proponents of hydropower see it as a clean, renewable source of energy with only moderate environmental or social impacts. Detractors of hydropower see it as having environmental impacts as large as or larger than those of some conventional fossil fuels. Global effects include carbon emissions primarily during dam and reservoir construction. Regional effects result from reservoir creation, dam construction, water quality changes, and destruction of native habitat. The amount of carbon emissions produced is very site-specific and substantially lower than from fossil fuel sources. Much of the debate centers around hydropower’s effects on society and whether or not a constant supply of water for power, irrigation, or drinking justifies the relocation of millions of people. Large dam and reservoir construction nearly always requires major relocations, and about 40-80 million people have been relocated and otherwise impacted by various associated effects of hydro projects. Dam failure or collapse is a risk in some cases, especially in China.
EROEI: The EROEI of hydropower, which ranges roughly from 11.2:1 to 267:1, is very site-specific. Because hydropower is such a variable resource, used in many different geographical conditions and involving various technologies, one generalized EROEI ratio cannot describe all projects. The EROEI for favorable or even moderate sites can be extremely high, especially if the environmental or social impacts are not included in the analysis.
Prospects: Globally, there are many undeveloped dam sites with hydropower potential, though there are far fewer in the US, where most of the best sites have already been developed. Theoretically, hydropower at some level could be accessible to any population with a constant supply of flowing water. The International Hydropower Association estimates that only about one-third of the realistic potential of world hydropower has been developed. In practice, the low investment cost of fossil fuels, and the environmental and social costs of dams, has meant that fossil fuel-powered projects are much more common.
Dams have the potential to produce a moderate amount of additional, high-quality electricity in less-industrialized countries, but are often associated with extremely high environmental and social costs. Many authors see "run-of-river" hydropower as the future, because it does away with massive relocation projects, minimizes the impacts on fish and wildlife, and does not release greenhouse gases (because there is generally no reservoir), while it retains the benefits of a clean, renewable, cheap source of energy. However, the relatively low power density of this approach limits its potential.
Wind. Wind power is one of the fastest-growing energy sources in the world, expanding more than five-fold between 2000 and 2007. However, it still accounts for less than one percent of the world’s electricity generation, and less than one percent of total energy. In the US, total production currently amounts to 32Twh, which is .77 percent of total electricity supplied, or 0.4 percent of total energy.
In the US, 35 percent of all the new electricity generation installed during 2007 (over 5,200 MW) was wind. In September 2008, the US surpassed Germany to become the world leader in wind energy production. US wind energy production has doubled in just two years. There is now more than 25,000 MW of generating capacity. (In discussing wind power, it is important to distinguish between nameplate production capacity—the amount of power that theoretically could be generated at full utilization—and the actual power produced: the former number is always much larger, because winds are intermittent and variable.) 
Wind turbine technology has advanced in recent years, with the capacity of the largest turbines growing from one MW in 1999 to up to 5 MW today. The nations currently leading in installed wind generation capacity are the United States, Germany, Spain, India, and China. Wind power currently accounts for about 19 percent of electricity produced in Denmark, 9 percent in Spain and Portugal, and 6 percent in Germany and the Republic of Ireland. In 2007-2008 wind became the fastest-growing energy source in Europe, in terms of quantity.
Plus: Wind power is a renewable source of energy, and there is enormous capacity for growth in wind generation: it has been estimated that developing 20 percent of the world’s wind-rich sites would produce seven times the current world electricity demand.  The cost of electricity from wind power, which is relatively low, has been declining in recent years. In the US as of 2006, the cost per unit of energy produced was estimated to be comparable to the cost of new generating capacity for coal and natural gas: wind cost was estimated at $55.80 per MWh, coal at $53.10/MWh and natural gas at $52.50.
Minus: The uncontrolled, intermittent nature of wind reduces its value as compared to operator-controlled energy sources such as coal, gas, or nuclear power. For example, during January 2009 a high pressure system over Britain resulted in very low wind speeds combined with unusually low temperatures (and therefore higher than normal electricity demand). The only way for utility operators to prepare for such a situation is to build extra generation capacity from other energy sources. Therefore adding new wind generating capacity often does not substantially decrease the need for coal, gas, or nuclear power generation capacity; it merely enables those conventional power plants to be used less while the wind is blowing.
Since much of the wind resource base is in remote locations, getting the wind from the local point-of-generation to a potentially distant load center can be costly. The remoteness of the wind resource base also leads to increased costs for development in the case of land with difficult terrain or that is far from transportation infrastructure.
Being spread out over a significant land area, wind plants must compete with alternative uses of these land resources where multiple simultaneous usages are impossible.
The dramatic cost reductions in the manufacture of new wind turbines over the past two decades may slow as efficiencies are maximized and as materials costs increase.
EROEI: The average EROEI for all studies worldwide (operational and conceptual) was 24.6. The average EROEI for just the operational studies is 18.1. This compares favorably with conventional power generation technologies. 
In the US, existing wind power has a high EROEI (18:1), though problems with electricity storage may reduce this figure substantially as generating capacity grows. EROEI generally increases with the power rating of the turbine, because (1) smaller turbines represent older, less efficient technologies; (2) larger turbines have a greater rotor diameter and swept area, which is the most important determinant of a turbine’s potential to generate power, and (3) since the power available from wind increases by the cube of an increase in the wind speed, and larger turbines can extract energy from winds at greater heights, the wind speed and thus EROEI increase quickly.
The net energy ratio for wind power can range widely depending on the location of a turbine’s manufacture and installation, due to differences in the energy used for transportation of manufactured turbines between countries, the countries’ economic and energy structure, and recycling policies. For example, production and operation of an E-40 turbine in coastal Germany requires 1.39 times more energy than in Brazil.
Prospects: Wind is already a competitive source of power. For structural reasons (its long term cost of production is set by financing terms upon construction, and does not vary in the short term), it benefits from feed-in tariffs to protect it from short-term electricity price fluctuations, but overall it will be one of the cheapest sources of power as fossil fuels dwindle—and one with a price guaranteed not to increase over time. In the EU its penetration is already reaching 10 to 25 percent in several nations; prospects in the US are in some ways better, as growth is not limited by the geographical constraints and population density found in Europe.
Intermittency can be dealt with, as the European experience shows, by a combination of smart grid management and rare use of the existing fossil-fuel-fired capacity: even though a large amount of thermal power generation capacity will still be required, less coal and gas will need to be burned.
In the US, substantial further development of wind power will require significant investment in upgrading the national electricity grid.
Solar Photovoltaics (PV). Photovoltaic cells generate electricity directly from sunlight, with greater efficiency than photosynthesis does. PV solar cells most often use silicon as a semiconductor material. Since a huge amount of energy is transmitted to the earth’s surface in the form of solar radiation, tapping this source has great potential. If only 0.025 percent of this energy flow could be captured, it would be enough to satisfy world electricity demand. In 2006 and 2007, photovoltaic systems were the fastest growing energy technology in the world, increasing 50 percent annually.
The goals of PV research are to (1) increase the efficiency of the process of converting sunlight into electricity (the typical efficiency of an installed commercial single-crystalline silicon solar panel is 10 percent, while 24.7 percent efficiency has been achieved under laboratory conditions); and (2) decrease the cost of production (single-crystalline silicon panels average $3.00 per watt installed, while new photovoltaic materials and technologies, especially thin-film PV materials made by printing or spraying nano-chemicals onto an inexpensive plastic substrate, promise to reduce production costs dramatically, though usually at a loss of efficiency or durability). 
Plus: The solar energy captured by photovoltaic technology is renewable - and there is a lot of it. The cumulative average energy irradiating a square meter of earth’s surface for a year is approximately equal to the energy in a barrel of oil; if the sunlight could be captured at 10 percent efficiency, 3861 square miles of PV arrays would supply the energy of a billion barrels of oil. Covering the world’s estimated 360,000 square miles of building rooftops with PV arrays would generate the energy of 98 billion barrels of oil each year.
The price for new installed PV generating capacity has been declining steadily for many years. Unlike passive solar systems, PV cells can function on cloudy days.
Minus: The functionality of PV power generation varies not only daily, but also seasonally with cloud cover, sun angle, and time of day. Thus, as with wind, the uncontrolled, intermittent nature of PV reduces its value as compared to operator-controlled energy sources such as coal, gas, or nuclear power. Sunlight is abundant, but diffuse: its area density is low. Thus efforts to harvest energy from sunlight are inevitably subject to costs and tradeoffs with scale.
Some of the environmental impacts of manufacturing PV systems have been analyzed by Alsema et al. and compared to the impacts of other energy technologies.  They have found energy pay-back times of 1.7 to 2.7 years and CO2 emissions which are greater than those found for wind energy systems, but only 5 percent of CO2 emissions from coal burning. Another potential impact is the loss of large amounts of wildlife habitat if really large industrial scale solar arrays are built, as they are likely to be, in undeveloped desert areas.
EROEI: Explicit net energy analysis of PV energy is scarce. However, using the time required for "energy pay back" and the lifetime of the system, it is possible to determine a rough EROEI. From a typical life-cycle analysis performed in 2005, Hall et al. calculated an EROEI of 3.75:1 to 10:1. 
Table: EROEI for various PV systems (ranging from commercially available to theoretical), calculated between 2000 and 2008. 
Some of these EROEI values are likely to change as research and development continue. If present conditions persist, EROEI may decline since sources of silicon for the industry are limited.
Prospects: Despite the enormous growth of PV energy, in recent years the annual increase in oil, gas, or coal production has usually exceeded total existing photovoltaic energy production. Therefore if PV is to become a primary energy source the rate of increase in capacity will need to be much greater than is currently the case.
Because of its high up-front cost, a substantial proportion of installed PV has been distributed on home roofs and in remote off-grid villages. Commercial utility-scale PV installations are now appearing in several nations, partly due to the lower price of newer thin-film PV materials and changing government policies. 
The current economic crisis has lowered the rate of PV expansion substantially, but that situation could be reversed if government efforts to revive the economy focus on investment in renewable energy.
However, if very large and rapid growth in the PV industry were to occur, the problem of materials shortages would have to be addressed in order to avert dramatic increases in cost. Materials in question—copper, cadmium-telluride (CdTe), and copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGS)—are crucial to some of the thin-film PV materials to which the future growth of the industry (based on lowering of production costs) is often linked. With time, PV production may be constrained by lack of available materials, the rate at which materials can be recovered or recycled, or possibly by competition with other industries for those scarce materials. The only long-term solution will rest in the development of new PV materials that are common and cheap.
Active (concentrating) solar thermal. This technology typically consists of installations of mirrors to focus sunlight, creating very high temperatures heating a liquid that turns a turbine, producing electricity. The same power plant technology that is used with fossil fuels can be used with solar thermal since the focusing collectors can heat liquid to temperatures from 300°C to 1000°C. Fossil fuel can be used as a backup at night or when sunshine is intermittent.
There is a great deal of interest and research in solar thermal and a second generation of plants is now being designed and built, mostly in Spain. Worldwide capacity will soon reach 3000 MW.
Plus: Like PV energy, active solar thermal is renewable and there is enormous potential for growth. In the best locations, cost per watt of installed capacity is competitive with fossil-fuel power sources. Solar thermal benefits from using already mature power plant technology and needs less land than a photovoltaic array of the same generating capacity.
Minus: Again like PV, concentrating solar thermal power is intermittent and seasonal. Some environmental impacts are to be expected on the land area covered by mirror arrays and during the construction of transmission lines to mostly desert areas where this technology works best.
EROEI: The energy balance of this technology is highly variable depending on location, thus few studies have been done. In the best locations (areas with many sunny days per year), EROEI is likely to be quite high.
Prospects: There is considerable potential for utility-scale deployment of concentrating solar thermal power. Some energy writers have suggested that all of the world’s energy needs could be filled with electrical power generated by this technology. This would require the covering of large areas of desert in the southwestern US, northern Africa, central Asia, and central Australia with mirrors, as well as the construction of high-power transmission lines from these desert sites to places where electricity demand is highest. Such a project is possible in principle, but the logistical hurdles and financial costs would be daunting. Moreover, some intermittency problems would remain even if the sunniest sites were chosen.
Leaving aside such grandiose plans, nevertheless for nations that lie sufficiently close to the equator, this appears to be one of the most promising alternative sources of energy available.  Rising fossil fuel prices, renewable portfolio standards (RPSs) coming into effect in many states and an American public that is becoming increasingly interested in renewable energy sources are making it an attractive technology in the U.S.
Passive solar consists of capturing and optimizing heat and light from the sun within living spaces without the use of any collectors, pumps, or mechanical parts so as to reduce or eliminate the need for powered heating or lighting. Buildings are responsible for a large percentage of total energy usage in most countries, and so passive solar technologies are capable of offsetting a substantial portion of energy production and consumption that might otherwise come from fossil fuels. A passive solar building is designed 1) to maintain a comfortable average temperature, and 2) to minimize temperature fluctuations. It usually takes more time, money, and design effort to build, with extra costs made up in energy savings over time.
Chart: historical timeline of passive solar energy, 5th century to 2006. 
Passive solar buildings utilize seven main construction elements, and passive solar heating takes three dominant forms: direct gain, trombe walls, and insulated gain. Other uses of natural energy in buildings include passive solar cooling and daylighting.
Plus: Depending on the study, passive solar homes cost less than, the same as, or around 3-5 percent more than other custom homes. The extra cost will eventually pay for itself in energy savings. A solar home can only generate heat for its occupants and not extra electricity, but if used on all new houses, the system could go a long way toward replacing other fuels.
Incorporating a passive solar system into the design of a new home is generally cheaper than fitting it onto an existing home. A solar home "decreases cooling loads and reduces electricity consumption, which leads to significant decline in the use of fossil fuels."  Passive solar buildings, in contrast to buildings with artificial lighting, may provide a healthier, more productive work environment.
Minus: Limitations of passive solar heating include geographic location (clouds and colder regions make solar heating less effective), and sealing the house envelope to reduce air leaks means increasing the chance of pollutants becoming trapped inside. The heat-collecting equator-facing side of the house needs good sun exposure in the winter, which may require spacing houses farther apart and using more land than other types of housing.
EROEI: Passive solar design is extremely site-specific, and architects rarely get quantitative feedback on the system, so determining the EROEI is very difficult. However, if the system is built into the house from the beginning, then large energy gains can be obtained with few or no further investments.
Energy savings can range from 30 to 70 percent, so EROEI varies vastly from case to case. For example, if the payback period is five years and the house lasts for 50, then the EROI would be 10:1.
Table 1: energy savings at various locations (with date, type and size of building indicated) for the daylighting technique. 
Table 2: energy savings at various locations (with date, techniques, monetary savings, and cost indicated) for the passive solar heating technique.
Prospects: Designing buildings from the start to take advantage of natural heating and lighting, and to use more insulation and solar mass, has tremendous potential to reduce energy demand. In many cases, new high-efficiency buildings require more energy for construction. Until now, this assumed requirement for a higher up-front investment has discouraged mass-scale construction of passive solar buildings in most countries.
Higher energy prices will no doubt gradually alter this situation, but quicker results could be obtained through shifts in building regulations and standards, as has been shown in Germany. There, the development of the voluntary Passivhaus standard has stimulated construction and retrofitting of more than 20,000 passive houses in northern Europe.  The Passivhaus is designed to use very little energy for heating. Passive solar provides space heating and superinsulation and air-tight construction to stop the heat from leaking out.
Buildings in the industrialized nations have generally become more efficient in recent years, however declines in averaged energy use per square foot have generally been more than offset by population growth and the overbuilding of real estate, so that the total amount of energy used in buildings has continued to increase. Thus population and economic growth patterns need to be part of the "green building" agenda. 
Geothermal energy is derived from the heat within the earth, which can be ‘mined’ by extracting hot water or steam, either to run a turbine for electricity generation or for direct use of the heat itself. Geothermal power can be generated in regions where tectonic plates meet and volcanic and seismic activity are common. Lower temperature geothermal direct heat can be tapped anywhere on earth by digging a few meters down and installing a tube system connected to a heat pump.
Currently, the only places being exploited for geothermal electrical power are where hydrothermal resources exist in the form of hot water or steam reservoirs. In these locations, hot groundwater is pumped to the surface from 2-3 km deep wells and used to drive turbines. Power can also be generated from hot dry rocks by pumping turbine fluid into them through 3 to 10 km deep bore holes. This method, called Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) generation, is the subject of a great deal of research, but no power has been generated commercially using EGS.
In 2006, world geothermal power capacity was about 10 GW.  There is no consensus on potential resource base estimates for power generation. Hydrothermal areas that have both heat and water are rare, so the utility of most geothermal resources depends on whether EGS and other developing technologies will prove to be commercially viable. For example, a 2006 MIT report estimated U.S. hydrothermal resources at 2400 to 9600 EJ, while dry heat geothermal resources were estimated to be as much as 13 million EJ. 
Annual growth of geothermal power capacity worldwide has slowed from 9 percent in 1997 to 2.5 percent in 2004. However the use of direct heat using heat pumps or piped hot water has been growing 30 to 40 percent annually, particularly in Europe, Asia and Canada. 
Plus: Geothermal power plants produce much lower emissions and use less land area compared to fossil fuel plants. They run constantly, unlike other renewable sources such as wind and solar. Geothermal direct heat is available everywhere, although it becomes less cost-effective in temperate climates. Countries rich in geothermal resources will become less dependent on foreign energy.
Minus: In addition to geography and technology, high capital cost and low fossil fuel costs are major limiting factors for geothermal development. Technological improvements are necessary for the geothermal industry to continue to grow. Water can also be a limiting factor, since both hydrothermal and dry rock systems consume water.
The sustainability of geothermal power generating systems is a cause of concern. Geothermal resources are only renewable if heat removal is balanced by natural replenishment of the heat source. Some geothermal plants have seen declines in temperature, most probably because the plant was oversized for the local heat source.
There is likely to be some air, water, thermal and noise pollution from the building and operation of a geothermal plant, as well as solid waste buildup and the possibility of induced seismic activity nearby it.
EROEI: The net energy for electricity generation from hydrothermal resources has ranged, depending on the researcher, from 2:1 to 13:1. This discrepancy represents both the lack of a unified methodology for EROEI analysis and disagreements about system boundaries, quality-correction, and future expectation. 
There are no calculations of EROEI values for geothermal direct use, though for various reasons it is assumed that they are higher than those of hydrothermal resources. As a starting point, it has been calculated that heat pumps move 3 to 5 times the energy in heat that they consume in electricity.
Prospects: The limited hydrothermal resources are unlikely to become a silver bullet solution to meet increasing global energy needs, but could continue to be important regionally. If non-hydrothermal resources were to become economically feasible, much larger, less-depletable geothermal resources would be opened up worldwide, potentially increasing EROEI, geographic relevance, long-term sustainability and production of geothermal power. Geothermal heat pumps already seem to be generating net thermal energy on small scales and are nearly limitless geographically. They are most useful in regions with cold winters and hot summers since they provide both heating and cooling.
Tidal Power generation from tidal forces is geographically limited to places where there is a large movement of water as the tide flows in and out, such as estuaries, bays, headlands, or channels connecting two bodies of water.
The oldest tidal power technology, dating back to the Middle Ages when it was used to grind grain, consists of building a barrage or dam which blocks off all or most of a tidal passage. The difference in the height of water on the two sides of the barrage is used to run turbines. A newer technology, which is still in the development stage, places underwater turbines called tidal stream generators directly in a tidal current or stream.
Globally, there is about 0.3 GW of installed capacity of tidal power , most of it produced by the barrage built in 1966 in France across the estuary of the Rance River. One estimate of the size of the global annual potential for tidal power is 450 TWh, much of it located on the coasts of Asia, North America, and the United Kingdom. 
Plus: Once a tidal generating system is in place, it has low operating costs and produces reliable, although not constant, carbon-free power.
Minus: Sites for large barrages are limited to a few places around the world. They require large amounts of capital to build, and have a significant negative impact on the ecosystem of the dammed river or bay.
EROEI: No calculations have been done for tidal power EROEI as yet. For tidal stream generators this figure is likely to be close to that of wind power (an average EROEI of 18:1) since the turbine technology for wind and water is so similar that tidal stream generators have been described as "underwater windmills." Construction of barrage systems may be similar to that of dams (EROEI ~ 11.2:1 to 267:1), but they will have a somewhat lower EROEI since they only generate power for part of the tidal cycle.
Prospects: Many new barrage systems have been proposed and new sites identified, but the initial cost is a difficulty. There is often strong local opposition as with the proposed barrage for the mouth of the River Severn in the U.K. Tidal stream generators need less capital investment and if designed and sited well may have very little environmental impact. Prototype turbines and commercial tidal stream generating systems are being tested around the world.
Wave Power Electricity can be generated from wind-driven ocean waves. Some wave energy devices are designed to work offshore in deeper water, harvesting the up and down motion of the waves. Onshore systems use the force of breaking waves or the rise and fall of water to run pumps or turbines.
The commonly quoted estimate of potential global wave power generation is about 2 TW , distributed mostly on the western coasts of the Americas, Europe, southern Africa and Australia where wind-driven waves reach the shore after accumulating energy over long distances. For current designs of wave generators the economically exploitable resource is likely to be from 140 – 750 TWh per year.  The only operating commercial system is the 2.25 MW Agucadora Wave Park off the coast of Portugal.
Research in wave energy has been funded by both governments and small engineering companies and there are many prototype designs. Once the development stage is over and the price and siting problems of wave energy systems are better understood, there may be more investment in them. In order for costs to decrease, problems with resistance to corrosion and storm damage must be solved.
Plus: Once installed, wave energy devices emit negligible greenhouse gases and should be cheap to run. Since the majority of the world’s population lives near the coast, wave energy is convenient for providing electricity to many and it may also turn out to be an expensive but sustainable way to desalinate water.
Minus: In addition to high construction costs, there are concerns about the environmental impact of some designs. They may interfere with fishing grounds and navigation or cause erosion. Wave energy fluctuates seasonally as well as daily since winds are stronger in the winter, making it a somewhat intermittent energy source.
EROEI: The net energy of wave energy devices has not been thoroughly analyzed. One rough estimate of EROEI for the Portuguese Pelamis device is 15:1. 
Prospects: Wave power generation will need more research and development and infrastructure building before it can become widespread. More needs to be understood about the environmental impacts of wave energy farms so that destructive siting can be avoided. The best devices will need to be identified and improved, and production of wave devices will need to become much cheaper.
Biomass Wood and other kinds of traditional biomass still account annually for about 13 percent of the world’s total energy consumption and are used by up to 3 billion people for cooking and heating.  Nontraditional ‘new’ biomass uses generally involve converting biomass into liquid fuel, using it to generate electricity, or using it to co-generate heat and electricity. World electric power generation from biomass was about 183 TWh in 2005 from an installed capacity of 40GW, with 27 percent of this coming from biogas and municipal solid waste. 
Biogas is created by the biological process of decay in the absence of oxygen. Biogas emission occurs naturally in places where anaerobic decay is concentrated, like swamps, landfills, or cows’ digestive systems. Industrial manufacture of biogas uses bacteria to ferment or anaerobically digest biodegradable material, producing a combustible mixture of 50 – 75 percent methane and other gases.  Biogas can be used like natural gas and burned as fuel in anything from a small cookstove to an electrical plant. Small-scale biogas is utilized all over the world, both in households and for industry.
Wood fuels presently account for 60 percent of global forest production and along with agricultural residues contribute 220 GWth for cooking and heating energy.  Forests are a huge resource, covering 7 percent of the earth’s surface, but net deforestation is occurring around the globe, especially in South America, Indonesia and Africa. Deforestation is caused mostly by commercial logging and clearing land for large-scale agriculture, not by traditional wood gathering, which is often sustainably practiced. However in many areas, wood use and population pressure are leading to deforestation and even desertification.
Cogeneration or Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants can burn fossil fuels or biomass to make electricity and are configured so that the heat from this process is not wasted but used for space or water heating. Biomass CHP is more efficient at producing heat than electricity, but can be practical if there is a local source of excess biomass and a community or industrial demand nearby for heat and electricity. Biomass plants are being built in the U.S., in northern Europe, and also in Brazil where they are associated with the sugar processing industry. The rate of growth of biopower has been around 5 percent per year over the last decade.  Biomass power plants are only half as efficient as natural gas plants and are limited in size by a fuelshed of around 100 miles, but they provide a good source of rural jobs and reliable baseload power. 
Another bioenergy source is biogas from waste materials, but it is difficult to find estimates of the possible size of this resource. The National Grid in the U.K. has suggested that waste methane can be collected, cleaned and added to the existing natural gas pipeline system. They estimate that if all the country’s sewage, food, agriculture and manufacturing biowastes were used, half of all U.K. residential gas needs could be met. Burning biogas for heat and cooking offers 90 percent energy conversion efficiency, while using biogas to generate electricity is only 30 percent efficient. 
Plus: Biomass is distributed widely where people live. This makes it well-suited for use in small-scale, region-appropriate applications where using local biomass is sustainable. In Europe there has been steady growth in biomass CHP plants in which scrap materials from wood processing or agriculture are burned, while in developing countries CHP’s are often run on coconut or rice husks. In California, dairy farms are using methane from cow manure to run their dairy operations. Biogas is used extensively in China for industry, and 25 million households worldwide use biogas for cooking and lighting. 
Burning biomass and biogas is considered to be carbon neutral, since unlike fossil fuels they operate within the biospheric carbon cycle. Biomass contains carbon that would be released naturally by decomposition or burning to the atmosphere over a short period of time. Using waste sources of biogas like cow manure or landfill gas reduces emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas twenty-three times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Minus: Biomass is a renewable resource but not a particularly expandable one. Often available biomass is a waste product of other human activities, such as crop residues from agriculture, wood chips, sawdust and black liquor from wood products industries and solid waste from municipal trash and sewage. In a future, less energy-intensive agricultural system, crop residues may be needed to replenish soil fertility and won’t be available for power generation. There may also be more competition for waste products as manufacturing from recycled materials increases.
Using biomass for cooking food has contributed to deforestation in many parts of the world and it is associated with poor health and shortened lifespans, especially for women who cook with wood or charcoal in unvented spaces. Finding a substitute fuel or increasing the efficiency of cooking with wood is the goal of programs in India, China and Africa.  In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is more desirable to re-forest than to plan to use more wood as fuel.
EROEI estimates for biomass are extremely variable. Biomass is generally more efficiently used for heat than for electricity, but electricity generation from biomass can be energetically favorable if the source is harvested sustainably or is a waste product. Biogas is usually made from waste materials and utilizes decomposition, which is a low energy-input process, so it is inherently efficient.
Prospects: Wood, charcoal and agricultural residues will continue to be used around the world for cooking and heating. There is a declining amount of biomass-derived materials entering the waste stream because of increased recycling, so the prospect of expanding landfill methane capture is declining. Use of other kinds of biogas is a potential growth area. Policies that support biogas expansion exist in India and especially in China, where there is a target of increasing the number of household-scale biogas digesters from an estimated 1 million in 2006 to 45 million by 2020.
Ethanol is an alcohol made from plant material that is first broken down into sugars and then fermented. It has had a long history of use as a transportation fuel beginning with the Model T Ford. In 2007, 13.1 billion gallons of ethanol were produced globally. Thirty-eight percent of it was produced from sugar cane in Brazil, while another 50 percent was manufactured from corn in the U.S. There has been a high rate of growth in the industry, with a 15 percent annual increase in world production between 2000 and 2006. Ethanol can be substituted for gasoline, but the total quantity produced is still only a tiny fraction of the 142 trillion gallons of gasoline consumed in the U.S. each year. 
Ethanol can be blended with gasoline and used in existing cars in concentrations of up to 10 percent. For percentages higher than this modifications are needed since ethanol is more corrosive than gasoline. New cars are already being manufactured that run on 100 percent ethanol, on the 25/75 ethanol/gasoline ‘gasohol’ blend used in Brazil, or the 85/15 E85 blend found in the U.S.
In the U.S., corn ethanol has become controversial because of the problems associated with using a staple food plant like corn as a fuel and because ethanol plants run on fossil fuels. However there is also interest in making ethanol from non-food plant materials like corn fiber, wheat chaff or pine trees. An especially interesting potential feedstock is the native prairie plant switchgrass, which requires less fossil fuel input than corn and can yield 3 to 5 times as many gallons of ethanol per acre. However, making cellulosic ethanol out of these non-food feedstocks is a technology in its infancy and not yet commercial.
Potential ethanol resources are limited by the amount of land available to grow feedstock. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), using all of the corn grown in the U.S. with nothing left for food or animal feed would only displace perhaps 15 percent of U.S. gasoline demand by 2025.  Large-scale growing of switchgrass or another new cellulose crop would require finding very large acreages to cultivate them.
Plus: Ethanol has the portability and flexibility of oil and can be used in small amounts blended with gasoline in existing vehicles. The distribution infrastructure for gasoline could be gradually switched over to ethanol with very little disruption as new cars that run on higher ethanol concentrations are phased in.
Cellulosic ethanol is promising in terms of net energy return since it can be broken down using enzymes rather than needing to be heated using coal or natural gas as is the case with corn. It also has potentially less environmental impact with respect to land use and lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. The UCS reports that it has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80-90 percent compared to gasoline.  However there are still technical problems with producing cellulosic ethanol on a commercial scale that have not yet been solved.
Minus: There are approximately 45 MJ per kilogram contained in both the finished gasoline and crude oil, while ethanol has an energy density of about 26 MJ per kilogram and corn has only 16 MJ per kilogram. In general, this means that large amounts of corn must be grown and harvested to equal even a small portion of our gasoline consumption on an energy equivalent level, which will undoubtedly expand the land area that is impacted by the production process of corn-based ethanol.
Increases in corn ethanol production may have helped to drive up the price of corn around the world in 2007, contributing to a 400 percent rise in the price of tortillas in Mexico.  Ethanol and other biofuels now consume 17 percent of the world’s grain harvest.
There are climate change implications to corn ethanol production as well. If food crops are used for making transportation fuel rather than food, more land will have to go into food production somewhere else. When natural ecosystems are cleared for food or ethanol production, the result will be a ’carbon debt’ which will release 17 to 420 times more CO2 than is saved by displacing fossil fuels.  Corn-based ethanol, since fossil fuels are necessary for growing corn and converting it, is estimated to offer only a 10-25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline.  Corn ethanol also uses three to six gallons of water for every gallon of ethanol produced and has been shown to emit more air pollutants than gasoline.
EROEI: There is a range of estimates of this number for ethanol since EROEI depends on widely ranging variables such as the energy input required to get the feedstock, (high for corn and low for switchgrass and cellulose waste materials) and which process is used to convert it to alcohol.
There is even a geographic difference in energy input depending on how well suited the feedstock crop is to the region in which it is grown. For example, it has been reported on The Oil Drum (www.theoildrum.com) that there is a definite hierarchy of corn productivity by state. For example, in 2005, 173 bushels per acre (10859 kg/ha) were harvested in Iowa, while only 113 bushels per acre were harvested in Texas (7093 kg/ha). This is consistent with the general principle of gradient analysis in ecology, which states that individual plant species grow best near the middle of their gradient space; that is near the center of their range in environmental conditions such as temperature and soil moisture. The climatic conditions in Iowa are clearly at the center of corn’s gradient space. What is understood less is that corn production is also less energy-intensive at or near the center of corn’s gradient space. 
These results show diminishing returns for EROEI as the distance from Iowa increases, meaning that the geographic expansion of corn production will produce lower yields at higher costs. Ethanol production in Iowa and Texas yield very different energy balances, so that in Iowa the production of a bushel of corn costs 43 MJ, while in Texas it costs 71 MJ. Calculated EROEI’s for corn ethanol range from 1.8:1 to 1.14:1.
Ethanol from sugar cane in Brazil is calculated to have an EROEI of 8:1 to 10:1, but when made from Louisiana sugar cane in the U.S., where growing conditions are worse, the EROEI is closer to 1:1.  Estimates for the net energy of cellulose ethanol vary widely, from 2:1 to 36:1. 
Prospects: Ethanol’s future as a major transport fuel is probably dim except perhaps in Brazil, where sugar cane supplies the world’s only economically competitive ethanol industry. The political power of the corn lobby in the U.S. has kept corn ethanol subsidized and investment flowing, but its poor net energy ratio will eventually cause it to be uneconomic. The technical problems of processing cellulose for ethanol may be overcome, but land use considerations will be likely to limit the size of production.
Biodiesel. Biodiesel is a non-petroleum-based diesel fuel made by transesterification of vegetable oil or animal fat (tallow). It can be used (alone, or blended with conventional petrodiesel) in unmodified diesel-engine vehicles. Biodiesel is distinguished from the straight vegetable oil (SVO), sometimes referred to as "waste vegetable oil" (WVO), "used vegetable oil."(UVO), or "pure plant oil" (PPO). Vegetable oil can itself be used as a fuel either alone in some converted diesel vehicles, or blended with biodiesel or other fuels.
The vegetable oil used as motor fuel or in the manufacture of biodiesel is typically made from soy, rape seed ("canola"), palm, or sunflower; considerable research has been devoted to producing oil for this purpose from algae, with varying reports of success (more below). The process for making biodiesel consists of a chemical treatment of vegetable oil (transesterification) to remove glycerine, leaving long-chain alkyl (methyl, propyl or ethyl) esters.
Global biodiesel production reached about 8.2 million tons (230 million gallons) in 2006, with approximately 85 percent of biodiesel production coming from the European Union, but with rapid expansion occurring in Malaysia and Indonesia. 
In the United States, average retail (at the pump) prices, including Federal and state fuel taxes, of B2/B5 are lower than petroleum diesel by about 12 cents, and B20 blends are the same as petrodiesel. B99 and B100 generally cost more than petrodiesel except where local governments provide a subsidy.
Plus: Biodiesel has some more favorable environmental characteristics than petroleum diesel. Through its lifecycle, biodiesel emits one fifth the CO2 of petroleum diesel, contains less sulfur and leads to longer engine life.  When biodiesel is made from waste materials like used vegetable oil, many of the environmental tradeoffs entailed in the production of other biofuels become non-issues.
Minus: The most negative impact of expanding biodiesel production is the need for large amounts of land to grow oil crops. Palm oil is the most fruitful oil crop, producing 13 times the amount of oil as soybeans, the most-used biodiesel feedstock in the U.S. In Malaysia and Indonesia, rainforest is being cut to plant palm oil plantations and it has been estimated that it will take 100 years for the climate benefits of biodiesel production from each acre of land to make up for the CO2 emissions from losing the rainforest.  Palm oil production (for food as well as fuel) is driving deforestation across Southeast Asia and reducing rainforest habitat to the point where larger species, such as the orangutan, are threatened with extinction.  Soybean farming in Brazil is already putting pressure on Amazon rainforests. If soybeans begin to be used extensively for biofuels this pressure will increase.
EROEI: The first comprehensive analysis of the full life cycles of soybean biodiesel and corn grain ethanol shows that biodiesel has much less of an impact on the environment and a much higher net energy benefit than corn ethanol, but that neither can do much to meet U.S. energy demand. 
The researchers tracked all the energy used for growing corn and soybeans and converting the crops into biofuels. They also looked at how much fertilizer and pesticide corn and soybeans required and how much greenhouse gases and nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticide pollutants each released into the environment.
"Quantifying the benefits and costs of biofuels throughout their life cycles allows us not only to make sound choices today but also to identify better biofuels for the future," said Jason Hill, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of ecology, evolution, and behavior and the department of applied economics and lead author of the study. 
The study showed that both corn grain ethanol and soybean biodiesel produce more energy than is needed to grow the crops and convert them into biofuels. This finding refutes other studies claiming that these biofuels require more energy to produce than they provide. The amount of energy each returns differs greatly, however. Soybean biodiesel returns 93 percent more energy than is used to produce it, (1.93:1) while corn grain ethanol currently provides only 25 percent more energy. Other researchers have claimed that the net energy of soybean biodiesel has improved over the last decade because of increased efficiencies in farming, and calculated net energy at 3.5:1.  Palm oil biodiesel has the highest net energy, perhaps as high as 9:1. 
Prospects: Biodiesel can also be made from algae, which in turn can be grown on waste carbon sources, like the CO2 scrubbed from coal-burning power plants or sewage sludge. This is an intriguing possibility, but is still in a developmental stage. Limiting factors may be the need for large tanks, water, sunshine and thermal protection in cold climates. Saltwater rather than freshwater can be used to grow the algae, and there is optimism that this technology can be used to produce significant amounts of fuel. 
There are concerns, as with ethanol, that biodiesel crops will begin to compete with food crops for land in developing countries and raise the price of food. The need for land is the main limitation on expansion of biodiesel production and is likely to limit the scale of the industry. Biodiesel from waste oil and fats will continue to be a small and local source of fuel, while algae-growing shows promise as a sustainable, large-scale biodiesel technology.
It would be impossible to address all possible sources of energy in an overview of this nature. Some potential sources that have been discussed elsewhere in the energy literature include: Ocean thermal, "zero-point" and other "free energy" sources, space-orbiting solar collectors, He4 from the Moon, and methane hydrates. Of these, only methane hydrates has any prospect of yielding commercial amounts of energy in the foreseeable future, and that will depend upon significant technological developments to enable the harvesting of this fragile material. Methanol and Butanol are not discussed here because their properties and prospects differ little from those of other biofuels.
Thus over the course of the next decade or two, society’s energy almost certainly must come from some combination of the 17 sources above.
13. Energy Information Administration, Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Program http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/coefficients.html
14. Michael T. Klare, Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict (New York: Owl Books, 2002).
15. Energy Information Administration (EIA), World Proved Reserves of Oil and Natural Gas, Most Recent Estimates http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/reserves.html
16. Alternative Fuels Dilemma (reference incomplete; will be updated at final publication)
17. EIA, International Energy Annual 2006, Net Generation by Energy Source (2007), U.S . Energy Consumption by Energy Source (2006) http://www.eia.doe.gov/
18. Alternative Fuels Dilemma
20. M. C. Herweyer, A. Gupta, "Unconventional Oil: Tar Sands and Shale Oil", Appendix D, The Oil Drum, 2008, www.theoildrum.com/node/3839
21. World Energy Council (WEC), 2007 Survey of Energy Resources, 93, http://www.worldenergy.org/publications/survey_of_energy_resources_2007/default.asp
22. A. R. Brandt, "Net energy and greenhouse gas emissions analysis of synthetic crude oil produced from Green River oil shale," Energy and Resources Group Working Paper, (University of California, Berkeley, 2006).
23. WEC, 2007 Survey of Energy Resources, 235; EIA, U.S. Nuclear Generation of Electricity, 2007; Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), "Renewables 2007: Global Status Report," 9, http://www.ren21.net/
24. EnergyWatch Group, Uranium Resources and Nuclear Energy, 2006.
25. Robert Powers, "The Energy Return of Nuclear Power," Appendix F, The Oil Drum, 2008, http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3877
26. WEC 2007 Survey of Energy Resources, 272;REN21, "Renewables 2007: Global Status Report," EIA, World Net Generation of Electricity by Type, 2005.
27. WEC 2007 Survey of Energy Resources, 479; Joe Provey, "Wind: Embracing America’s Fastest-Growing Form of Renewable Energy," www.alternet.org/environment/118047/wind:_embracing_america's_fastest-growing_form_of_renewable_energy/
28. Christina L. Archer, Mark Z. Jacobson, "Evaluation of Global Wind Power," J. Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 2005, http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/winds/global_winds.html
29. EIA, "Technology Choices for New U.S. Generating Capacity: Levelized Cost Calculations." International Energy Outlook 2006, http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/archive/ieo06/special_topics.html
30. Ida Kubisewski and Cutler Cleveland, "Energy from Wind: A Discussion of the EROI Research," The Oil Drum, http://www.theoildrum.com/node/1863
31. WEC 2007 Survey of Energy Resources, 381, Ken Zweibel, James Mason and Vasilis Fthenakis, "A Solar Grand Plan", Scientific American, December 2007, http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan
32. European Photovoltaic Technology Platform, http://www.eupvplatform.org/index.php?id=47
33. Erik A. Alsema and Mariska J. de Wild-Scholten, "Environmental Impacts of Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaic Module Production," 13th CIRP Intern. Conf. on Life Cycle Engineering, 2006, http://www.ecn.nl/docs/library/report/2006/rx06041.pdf
34. Charles A.S. Hall, "The Energy Return of (Industrial) Solar – Passive Solar, PV, Wind and Hydro," Appendix G-2: Photovoltaics, The Oil Drum, http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3910
35. Ibid., Table: EROEI for various PV systems (ranging from commercially available to theoretical), calculated between 2000 and 2008.
36. Graham Jesmer, "The US Utility-scale Solar Picture," Renewable Energy World.com, http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2009/02/the-us-utility-scale-solar-picture
37. Ibid.; Tom Standing, "Arizona Solar Power Project Calculations," The Oil Drum, http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4911#more
38. Kallistia Giermek, "The Energy Return of (Industrial) Solar – Passive Solar, PV, Wind and Hydro," Appendix G-1: Passive Solar, Chart: historical timeline of passive solar energy, 5th century to 2006, The Oil Drum, http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3910
40. Ibid., Table 1: energy savings at various locations (with date, type and size of building indicated) for the daylighting technique.
41. Ibid.,Table 2: energy savings at various locations (with date, techniques, monetary savings, and cost indicated) for the passive solar heating technique.
43. UK Timber Frame Association, "Timber Frame takes the Passivhaus tour," Buildingtalk.com, http://www.buildingtalk.com/news/tim/tim140.html
44. REN21, "Renewables 2007: Global Status Report," http://www.ren21.net
45. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Future of Geothermal Energy (Idaho National Laboratory, 2006), http://geothermal.inel.gov/publications/future_of_geothermal_energy.pdf
46. Patrick Hughes, Geothermal (Ground-Source) Heat Pumps: Market Status, Barriers to Adoption and Actions to Overcome Barriers (Oak Ridge National Laboratory ORNL-232, 2008)
47. Daniel Halloran, Geothermal (SUNY-ESF, Syracuse NY), online 2008 http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3949)
48. REN21, "Renewables 2007: Global Status Report," http://www.ren21.net
49. "Energy Source: Tidal Power," The Pembina Institute, http://re.pembina.org/sources/tidal
50. World Energy Council, 1993.
51. WEC 2007 Survey of Energy Resources, 543.
52. Daniel Halloran, Wave Energy: Potential, EROI, and Social and Environmental Impacts (SUNY-ESF, Syracuse NY), online 2008. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3949)
53. WEC 2007 Survey of Energy Resources, 333.
54. REN21, "Renewables 2007: Global Status Report," http://www.ren21.net
55. "Energy from Biomass," bioenergie.de, http://www.bio-energie.de/cms35/Biomass.393.0.html
56. "FAO Facts & Figures," Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations, http://www.fao.org/forestry/30515/en/
57. WEC 2007 Survey of Energy Resources, 333.
58. "Net Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Biomass and Other Renewable Generators, USA Biomass, http://www.usabiomass.org/
59. David Ehrlich,"Putting Biogas into the Pipelines," earth2tech.com, http://earth2tech.com/2009/02/03/putting-biogas-into-the-pipelines/, "’Gone Green’ a Scenario for 2020", nationalgrid.com, http://www.nationalgrid.com/NR/rdonlyres/554D4B87-75E2-4AC7-B222-6B40836249B5/26663/GoneGreenfor2020.pdf
60. REN21, "Renewables 2007: Global Status Report," http://www.ren21.net
62. Statistics, Renewable Fuels Association, http://www.ethanolrfa.org/industry/statistics/
63. EIA, Petroleum Basic Statistics, http://www.eia.doe.gov/basics/quickoil.html
64. "The Truth about Ethanol," Union of Concerned Scientists, http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/technologies_and_fuels/biofuels/the-truth-about-ethanol.html
66. "Mexicans stage tortilla protest," BBC News online, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6319093.stm
67. Joseph Fargione, Jason Hill, David Tilman, Stephen Polasky and Peter Hawthorne, "Land Clearing and the Biofuel Debt," Science, February 7, 2008, http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1152747
68. Richard Lance Christie, "The Renewable Deal: Chapter 5: Biofuels," Earth Restoration Portal, 2008, http://www.manyone.net/EarthRestorationPortal/articles/view/131998/?topic=9481
69. "The Effect of NaturalGradients on the Net Energy Profits from Corn Ethanol", The Oil Drum, http://netenergy.theoildrum.com/node/4910#more
70. Charles A.S. Hall, in comments on "Provisional Results from EROEI Assessments," The Oil Drum, http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3810
71. "Biofuels for Transportation," Worldwatch Institute, 2006, http://www.worldwatch.org/system/files/EBF008_1.pdf
72. REN21, "Renewables 2007: Global Status Report," http://www.ren21.net
73. Cost for biodiesel: reference incomplete; will be updated for final publication.
74. Richard Lance Christie, "The Renewable Deal: Chapter 5: Biofuels," Earth Restoration Portal, 2008, http://www.manyone.net/EarthRestorationPortal/articles/view/131998/?topic=9481
76. Rhett A. Butler, "Orangutan should become symbol of palm-oil opposition," Mongabay.com, http://news.mongabay.com/2008/0102-palm_oil.html
77. Jason Hill, Erik Nelson, David Tilman, Stephen Polasky and Douglas Tiffany, "Environmental, economic, and energetic costs and benefits of biodiesel and ethanol biofuels," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 25, 2006, Vol 103. http://www.pnas.org/content/103/30/11206.abstract?
78. "Soybean biodiesel has higher net energy benefit than corn ethanol—study," Mongabay.com, http://news.mongabay.com/2006/0711-umn.html
79. "Biodiesel proven to have a significantly positive net energy ratio," Biodiesel Now, http://www.biodieselnow.com/blogs/general_biodiesel/archive/2008/02/07/biodiesel-proven-to-have-a-significant-positive-net-energy-ratio.aspx
80. "Biofuels for Transportation: Global Potential and Implications for Sustainable Agriculture and Energy in the 21st Century," Worldwatch Institute, 2006.
81. Michael Briggs, "Widespread Biodiesel Production from Algae," UNH Biodiesel Group (University of New Hampshire, 2004), http://www.unh.edu/p2/biodiesel/article_alge.html
The author wishes to acknowledge the contributions of Suzanne Doyle to research and the contribution of some writing, to Alina Xu of International Forum on Globalization who compiled a previous summary of data of which this is an expansion, and to Dr. Charles Hall and his students (principally David Murphy) at SUNY-Syracuse, whose work on net energy was the inspiration for this document.
Next month: Combining energy sources; Conclusions: The Case for Conservation.