Energy & Our Economy: An Evening With Systems Ecologist Charles Hall
The Business and Sustainability Studies programs at Colorado Mountain College, along with Bud Werner Memorial Library, present an evening with systems ecologist Dr. Charles A. S. Hall, a pioneer in the emerging field of biophysical economics. His talk, “Peak Oil, Declining Net Energy Yields, and Your Financial Future,” will address the interface between our energy system and the economy.
Dr. Hall comes to Steamboat Springs via a stop in Denver at the 125th Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America, where he will be presenting alongside a distinguished group of geologists and financial analysts and others who are studying fossil fuel energy constraints.
About Dr. Hall’s talk ~ “Peak Oil, Declining Net Energy Yields, and Your Financial Future”
For the past 150 years, economics has been treated as a social science in which economies are modeled as a circular flow of income between producers and consumers. In this 'perpetual motion' of interactions between firms that produce and households that consume, little or no accounting is given of the flow of energy and materials from the environment and back again; in the standard economic model, energy and matter are completely recycled in these transactions and economic activity is seemingly exempt from the second law of thermodynamics. As we enter the second half of the age of oil, and as energy supplies and the environmental impacts of energy production and consumption become major issues on the world stage, this exemption appears illusory at best.
Peak oil, the concept that world oil production has reached a maximum and will enter terminal decline, is now a reality or nearly so (e.g., U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2009), and we must revise our economic assumptions. It is again time to ask why economics should be a social science alone when in fact it is about the production, transportation and consumption of things, all of which is embedded in the biophysical world, is dependent on the use of energy, and is a major cause of impacts on local and global scales.
About the speaker
Charles A.S. Hall is a Systems Ecologist who received his PhD under Howard T. Odum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Hall is the author or editor of 11 books and some 300 scholarly articles, and was awarded last year, among other honors, the distinguished Hubbert-Simmons Prize for Energy Education. He is best known for his development of the concept of EROI, or energy return on investment, which is an examination of how organisms, including humans, invest energy into obtaining additional energy to improve biotic or social fitness. He has applied these approaches to fish migrations, carbon balance, tropical land use change and the extraction of petroleum and other fuels in both natural and human-dominated ecosystems. Presently he is developing a new field, biophysical economics, as a supplement or alternative to conventional neoclassical economics, while applying systems and EROI thinking to a broad series of resource and economic issues.
In his latest book, Energy and the Wealth of Nations, Hall and co-author Kent Klitgaard explore the relationship between energy and the wealth explosion of the 20th century, the failure of markets to recognize or efficiently allocate diminishing resources, the economic consequences of peak oil, the EROI for finding and exploiting new oil fields, and whether alternative energy technologies such as wind and solar power meet the minimum EROI requirements needed to run our society as we know it.
Off the Beaten Path Bookstore will be on site with copies of Charles Hall’s book, Energy and the Wealth of Nations: Understanding the Biophysical Economy, for sales and author signing after the talk.