Economic growth over the past 40 years has used increasing quantities of fossil energy, and most importantly oil. Yet, our ability to increase the global supply of conventional crude oil much beyond current levels is doubtful, which may pose a problem for continued economic growth. Our research indicates that, due to the depletion of conventional, and hence cheap, crude oil supplies (i.e., peak oil), increasing the supply of oil in the future would require exploiting lower quality resources (i.e., expensive), and thus could occur only at high prices. This situation creates a system of feedbacks that can be aptly described as an economic growth paradox: increasing the oil supply to support economic growth will require high oil prices that will undermine that economic growth. From this we conclude that the economic growth of the past 40 years is unlikely to continue in the long term unless there is some remarkable change in how we manage our economy.
Keywords: economic growth; peak oil; EROI; Hubbert; net energy』
Economic growth and business cycles from an energy perspective
Peak oil and net energy
Summary of peak oil
Critiques of peak oil theory and our response
Energy return on investment and net energy
Summary of net energy
Peak oil, net energy, and oil price
Conflicts of interest
Figure 15. Estimations of the cost of oil production for various locations and types of resources around the world. Data from CERA.
Figure 16. Oil production costs from various sources as a function of the EROI of those sources. The dotted lines represent the real oil price averaged over both recessions and expansions during the period from 1970 through 2008. EROI data for oil sands come from Murphy and Hall, the EROI values for both Saudi Crude and ultradeep water were interpolated from other EROI data in
Murphy and Hall, data on the EROI of average global oil production are from Gagnon et al., and the data on the cost of production come from CERA.
Figure 17. Division of the age of oil into three eras.
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