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Energy return on (energy) invested (EROI), oil prices, and energy transitions

Heun M.K. ; De Wit, M. (2012)


Very little work has been done so far to model, test, and understand the relationship between oil prices and EROI over time. This paper investigates whether a declining EROI is associated with an increasing oil price and speculates on the implications of these results on oil policy. A model of the relationship between EROI and oil market prices was developed using basic economic and physical assumptions and non-linear least-squares regression models to correlate oil production price with EROI using available data from 1954-1996. The model accurately reflects historical oil prices (1954-1996), and it correlates well with historical oil prices (1997-2010) if a linear extrapolation of EROI decline is assumed. As EROI declines below 10, highly non-linear oil price movements are observed. Increasing physical oil scarcity is already providing market signals that would stimulate a transition away from oil toward alternative energy sources. But, price signals of physical oil scarcity are not sufficient to guarantee smooth transitions to alternative fuel sources, especially when there is insufficient oil extraction technology development, a declining mark-up ratio, a non-linear EROI-cost of production relationship, and a nonlinear EROI-price relationship. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

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