>Energy accounting is really an old story and I think outgrew its usefulness
>a while back. It is not really surprising to discover that 'primitive'
>agriculturalists are energy efficient, nor does it take a degree in rocket
>science to see that industrial agriculture spends far more calories in
>fossil fuels than it generates in food energy.
For whom has its usefulness been outgrown? It seems energy accounting
continues to be a very useful tool (among many tools of course) for
determining sustainability. Organic farming is an old story too, by
the way. But also a more efficient system of agriculture.
>These studies are interesting, as far as they go, but one is left with a
>feeling of "So what?
So, shouldn't people be encouraged to shift from very inefficient to
more energy-efficient systems?
>A problem arises whenever we postulate a single yardtstick to measure all
>aspects of a complex system such as an agroecosystem. It may be
>intellectually attractive but it inevitably violates the complexity of the
Certainly not a single yardstick, but one of many.
>of sweet potato or even a kilocalorie of human effort. If we were going to
>use a single yardstick we might as well stick to money as it reflects the
>social and politcal aspects more accurately.
The energy yardstick is certainly much better than the monetary
yardstick. Monetary measures are easily manipulated and often
meaningless (as GNP, which adds up positive and negative factors).
Banks, corrupt governments and counterfeiters just create money and
muck up the full-cost accounting system. You can't cheat the energy
yardstick this way.
Still, a single yardstick for everything isn't a good idea.
>accessible to all, not just 'cheap' food, be that energy cheap or money
>cheap. It has become clear that quality is not be measured along a single
One way of measuring quality is when the energy source matches the
energy application: ie. if you need warm water for bathing, you don't
need a 1000-degree temp, that will turn water to steam, to turn a
turbine that will generate electricity a hundred miles away, brought
into your house, that will then power a water heater to make your bath
water a few tens of degrees warmer. There's a lot of mismatches in
Another indicator of quality is if it is renewable (like solar, wind,
etc.) Fossil-based energy sources certainly aren't.
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