Energy Crisis Booklist: EROEI, Peak oil, Peak coal, Peak natural gas, Nuclear, Kerogen, Methane hydrates

Preface. Civilization is utterly dependent on fossil fuels for heavy-duty transportation (batteries are too heavy to scale up to trucks). Electricity is too intermittent, unpredictable, and sometimes absent for weeks to fulfill many of societies needs, and consequently, no one has even devised electric processes to  replace how fossil fuels are used.

For example, the high heat of fossil fuels is essential for manufacturing, to make metals such as iron and steel in fossil-fueled blast furnaces & cement in kilns that run around the clock for decades and form the backbone of civilization. Also dependent on fossils are industries using continuous processing that run 24 x 7 where any interruption would clog up pipes and bring manufacturing to a halt.  Nor can electricity replace the over 500,000 products made with fossil fuels as their feedstock (such as plastics, paint, chemicals, fertilizer, clothing).   And electricity itself mainly runs on fossil fuels (66% in the U.S.).   Yet here we are on the cusp of peak oil, coal, and natural gas with little time left to prepare (society needs at least 10-20 years according to Hirsch in his 2005 study for the Department of Energy below).

More booklists

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer & “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report


  1. Charles Hall, Energy & the Wealth of Nations: Understanding the Biophysical economy,  2011
  2. Alice Friedemann. When Trucks stop running: Energy and the future of transportation. 2015. Springer.
  3. M. Klare. The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources. 2013.
  4. Charles. Hall. Hydrocarbons & the Evolution of Human Culture. 2003. Nature 426.
  5. J. Perlin, A Forest Journey: The Role of Wood in the Development of Civilization, 2005.
  6. C. Ponting, A New Green History of the World: The Environment & the Collapse of Great Civilizations, 2007
  7. R. Heinberg. The End of Growth. Adapting to our New Economic Reality. 2011.
  8. W. Youngquist, Geodestinies: The Inevitable Control of Earth Resources over Nations & Individuals, 1997
  9. D. Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, 1993.
  10. G. Hardin, Living Within Limits: Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos, 1995
  11. D. Pimentel, Food, Energy, and Society, 1996

Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI)

  1. P. Prieto & Charles A. S. Hall. 2013. Spain’s Photovoltaic Revolution. The Energy Return on Investment. Springer.
  2. D. Murphy. The Net Hubbert Curve: What Does it Mean? 2009.
  3. J. Lambert. EROI of Global Energy Resources Preliminary Status and Trends.  State  University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry. 2012.
  4. C. Hall. What is the Minimum EROI that a Sustainable Society Must Have? 2009.
  5. D. Murphy, Energy return on investment, peak oil, and the end of economic growth, 2011.

Peak Oil

  1. Kerr, R. Peak oil began 2005 Science Magazine: Peak Oil Production May Already Be Here. Outside of OPEC’s vast resources, oil production has leveled off, and it’s looking like it may never rise again.  Science. 25 March 2011. Vol 331: 1510-11
  2. Murray, J. Peak Oil began 2005 Nature Magazine: Oil’s tipping point has passed.   26 January 2012. Nature vol 481: 433-35.
  3. Fantazzini, Dean; et al. 2011. Global oil risks in the early 21st century. Energy Policy, Vol. 39, Issue 12: 7865-7873
  4. A. Friedemann. Why do political and economic leaders deny Peak Oil and Climate Change? 2012.
  5. German peak oil report: Armed Forces, Capabilities and Technologies in the 21st Century Environmental Dimensions of Security. PEAK OIL Security policy implications of scarce resources. Bundeswehr Transformation Centre, Future Analysis Branch. 2010.
  6. K. Cobb. The only true metric of energy abundance: The rate of flow. 2013.
  7. R. Hirsch.  Peaking of World Oil Production.  Department of Energy. 2005.
  8. T. Patzek. Oil in the Arctic. 2012. 
  9. R. Patterson. March 5, 2015. Peak Russia + Peak USA means Peak World
  10. M. Simmons. Twilight in the Desert: the coming Saudi oil shock & the world economy. 2005
  11. K. Deffeyes. Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert’s Peak. 2005
  12. K. Deffeyes. Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage. 2005
  13. R. Heinberg & D. Fridley. The End of cheap coal…reserves will run out faster than many believe. 18 Nov 2010, Vol 460, Nature 2010 pp 367-69

Peak Coal

  1. Wang, J. September 4, 2013. Chinese coal supply and future production outlooks [peak likely in 2024]. Energy 60: 204-214.
  2. R. Heinberg. The End of Cheap Coal. Nature 468. 18 Nov 2010.
  3. A. Friedemann. Coal: why it can’t easily substitute for oil. 2011.
  4. T. Patzek. A global coal production forecast with multi-Hubbert cycle analysis.  Energy. 2010.
  5. R. Heinberg. Blackout. Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis. 2009
  6. A. Friedemann. Peak Coal is already here or likely by 2020 — if true — IPCC 100 year projections too high? 2013.
  7. New York Academy of Sciences. Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal.  2011 pp 73-98
  8. R. Heinberg. Blackout. Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis  2009

Peak Natural Gas

  1. D. Hughes. Oct 27, 2014. Drilling Deeper. A reality check on U.S. government forecasts for a lasting tight oil & shale gas boom.  PostCarbon
  2. B. Powers. Cold, hungry, and in the Dark: Exploding the Natural Gas Supply Myth. 2013
  3. D. Hughes. April 28, 2015. Has Well Productivity Peaked in the Nation’s Largest Shale Gas Play?
  4. SBC. October 2014. Factbook Natural Gas. [20-40% of recoverable resources are low EROI Sour Gas] SBC Energy Institute
  5. R. Heinberg. Chapter 5 of How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future: The Economics of Fracking: Who Benefits? October 2013.
  6. A. Friedemann. Shale Oil and Gas Will Not Save Us. 2012.
  7. A. Friedemann. Natural Gas pros and cons. 2011.

Peak Uranium

Oil substitutes

Nuclear Power

Nuclear Waste

Tar Sands a.k.a. oil sands

  1. Nikiforuk, A. 22 May 2013. Difficult Truths about ‘Difficult Oil’. As we work down the hydrocarbon pyramid, energy gets messier and much more costly.
  2. Nuwer, R. Feb 19, 2013. Oil Sands Mining Uses Up Almost as Much Energy as It Produces. InsideClimate News.
  3. A. Friedemann. Why Oilsands (a.k.a. tarsands) can’t replace oil. 2011.

Kerogen a.k.a. Shale Oil

  1. A. Friedemann. Shale Oil Overview. 2011.
  2. R. Udall. The Illusive Bonanza: Oil Shale in Colorado. 2005.

Methane Hydrates

  1. A. Friedemann. Why we aren’t mining methane hydrates now. Or ever. 2014.
  2. C. Nelder. Are Methane Hydrates Really Going to Change Geopolitics?  The Atlantic.  2013.
  3. Office of Naval Research Science & Technology. Fiery ice from the Sea. 2002.

IPCC models assume exponential consumption of fossils until 2400

Other scientists who realize that we are on the cusp of energy decline have plugged in realistic amounts of fossils and found we don’t have enough oil, coal, or natural gas left for a hothouse 8.5 future, at worst 4.5 to 5.5 for 500 to several thousand years.

Tang, X. 2013. Depletion of fossil fuels and anthropogenic climate change: a review. Energy Policy, 52: 797-809

Short term solutions for energy decline

  • R. L. Hirsch. Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management       2005
  • Howard Bucknell III.  Energy and the National Defense. 1981
  • Department of Energy.  Standby Gasoline Rationing Plan. 1980

FYI, I have two articles published on biofuels here:

  • Sheila Newman (ed)   The Final Energy Crisis           2008
  • Jacqueline Langwith, ed.        Opposing Viewpoints: Renewable Energy, vol. 2      2008
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7 Responses to Energy Crisis Booklist: EROEI, Peak oil, Peak coal, Peak natural gas, Nuclear, Kerogen, Methane hydrates

  1. RobM says:

    I’m wondering if there is a mistake in your concluding math. Humans consume about 18TW of which about 1/3 is oil which equals 6TW. Taking nuclear as an example at 1GW per plant, we would need 6000 plants to replace oil, not 130,000. It won’t surprise me if you are correct and I’ve made a mistake here.

    • david higham says:

      Yes.The last paragraph is incorrect. The wikipedia article ‘Cubic Mile
      of Oil’ has been inadvertently stated incorrectly here. A reading of that article will explain the correct numbers. For example,the wikipedia number is 52 nuclear plants for 50 years,giving a TOTAL
      of 2,600. (not 2,600 per year).

      • energyskeptic says:

        The chart clearly states that you must build 52 nuclear plants per year for 50 years OR four three-gorges dams per year for 50 years OR… The OR’s are important. Presumably you could build smaller numbers of each proportionally as well. However, since my book “When Trucks Stop Running” shows that we can’t have a 100% electric grid and that heavy-duty transportation can’t run on electricity, it doesn’t matter. But I like the Cubic Mile of Oil a lot because most people have no idea how powerful oil is or the scale we’re using it at. No matter how techno-optimistic, this should give pause to anyone who thinks a transition is easy, or even possible.

    • energyskeptic says:

      I don’t ever say 130,000. Goldstein says 10,000 regular plants, Mesarovic 24,000 breeders. I should check their calculations. I first wrote this in 2006.

      Goodstein, D. April 29, 2005. Transcript of The End of the Age of Oil talk

      Mesarovic, Mihajlo, et al. 1974. Mankind at the Turning Point. The Second Club of Rome Report. E.P. Dutton, 1974 pp. 132-135

  2. Bill Fischer says:

    1 BOE = 1.6282 MWh
    World oil production 95Mb/d=154.679MWh/d=6.44MW(h/h)
    US oil production 19.396Mb/d=1.316MW

    If we could freely substitute electricity energy for oil energy, we would only need 6400 1GW nuclear plants worldwide, 1300 in the U.S, to replace current usage. (For US, that would be only one every other week for 50 years. Are we not already building and commissioning close to that? Is fake media simply failing to report it. Somebody tell Fox.) However, the key word here may be “replace”. As Alice has shown so well, especially regarding trucks and other heavy equipment, electricity does not equal oil.

    • energyskeptic says:

      Exactly. Electricity can’t substitute for oil in transportation. Or coal and natural gas and oil in manufacturing – there is no electrical process for blast furnaces to make cement and steel & iron, etc. If there were an electrical process, it needs to run 24 x 7 x 365 for 20 years. Not gonna happen without massive energy storage, and there’s no technology in sight to do that. Or for natural gas fertilizer, which is how we can grow 5 times more food to feed 7.5 billion people.

  3. Trmist says:

    Wow that many books on such a dreary subjects is impressive. I have read a lot of non-fiction feeding my desire to understand what’s happening in the wider world. However I often get discouraged with projections and the great toll all us will pay in the transition to a more modest energy lifestyle. You mentioned giving up on reading fiction in the prior post. I recently embraced speculative fiction as the genre provides insights on how things might play out. We are in quite a predicament, almost hopeless. My goal is to make choices that will ease the burden for those I care about after peak oil asserts itself. Thanks for sharing you knowledge and findings.