PROS AND CONS OF CURRENT ENERGY SOURCES: SUMMARY TABLES

Note: I am not an expert in this field.  I developed these tables simply because I could find no similar
simple, overall summary developed by experts.  The data in the tables are my rough estimates. 

What is most disconcerting is that there is no alternative energy source that comes close to the
energy advantages of oil, especially with respect to its energy density and its "net energy" (EROEI --
energy returned on energy invested).

 Point values: 

5 - Very Good
4 - Good
3 - Medium
2 - Poor
1 - Very Poor

  

 

EROEI*(estimated
EROEI in parens)

Energy
Density

Easily Stored

Easily Transported

Safety

Easily
Used for
Transport-ation

Low Infrast-ructure Costs

Summary
Score
(Average)

 

NON- RENEWALBE, FINITE ENERGY SOURCES:

Oil

5 (20)

5

5

5

4

5

5

4.8

 

Coal

3   (9)

4

4

4

5

2

3

3.5

 

Natural Gas

5 (20)

4

3

2

2

2

4

3.1

 

Nuclear

1  (4)

5

5

5

3

2

2

3.3

 

RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES:

Hydro (dams)

4 (11)

3

5

1

3

2

3

3.0

 

Wind

3 (7?)

2

2

2

5

2

4

2.8

 

Solar PV

3 (5)

2

2

2

5

2

4

2.8

 

Biomass
Ethanol

1(1.3)

4

4

4

4

4

4

3.5

 

Geo-
thermal

2 (6)

3

2

1

4

2

3

2.4

 

Ocean

waves / tides

2 (?)

3

2

1

4

2

2 (?)

2.3

 

*EROEI:  "Energy Returned on Energy Invested."   Approximate EROEI values are in parenthesis.
E.g., a score of 2 means that twice as much energy is returned as energy invested.  For example,
with an oil EROEI of 20, it would take one barrel of oil ("invested") to produce 20 barrels of oil ('returned").
Reference source for EROEI figures: 
http://eroei.com/eval/net_energy_list.htm 

Also, see article on energy density here.

POTENTIAL AS A FUTURE, LONG TERM ENERGY SOURCE:

  

 

Summary
Score (from previous table)

Low
depletion
rate

Low
Greenhouse
Gases

Low
Future
Costs

Summary

Score
(Average)

NON- RENEWALBE, FINITE ENERGY SOURCES:

 

Oil

4.8

2

2

2.7

Coal

3.5

3   

1

3

2.6

Natural Gas

3.1

1

2

1

1.8

Nuclear

3.3

2

5

2

2.8

RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES:

 

Hydro (dams)

3.0

3

5

3

3.5

Wind

2.8

5

5

5

4.5

Solar PV

2.8

5

5

5

4.5

Biomass
Ethanol

3.5

3

3

3

2.8

Geo-
thermal

2.4

4

5

4

3.9

Ocean

waves / tides

2.3

5

5

3

3.8

      

 

RANK ORDERING OF RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES
(based on the above tables):

For more discussion about the pros and cons of various forms of
energy, see:

Energy in a Nutshell, by Alice Friedemann. Also see
Peak Oil and Alternative Energy -- why there is no good alternative to oil
(in terms of net energy). 

Peak Oil: Alternatives, Renewables, And Impact, by Clifford Wirth, Ph.D.


Energy Grades and Historic Economic Growth, by oil and energy
economist Douglas Reynolds.
 "In our own day, we must eventually
move to lower grade energy resources as we slowly run out of oil.
Therefore, we might expect the transition from oil to oil alternatives
to be a decisively less successful energy transition than previous
energy transitions in history, since all the previous transitions were
from low grade to high grade energy resources, and the coming oil
transition is from a high energy resource of oil to lower grade energy resources."

 

Tables and graphs developed by Dr. Michael E. Mills, Loyola Marymount
University.  Also see his Evolutionary Psychology and Peak Oil page.

 

Other relevant graphics:

 


Source:  http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/dayart/20080503/biofuels_compare.gif

 

Source:  http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3949