Aspects of energy transitions: history and determinants
O'Connor, Peter Albert
MetadataShow full item record
Energy intensity in the U.S. from 1780 to 2010 shows a declining trend when traditional energy is included, in contrast to the "inverted U-curve" seen when only commercial energy is considered. The analysis quantifies use of human and animal muscle power, wind and water power, biomass, harvested ice, fossil fuels, and nuclear power. Historical prices are provided for many energy resources. The analysis reaffirms the importance of innovation in conversion technologies in energy transitions. An increase in energy intensity in the early 20th century is explained by diminishing returns to pre-electric manufacturing systems, which produced a transformation in manufacturing. In comparison to similar studies for other countries, the U.S. has generally higher energy intensity. A population-weighted series of heating degree days and cooling degree days partially explains differences in energy intensity. Series are developed for 231 countries and territories with multiple reference temperatures, with a "wet-bulb" series accounting for the effects of humidity. Other variables considered include energy prices, income per capita, and governance indices. A panel regression of thirty-two countries from 1995 to 2010 establishes GDP per capita and share of primary energy as determinants of energy intensity, but fails to establish statistical significance of the climate variables. A group mean regression finds average heating and cooling degree days to be significant predictors of average energy intensity over the study period, increasing energy intensity by roughly 1.5 kJ per 2005 international dollar for each annual degree day. Group mean regression results explain differences in countries' average energy intensity, but not changes within a country over time. Energy Return on Investment (EROI) influences the economic competitiveness and environmental impacts of an energy resource and is one driver of energy transitions. The EROI of U.S. petroleum production has declined since 1972, with a partial rebound in the 1980s and 1990s. External Energy Return (EER), which excludes the consumption of energy from within the resource, falls by two-thirds from 1972 to 2007. A literature review finds the projected EROI of oil shale to be much lower than the EROI of U.S. petroleum production.