This is a guest post by Roger Brown, known as Roger K , whose graduate work was in physics. In reading about net energy and EROEI, he realized that energy balance alone is insufficient for characterizing the economics of energy production. In this post, he develops a multi-variable approach to account for the cost of other production resources. This post is the first publication of his innovative ideas.
Labor Cost of Energy
In order to produce an economic output, you have to invest production resources. At a minimum some amount of human labor must be invested. There is no such thing as a labor-free production process. Even if you lived in a sparsely inhabited tropical paradise filled with streams jumping with large tasty fish and heavily laden fruit trees growing profusely in the natural forests, you would still have to spend some amount of time gathering fruit and fish.
If you could gather all the food you needed for a single day in a half hour of work, then your food would be very cheap. If you lived in a less productive natural environment and had to spend eight hours a day gathering all of the food you needed, then your food would be very expensive.