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Sustainability, Volume 3, Issue 10 (October 2011), Pages 1637-2049

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Editorial

Jump to: Research, Review

Open AccessEditorial Introduction to Special Issue on New Studies in EROI (Energy Return on Investment)
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1773-1777; doi:10.3390/su3101773
Received: 10 August 2011 / Accepted: 17 August 2011 / Published: 7 October 2011
Cited by 17 | PDF Full-text (53 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Energy Return on Investment (EROI) refers to how much energy is returned from one unit of energy invested in an energy-producing activity. It is a critical parameter for understanding and ranking different fuels. There were a number of studies on EROI three [...] Read more.
Energy Return on Investment (EROI) refers to how much energy is returned from one unit of energy invested in an energy-producing activity. It is a critical parameter for understanding and ranking different fuels. There were a number of studies on EROI three decades ago but relatively little work since. Now there is a whole new interest in EROI as fuels get increasingly expensive and as we attempt to weigh alternative energies against traditional ones. This special volume brings together a whole series of high quality new studies on EROI, as well as many papers that struggle with the meaning of changing EROI and its impact on our economy. One overall conclusion is that the quality of fuels is at least as important in our assessment as is the quantity. I argue that many of the contemporary changes in our economy are related directly to changing EROI as our premium fuels are increasingly depleted. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Studies in EROI (Energy Return on Investment))
Open AccessEditorial A Summary on the Special Issue “Sustainability of Groundwater”
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1792-1795; doi:10.3390/su3101792
Received: 5 October 2011 / Accepted: 7 October 2011 / Published: 10 October 2011
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (44 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
One of the most common denominators for almost any form of life is the existential need for water. This need has recently received much attention in the frame of sustainability discussions [1,2]. In addition, environmental sustainability and safe access to fresh water [...] Read more.
One of the most common denominators for almost any form of life is the existential need for water. This need has recently received much attention in the frame of sustainability discussions [1,2]. In addition, environmental sustainability and safe access to fresh water is one of the eight United Nation’s millennium development goals, and ultimately most conditions of life rely on water. Expected higher water demands for irrigation, industrial and household purposes outline the need for more investment in freshwater characterization and quantification. In addition, factors including climate change, large-scale reservoirs, re-channelling of streams, expansion of urban centres as well as chemical and microbial loading need to be taken into account. [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability of Groundwater)

Research

Jump to: Editorial, Review

Open AccessArticle Modeling Evacuate versus Shelter-in-Place Decisions in Wildfires
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1662-1687; doi:10.3390/su3101662
Received: 29 July 2011 / Revised: 16 September 2011 / Accepted: 16 September 2011 / Published: 29 September 2011
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (310 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Improving community resiliency to wildfire is a challenging problem in the face of ongoing development in fire-prone regions. Evacuation and shelter-in-place are the primary options for reducing wildfire casualties, but it can be difficult to determine which option offers the most protection [...] Read more.
Improving community resiliency to wildfire is a challenging problem in the face of ongoing development in fire-prone regions. Evacuation and shelter-in-place are the primary options for reducing wildfire casualties, but it can be difficult to determine which option offers the most protection in urgent scenarios. Although guidelines and policies have been proposed to inform this decision, a formal approach to evaluating protective options would help advance protective-action theory. We present an optimization model based on the premise that protecting a community can be viewed as assigning threatened households to one of three actions: evacuation, shelter-in-refuge, or shelter-in-home. While evacuation generally offers the highest level of life protection, it can place residents at greater risk when little time is available. This leads to complex trade-offs involving expected fire intensity, available time, and the quality and accessibility of in-place shelter. An application of the model is presented to illustrate a range of issues that can arise across scenarios. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable Development)
Open AccessArticle Inserting Ecological Detail into Economic Analysis: Agricultural Nutrient Loading of an Estuary Fishery
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1688-1722; doi:10.3390/su3101688
Received: 5 August 2011 / Accepted: 7 September 2011 / Published: 30 September 2011
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (475 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Linked general equilibrium economic and ecological models are connected through agricultural runoff and the fisheries. They are applied to a North Carolina estuary in which agricultural runoff alters phytoplankton densities and the resulting hypoxia leads to diminished fisheries. The effects of hypoxia [...] Read more.
Linked general equilibrium economic and ecological models are connected through agricultural runoff and the fisheries. They are applied to a North Carolina estuary in which agricultural runoff alters phytoplankton densities and the resulting hypoxia leads to diminished fisheries. The effects of hypoxia on multiple species across space are analyzed and the joint economic and ecosystem wide response to a policy of reduced runoff is quantified. The approach provides an assessment of changes in ecological welfare (in terms of species populations) and economic welfare (in terms of equivalent variations) following reductions in runoff. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Resource Economics)
Open AccessArticle Potential Impact of Biotechnology on Adaption of Agriculture to Climate Change: The Case of Drought Tolerant Rice Breeding in Asia
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1723-1741; doi:10.3390/su3101723
Received: 2 August 2011 / Revised: 14 September 2011 / Accepted: 19 September 2011 / Published: 30 September 2011
Cited by 12 | PDF Full-text (177 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In Asia and Africa the poor tend to live in marginal environments where droughts and floods are frequent. Global warming is expected to increase the frequency of these weather-induced perturbations of crop production. Drought tolerance (DT) has been one of the most [...] Read more.
In Asia and Africa the poor tend to live in marginal environments where droughts and floods are frequent. Global warming is expected to increase the frequency of these weather-induced perturbations of crop production. Drought tolerance (DT) has been one of the most difficult traits to improve in genetic crop improvement programs worldwide. Biotechnology provides breeders with a number of new tools that may help to develop more drought tolerant varieties such as marker assisted selection (MAS), molecular breeding (MB), and transgenic plants. This paper assesses some preliminary evidence on the potential impact of biotechnology using data from surveys of the initial DT cultivars developed through one of the main programs in Asia that has been funding DT rice breeding since 1998—The Rockefeller Foundation’s Resilient Crops for Water-Limited Environments program in China, India, and Thailand. Yield increases of DT rice varieties are 5 to 10 percent better than conventional varieties or currently grown commercial varieties than it has been in years. So far we only have experiment station evidence that DT varieties yielded better than conventional or improved varieties during moderate drought years (the one drought year during our study period in South India gave inconclusive results) and in severe drought both the DT and the conventional varieties were either not planted or, if planted, did not yield. We find that the governments could help overcome some of the constraints to the spread of DT cultivars by increasing government funding of DT research programs that take advantage of new biotech techniques and new knowledge from genomics. Secondly, public scientists can make breeding lines with DT traits and molecular markers more easily available to the private seed firms so that they can incorporate DT traits into their commercial hybrids particularly for poor areas. Third, governments can subsidize private sector production of DT seed or provide more government money for state extension services to produce DT varieties. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biotechnology and Sustainable Development)
Open AccessArticle Representation of Ecodesign Practice: International Comparison of Industrial Design Consultancies
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1778-1791; doi:10.3390/su3101778
Received: 11 August 2011 / Revised: 14 September 2011 / Accepted: 15 September 2011 / Published: 10 October 2011
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (330 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Ecodesign offers significant potential to reduce the environmental impacts of products. Whilst some integration of environmental considerations into design occurs in progressive companies when engineering the product, this only represents a small share of the possible design interventions to improve the environmental [...] Read more.
Ecodesign offers significant potential to reduce the environmental impacts of products. Whilst some integration of environmental considerations into design occurs in progressive companies when engineering the product, this only represents a small share of the possible design interventions to improve the environmental performance of products. For example, developing new product concepts to fulfill needs in a less environmentally harmful way and considering user related aspects offers a large, currently under-realized potential. This paper identifies industrial design (ID) consultancies as potential agents to tackle this issue on a strategic and operational basis. The extent to which this potential is currently applied was assessed by conducting a content analysis of websites of ID consultancies in Australia, China, and Germany. How ID consultancies represent their ecodesign practice is country-specific. Despite the differences, some ID consultancies in all countries announce and/or show the capability to develop completely new concepts and to influence user related factors to improve environmental performance. This shows their potential to address current shortcomings in ecodesign practice. As ID consultancies embracing that potential still are a minority, further research should be directed to a deeper examination of barriers and stimuli for ID consultancies to take up ecodesign. Full article
Open AccessArticle Relating Financial and Energy Return on Investment
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1810-1832; doi:10.3390/su3101810
Received: 8 February 2011 / Revised: 18 July 2011 / Accepted: 18 August 2011 / Published: 11 October 2011
Cited by 27 | PDF Full-text (547 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
For many reasons, including environmental impacts and the peaking and depletion of the highest grades of fossil energy, it is very important to have sound methods for the evaluation of energy technologies and the profitability of the businesses that utilize them. In [...] Read more.
For many reasons, including environmental impacts and the peaking and depletion of the highest grades of fossil energy, it is very important to have sound methods for the evaluation of energy technologies and the profitability of the businesses that utilize them. In this paper we derive relations among the biophysical characteristic of an energy resource in relation to the businesses and technologies that exploit them. These relations include the energy return on energy investment (EROI), the price of energy, and the profit of an energy business. Our analyses show that EROI and the price of energy are inherently inversely related such that as EROI decreases for depleting fossil fuel production, the corresponding energy prices increase dramatically. Using energy and financial data for the oil and gas production sector, we demonstrate that the equations sufficiently describe the fundamental trends between profit, price, and EROI. For example, in 2002 an EROI of 11:1 for US oil and gas translates to an oil price of 24 $2005/barrel at a typical profit of 10%. This work sets the stage for proper EROI and price comparisons of individual fossil and renewable energy businesses as well as the electricity sector as a whole. Additionally, it presents a framework for incorporating EROI into larger economic systems models. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Studies in EROI (Energy Return on Investment))
Open AccessArticle Oil Depletion and the Energy Efficiency of Oil Production: The Case of California
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1833-1854; doi:10.3390/su3101833
Received: 10 June 2011 / Revised: 1 August 2011 / Accepted: 5 August 2011 / Published: 12 October 2011
Cited by 21 | PDF Full-text (866 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This study explores the impact of oil depletion on the energetic efficiency of oil extraction and refining in California. These changes are measured using energy return ratios (such as the energy return on investment, or EROI). I construct a time-varying first-order process [...] Read more.
This study explores the impact of oil depletion on the energetic efficiency of oil extraction and refining in California. These changes are measured using energy return ratios (such as the energy return on investment, or EROI). I construct a time-varying first-order process model of energy inputs and outputs of oil extraction. The model includes factors such as oil quality, reservoir depth, enhanced recovery techniques, and water cut. This model is populated with historical data for 306 California oil fields over a 50 year period. The model focuses on the effects of resource quality decline, while technical efficiencies are modeled simply. Results indicate that the energy intensity of oil extraction in California increased significantly from 1955 to 2005. This resulted in a decline in the life-cycle EROI from 6.5 to 3.5 (measured as megajoules (MJ) delivered to final consumers per MJ primary energy invested in energy extraction, transport, and refining). Most of this decline in energy returns is due to increasing need for steam-based thermal enhanced oil recovery, with secondary effects due to conventional resource depletion (e.g., increased water cut). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Studies in EROI (Energy Return on Investment))
Open AccessArticle Sustainability Science: Sustainable Energy for Mobility and Its Use in Policy Making
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1855-1865; doi:10.3390/su3101855
Received: 30 July 2011 / Revised: 9 September 2011 / Accepted: 13 September 2011 / Published: 12 October 2011
Cited by 11 | PDF Full-text (259 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Since the 1980s sustainability has clearly become the challenge of the 21st century. In a process toward a sustainable society it is crucial that different stakeholders start collaboration and exchange ideas with technicians and academics. To finalize the policy decisions on important [...] Read more.
Since the 1980s sustainability has clearly become the challenge of the 21st century. In a process toward a sustainable society it is crucial that different stakeholders start collaboration and exchange ideas with technicians and academics. To finalize the policy decisions on important issues such as energy sustainability, collaboration between policy makers, academia and the private sector is important. This work intends to give Italian policy makers concrete advice and solutions to develop energy systems for mobility. The analysis proceeds from the context of Sustainability Science, a new science, which has emerged as one of the most important disciplines of international scientific research. Using a new approach, trans-disciplinary and integrated, this research is oriented to study and understand the complexity of the interactions between economy, society and nature. This broad approach permits proposing concrete solutions to complex problems locally and globally. We propose a scheme of definition of Sustainability Energy, defining five pillars of reference, and we redefine the energy systems for mobility in the context of Sustainability Science. In this paper, we start from the idea that we are living in a crucial passage, we are moving from the era of petroleum to the era of energy vectors. Energy systems, including mobility, should be redefined within this new approach. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Energy Sustainable Management)
Open AccessArticle A New Long Term Assessment of Energy Return on Investment (EROI) for U.S. Oil and Gas Discovery and Production
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1866-1887; doi:10.3390/su3101866
Received: 5 June 2011 / Revised: 1 August 2011 / Accepted: 6 August 2011 / Published: 14 October 2011
Cited by 48 | PDF Full-text (246 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Oil and gas are the main sources of energy in the United States. Part of their appeal is the high Energy Return on Energy Investment (EROI) when procuring them. We assessed data from the United States Bureau of the Census of Mineral [...] Read more.
Oil and gas are the main sources of energy in the United States. Part of their appeal is the high Energy Return on Energy Investment (EROI) when procuring them. We assessed data from the United States Bureau of the Census of Mineral Industries, the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Oil and Gas Journal for the years 1919–2007 and from oil analyst Jean Laherrere to derive EROI for both finding and producing oil and gas. We found two general patterns in the relation of energy gains compared to energy costs: a gradual secular decrease in EROI and an inverse relation to drilling effort. EROI for finding oil and gas decreased exponentially from 1200:1 in 1919 to 5:1 in 2007. The EROI for production of the oil and gas industry was about 20:1 from 1919 to 1972, declined to about 8:1 in 1982 when peak drilling occurred, recovered to about 17:1 from 1986–2002 and declined sharply to about 11:1 in the mid to late 2000s. The slowly declining secular trend has been partly masked by changing effort: the lower the intensity of drilling, the higher the EROI compared to the secular trend. Fuel consumption within the oil and gas industry grew continuously from 1919 through the early 1980s, declined in the mid-1990s, and has increased recently, not surprisingly linked to the increased cost of finding and extracting oil. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Studies in EROI (Energy Return on Investment))
Open AccessArticle Order from Chaos: A Preliminary Protocol for Determining the EROI of Fuels
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1888-1907; doi:10.3390/su3101888
Received: 28 July 2011 / Revised: 1 August 2011 / Accepted: 5 August 2011 / Published: 17 October 2011
Cited by 69 | PDF Full-text (390 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The main objective of this manuscript is to provide a formal methodology, structure, and nomenclature for EROI analysis that is both consistent, so that all EROI numbers across various processes can be compared, and also flexible, so that changes or additions to [...] Read more.
The main objective of this manuscript is to provide a formal methodology, structure, and nomenclature for EROI analysis that is both consistent, so that all EROI numbers across various processes can be compared, and also flexible, so that changes or additions to the universal formula can focus analyses on specific areas of concern. To accomplish this objective we address four areas that are of particular interest within EROI analysis: (1) boundaries of the system under analysis, (2) energy quality corrections, (3) energy-economic conversions, and (4) alternative EROI statistics. Lastly, we present step-by-step instructions outlining how to perform an EROI analysis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Studies in EROI (Energy Return on Investment))
Open AccessArticle System Energy Assessment (SEA), Defining a Standard Measure of EROI for Energy Businesses as Whole Systems
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1908-1943; doi:10.3390/su3101908
Received: 10 January 2010 / Revised: 12 October 2010 / Accepted: 12 November 2010 / Published: 17 October 2011
Cited by 12 | PDF Full-text (2194 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
A more objective method for measuring the energy needs of businesses, System Energy Assessment (SEA), measures the combined impacts of material supply chains and service supply chains, to assess businesses as whole self-managing net-energy systems. The method is demonstrated using a model [...] Read more.
A more objective method for measuring the energy needs of businesses, System Energy Assessment (SEA), measures the combined impacts of material supply chains and service supply chains, to assess businesses as whole self-managing net-energy systems. The method is demonstrated using a model Wind Farm, and defines a physical measure of their energy productivity for society (EROI-S), a ratio of total energy delivered to total energy expended. Energy use records for technology and proxy measures for clearly understood but not individually recorded energy uses for services are combined for a whole system estimate of consumption required for production. Current methods count only energy needs for technology. Business services outsource their own energy needs to operate, leaving no traceable record. That uncounted business energy demand is often 80% of the total, an amount of “dark energy” hidden from view, discovered by finding the average energy estimated needs for businesses far below the world average energy consumed per dollar of GDP. Presently for lack of information the energy needs of business services are counted to be “0”. Our default assumption is to treat them as “average”. The result is a hard measure of total business demand for energy services, a “Scope 4” energy use or GHG impact assessment. Counting recorded energy uses and discounting unrecorded ones misrepresents labor intensive work as highly energy efficient. The result confirms a similar finding by Hall et al. in 1981 [1]. We use exhaustive search for what a business needs to operate as a whole, tracing internal business relationships rather than energy data, to locate its natural physical boundary as a working unit, and so define a business as a physical rather than statistical subject of scientific study. See also online resource materials and notes [2]. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Studies in EROI (Energy Return on Investment))
Open AccessArticle A Dynamic Function for Energy Return on Investment
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1972-1985; doi:10.3390/su3101972
Received: 1 November 2010 / Revised: 1 January 2011 / Accepted: 1 February 2011 / Published: 17 October 2011
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (446 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Most estimates of energy-return-on-investment (EROI) are “static”. They determine the amount of energy produced by a particular energy technology at a particular location at a particular time. Some “dynamic” estimates are also made that track the changes in EROI of a particular [...] Read more.
Most estimates of energy-return-on-investment (EROI) are “static”. They determine the amount of energy produced by a particular energy technology at a particular location at a particular time. Some “dynamic” estimates are also made that track the changes in EROI of a particular resource over time. Such approaches are “bottom-up”. This paper presents a conceptual framework for a “top-down” dynamic function for the EROI of an energy resource. This function is constructed from fundamental theoretical considerations of energy technology development and resource depletion. Some empirical evidence is given as corroboration of the shape of the function components. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Studies in EROI (Energy Return on Investment))
Open AccessArticle Energy Return on Energy Invested for Tight Gas Wells in the Appalachian Basin, United States of America
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1986-2008; doi:10.3390/su3101986
Received: 26 June 2011 / Revised: 7 July 2011 / Accepted: 5 August 2011 / Published: 20 October 2011
Cited by 9 | PDF Full-text (1135 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The energy cost of drilling a natural gas well has never been publicly addressed in terms of the actual fuels and energy required to generate the physical materials consumed in construction. Part of the reason for this is that drilling practices are [...] Read more.
The energy cost of drilling a natural gas well has never been publicly addressed in terms of the actual fuels and energy required to generate the physical materials consumed in construction. Part of the reason for this is that drilling practices are typically regarded as proprietary; hence the required information is difficult to obtain. We propose that conventional tight gas wells that have marginal production characteristics provide a baseline for energy return on energy invested (EROI) analyses. To develop an understanding of baseline energy requirements for natural gas extraction, we examined production from a mature shallow gas field composed of vertical wells in Pennsylvania and materials used in the drilling and completion of individual wells. The data were derived from state maintained databases and reports, personal experience as a production geologist, personal interviews with industry representatives, and literature sources. We examined only the “upstream” energy cost of providing gas and provide a minimal estimate of energy cost because of uncertainty about some inputs. Of the materials examined, steel and diesel fuel accounted for more than two-thirds of the energy cost for well construction. Average energy cost per foot for a tight gas well in Indiana County is 0.59 GJ per foot. Available production data for this natural gas play was used to calculate energy return on energy invested ratios (EROI) between 67:1 and 120:1, which depends mostly on the amount of materials consumed, drilling time, and highly variable production. Accounting for such inputs as chemicals used in well treatment, materials used to construct drill bits and drill pipe, post-gathering pipeline construction, and well completion maintenance would decrease EROI by an unknown amount. This study provides energy constraints at the single-well scale for the energy requirements for drilling in geologically simple systems. The energy and monetary costs of wells from Indiana County, Pennsylvania are useful for constructing an EROI model of United States natural gas production, which suggests a peak in the EROI of gas production, has already occurred twice in the past century. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Studies in EROI (Energy Return on Investment))
Open AccessArticle Ultra-Deepwater Gulf of Mexico Oil and Gas: Energy Return on Financial Investment and a Preliminary Assessment of Energy Return on Energy Investment
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 2009-2026; doi:10.3390/su3102009
Received: 9 July 2011 / Revised: 3 August 2011 / Accepted: 5 August 2011 / Published: 21 October 2011
Cited by 11 | PDF Full-text (347 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to calculate the energy return on financial investment (EROFI) of oil and gas production in the ultra-deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GoM) in 2009 and for the estimated oil reserves of the Macondo Prospect (Mississippi Canyon Block [...] Read more.
The purpose of this paper is to calculate the energy return on financial investment (EROFI) of oil and gas production in the ultra-deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GoM) in 2009 and for the estimated oil reserves of the Macondo Prospect (Mississippi Canyon Block 252). We also calculated a preliminary Energy Return on Investment (EROI) based on published energy intensity ratios including a sensitivity analysis using a range of energy intensity ratios (7 MJ/$, 12 MJ/$, and 18 MJ/$). The EROFI for ultra-deepwater oil and gas at the well-head, ranged from 0.019 to 0.022 barrels (BOE), or roughly 0.85 gallons, per dollar. Our estimates of EROI for 2009 ultra-deepwater oil and natural gas at the well-head ranged from 7–22:1. The independently-derived EROFI of the Macondo Prospect oil reserves ranged from 0.012 to 0.0071 barrels per dollar (i.e., $84 to $140 to produce a barrel) and EROI ranged from 4–16:1, related to the energy intensity ratio used to quantify costs. We believe that the lower end of these EROI ranges (i.e., 4 to 7:1) is more accurate since these values were derived using energy intensities averaged across the entire domestic oil and gas industry. Time series of the financial and preliminary EROI estimates found in this study suggest that the extraction costs of ultra-deepwater energy reserves in the GoM come at increasing energetic and economic cost to society. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Studies in EROI (Energy Return on Investment))

Review

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Open AccessReview Sustainable Development: A Bird’s Eye View
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1637-1661; doi:10.3390/su3101637
Received: 14 September 2011 / Revised: 16 September 2011 / Accepted: 19 September 2011 / Published: 27 September 2011
Cited by 33 | PDF Full-text (319 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
At the turn of the millennium, the world’s political leadership adopted sustainable development as a leading model for societal development. However, the terms “sustainable development”, “sustainability” and “sustainable” are sometimes over- and misused despite wide consensus about the concept’s meaning among sustainability [...] Read more.
At the turn of the millennium, the world’s political leadership adopted sustainable development as a leading model for societal development. However, the terms “sustainable development”, “sustainability” and “sustainable” are sometimes over- and misused despite wide consensus about the concept’s meaning among sustainability scholars and practitioners. While the concept allows various sustainability views to co-exist, random conceptualizations which do not respect the fundamental sustainability principles undermine the concept’s objective to steer action. This lack of understanding of sustainability arguably inhibits its practical realization and a proper understanding of sustainability is urgently needed. In this paper we aim to contribute to a better understanding of sustainability by adopting a bird’s eye perspective. We review the rich contemporary literature, with a specific focus on the terminology, genesis, fundamental principles, mainstream views of sustainability, and several governing aspects. Further, using the evolving body of sustainability literature, the paper provides arguments to combat common misconceptions of sustainability. Full article
Open AccessReview Crop Breeding for Low Input Agriculture: A Sustainable Response to Feed a Growing World Population
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1742-1772; doi:10.3390/su3101742
Received: 1 July 2011 / Revised: 26 August 2011 / Accepted: 9 September 2011 / Published: 6 October 2011
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (337 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
World population is projected to reach its maximum (~10 billion people) by the year 2050. This 45% increase of the current world population (approaching seven billion people) will boost the demand for food and raw materials. However, we live in a historical [...] Read more.
World population is projected to reach its maximum (~10 billion people) by the year 2050. This 45% increase of the current world population (approaching seven billion people) will boost the demand for food and raw materials. However, we live in a historical moment when supply of phosphate, water, and oil are at their peaks. Modern agriculture is fundamentally based on varieties bred for high performance under high input systems (fertilizers, water, oil, pesticides), which generally do not perform well under low-input situations. We propose a shift of research goals and plant breeding objectives from high-performance agriculture at high-energy input to those with an improved rationalization between yield and energy input. Crop breeding programs that are more focused on nutrient economy and local environmental fitness will help reduce energy demands for crop production while still providing adequate amounts of high quality food as global resources decline and population is projected to increase. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture)
Figures

Open AccessReview A Review of the Past and Current State of EROI Data
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1796-1809; doi:10.3390/su3101796
Received: 11 June 2011 / Revised: 1 August 2011 / Accepted: 5 August 2011 / Published: 10 October 2011
Cited by 37 | PDF Full-text (239 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This is a review of the literature available on data for the EROI (prior to this special issue) of the following 12 sources of fuel/energy: oil and natural gas, coal, tar sands, shale oil, nuclear, wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, wave/tidal and corn [...] Read more.
This is a review of the literature available on data for the EROI (prior to this special issue) of the following 12 sources of fuel/energy: oil and natural gas, coal, tar sands, shale oil, nuclear, wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, wave/tidal and corn ethanol. Unfortunately, we found that few studies have been undertaken since the 1980s, and such as have been done are often marked more by advocacy than objectivity. The most recent summary of work and data on the EROI of fuels was conducted in the summer of 2007 at SUNY ESF and appeared on The Oil Drum website and in a readable summary by Richard Heinberg. This paper summarizes the findings of that study, and also those preceding and subsequent to it where available. It also summarizes issues raised by some concerning the findings of these studies and with the calculations within. While there are many who believe that such EROI studies are critical to understanding our financial and social future there seems to be very little interest by governments and industries in supporting this research or in using or promulgating such research as has been done. We view this as critical as our main fuels are progressively depleted and as we are faced with making extremely important decisions on a very meager analytical and data base, and with few scientists trained to cut through the reams of insufficiently analyzed energy advocacy saturating our media and the blogosphere. Full article
Open AccessReview Evolutionary Plant Breeding in Cereals—Into a New Era
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1944-1971; doi:10.3390/su3101944
Received: 23 August 2011 / Revised: 30 September 2011 / Accepted: 9 October 2011 / Published: 17 October 2011
Cited by 23 | PDF Full-text (277 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In evolutionary plant breeding, crop populations with a high level of genetic diversity are subjected to the forces of natural selection. In a cycle of sowing and re-sowing seed from the plant population year after year, those plants favored under prevailing growing [...] Read more.
In evolutionary plant breeding, crop populations with a high level of genetic diversity are subjected to the forces of natural selection. In a cycle of sowing and re-sowing seed from the plant population year after year, those plants favored under prevailing growing conditions are expected to contribute more seed to the next generation than plants with lower fitness. Thus, evolving crop populations have the capability of adapting to the conditions under which they are grown. Here we review the current state of research in evolutionary plant breeding and concentrate on the ability of evolving plant populations to deal with stressful, variable, and unpredictable environments. This resilience of evolving plant populations is seen as a major advantage under the predicted threats faced by agriculture such as global climate change. We have conducted an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of this breeding approach and suggest how its concept can be broadened and expanded. Given the current legal restrictions for realizing the potential of evolutionary plant breeding, we call for a change in legislation to allow evolving crop populations to enter agricultural practice on a larger scale. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture)
Open AccessReview Peak Phosphorus: Clarifying the Key Issues of a Vigorous Debate about Long-Term Phosphorus Security
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 2027-2049; doi:10.3390/su3102027
Received: 23 August 2011 / Accepted: 3 October 2011 / Published: 24 October 2011
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Abstract
This paper reviews the latest information and perspectives on global phosphorus scarcity. Phosphorus is essential for food production and modern agriculture currently sources phosphorus fertilizers from finite phosphate rock. The 2008 food and phosphate fertilizer price spikes triggered increased concerns regarding the [...] Read more.
This paper reviews the latest information and perspectives on global phosphorus scarcity. Phosphorus is essential for food production and modern agriculture currently sources phosphorus fertilizers from finite phosphate rock. The 2008 food and phosphate fertilizer price spikes triggered increased concerns regarding the depletion timeline of phosphate rock reserves. While estimates range from 30 to 300 years and are shrouded by lack of publicly available data and substantial uncertainty, there is a general consensus that the quality and accessibility of remaining reserves are decreasing and costs will increase. This paper clarifies common sources of misunderstandings about phosphorus scarcity and identifies areas of consensus. It then asks, despite some persistent uncertainty, what would it take to achieve global phosphorus security? What would a ‘hard-landing’ response look like and how could preferred ‘soft-landing’ responses be achieved? Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Net Gains from Depleting Fossil Energy and Mineral Sources)

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