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Special Issue "Net Gains from Depleting Fossil Energy and Mineral Sources"

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A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2011)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Charles A.S. Hall

Professor Emeritus of Faculty of Environmental & Forest Biology, College of Environmental Science & Forestry, State University of New York, 354 Illick Hall, 1 Forestry Drive, Syracuse, New York, NY 13210, USA
Website | E-Mail
Phone: 315 469 7271
Fax: +1 315 470 6934
Interests: systems ecology; computer simulation models; integrative geographical modeling of environments and economies, Energy Retrun on Investment (EROI), Developing Biophysical Economics
Guest Editor
Dr. Doug Hansen

Hansen Financial Management 12717 Monterey Cypress Way San Diego, CA 92130, USA
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The energy and material demands of societies continue to grow, along with considerable empirical evidence suggesting that many economies are becoming less efficient. Thus, present rates of extraction and consumption of natural resources, and general growth will remain or increase. These trends will change when the energetic costs to procure materials can no longer be covered. Several materials have the potential to become limiting factors to society within the short to medium term and would affect strategies towards sustainability.

The ongoing depletion of cheap fossil fuel affects the availability of crude oil for synthetic products as well as for its energy content. The ongoing depletion of several elements will affect industrial processes including the production of alternative energy sources to compensate the dwindling fossil energy sources. Other elements in decline are essential in food production and in addition are being competed for by the rapidly increasing biofuel production. The depletion of high quality sources of various elements could be compensated for by accessing lesser quality sources, however it requires an elevated input of energy which is already in shortage.

This Special Issue aims to look at sustainability through the analysis of net gains from extraction of fossil fuels and critical elements. How much energy is needed to extract and deliver a unit of energy from a fossil source? How much energy does it take to extract rare earth elements from declining sources and produce alternative energy devices? How costly are the externalities resulting from the artificial dissipation of extracted elements?

Dr. Werner T. Flueck
Guest Editor

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Extracting Minerals from Seawater: An Energy Analysis
Sustainability 2010, 2(4), 980-992; doi:10.3390/su2040980
Received: 10 February 2010 / Revised: 23 March 2010 / Accepted: 29 March 2010 / Published: 9 April 2010
Cited by 27 | PDF Full-text (81 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The concept of recovering minerals from seawater has been proposed as a way of counteracting the gradual depletion of conventional mineral ores. Seawater contains large amounts of dissolved ions and the four most concentrated metal ones (Na, Mg, Ca, K) are being commercially
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The concept of recovering minerals from seawater has been proposed as a way of counteracting the gradual depletion of conventional mineral ores. Seawater contains large amounts of dissolved ions and the four most concentrated metal ones (Na, Mg, Ca, K) are being commercially extracted today. However, all the other metal ions exist at much lower concentrations. This paper reports an estimate of the feasibility of the extraction of these metal ions on the basis of the energy needed. In most cases, the result is that extraction in amounts comparable to the present production from land mines would be impossible because of the very large amount of energy needed. This conclusion holds also for uranium as fuel for the present generation of nuclear fission plants. Nevertheless, in a few cases, mainly lithium, extraction from seawater could provide amounts of metals sufficient for closing the cycle of metal use in the economy, provided that an increased level of recycling can be attained. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Net Gains from Depleting Fossil Energy and Mineral Sources)
Open AccessArticle Biotic Translocation of Phosphorus: The Role of Deer in Protected Areas
Sustainability 2009, 1(2), 104-119; doi:10.3390/su1020104
Received: 23 February 2009 / Accepted: 7 April 2009 / Published: 14 April 2009
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (333 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Biogeochemical cycles are cornerstones of biological evolution. Mature terrestrial ecosystems efficiently trap nutrients and certain ones are largely recycled internally. Preserving natural fluxes of nutrients is an important mission of protected areas, but artificially leaky systems remain common. Native red deer (Cervus elaphus)
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Biogeochemical cycles are cornerstones of biological evolution. Mature terrestrial ecosystems efficiently trap nutrients and certain ones are largely recycled internally. Preserving natural fluxes of nutrients is an important mission of protected areas, but artificially leaky systems remain common. Native red deer (Cervus elaphus) in the Swiss National Park (SNP) are known to reduce phosphorus (P) in preferred feeding sites by removing more P than is returned with feces. At larger scales it becomes apparent that losses are occurring due to seasonal deer movements out of the SNP where most deer end up perishing. Thus, the SNP contributes to producing deer which translocate P to sink areas outside the SNP due to several artificial factors. An adult female dying outside of SNP exports about 1.8 kg of P, whereas a male dying outside of SNP at 8 years of age exports 7.2 kg of P due also to annual shedding of antlers. Averaged over the vegetated part of the SNP, the about 2,000 deer export 0.32 kg/ha/yr of P. Other ungulate species using the SNP and dying principally outside of its borders would result in additional exports of P. Leakiness in this case is induced by: a) absence of the predator community and thus a lack of summer mortalities and absence of several relevant non-lethal predator effects, b) hunting-accelerated population turnover rate, and c) deaths outside of SNP principally from hunting. The estimated export rate for P compares to rates measured in extensive production systems which receive 10-50 kg/ha/yr of P as fertilizer to compensate the losses from biomass exports. Assumptions were made regarding red deer body weight or population turnover rate, yet substituting my estimates with actual values from the SNP would only affect somewhat the magnitude of the effect, but not its direction. The rate of P loss is a proxy for losses of other elements, the most critical ones being those not essential to autotrophs, but essential to heterotrophs. High deer turnover rates combined with accelerated biomass export warrants detailed mass balances of macro and micro nutrients, and studies of biogeochemical cycles in protected areas are essential if preserving natural processes is a mandate. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Net Gains from Depleting Fossil Energy and Mineral Sources)

Review

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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
Cited by 77 | PDF Full-text (1251 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
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 depletion
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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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