4th Annual Biophysical Economics Conference - October 26-28

The 4th Annual Biophysical Economics Conference will be held October 26-28 at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont. The conference will include 2 days of seminars, workshops, and break-out discussions, followed by a Sunday field trip. Registration is available at this site.

Event co-sponsors include the University of Vermont's Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics.

The conference will be organized around a combination of Plenary Panels, as well as Organized and Normal Parallel Sessions. Current session themes include:

  • Energy Update: EROI and the Transition Economy
  • The Biophysical Base of an Ecological Economics
  • Money, Debt, and Energy
  • Energy Use in Food Systems: the Realities of Relocalization
  • Investment Finance in an Energy Constrained World
  • Transportation and Energy Modeling: Challenges and Lessons from a Rural State
  • Energy Taxes in a Fiscally Challenged Political Economy
  • Energy, Democracy, and the Political Economy of Change

The organizers are currently soliciting proposals for presentations, organized panels, and short workshops on all areas of biophysical economics. Graduate student presentation proposals are highly encouraged. The deadline for presentation abstracts and ‘Organized Sessions’ is September 24, 2012.

For more information, or to submit your ideas, contact Brian Kelly (bkelly4 at uvm dot edu) or Jon Erickson (jdericks at uvm dot edu), or visit the conference registration page. Advance registration required.

I think that conference will be very amazing moment, don't miss it!!


I'm sure the conference will be amazing. But...

Especially when there is a 'field trip'!

Could somebody explain to me how a 'field trip' can be organised?

What (intf) is a field trip in this 'field'? Another Disney adventure?

And I thought Biophysical Economics was based on reality. Is it just another academic wank?

Perhaps in the lectures on EROI there will be an explanation as to why predictions of $100 plus oil would send the world into recession were wrong.

Perhaps a lecture on efficiency of use in various countries will show that the world can get by on much less oil and not cause a recession.


Perhaps in the lectures on EROI there will be an explanation as to why predictions of $100 plus oil would send the world into recession were wrong.

Funny, I thought the world economy was slipping further into recession. Am I missing signs of a turnaround somehwere?

Funny, I thought the world economy was slipping further into recession. Am I missing signs of a turnaround somehwere?

Yes you are, the facts show that many countries have not gone into recession despite oil prices over $100 for 19 of the last 20 months.


Countries like Greece, Portugal and Spain pay the same for their oil imports as China and Japan.

They are in recession due to government incompetence and massive lending by their banks to millions of people who could never pay that money back.

The annual cost of fuel for a one car family in Europe has gone up by £500 in 8 years or about £10 per week. This is hardly a figure to break the bank and that is why most countries in the world are not in recession.

House price increases and the need to get ever larger mortgages has had a far greater impact on people's finances. A flat in 2002 costing £100,000 now cost £250,000, the mortgages costs assuming a 20% deposit has gone from £500 per month to £1,200 per month.

Now which do you think has the greater effect on a families finance?

$100 per barrel oil does not cause recessions and neither will $120 or $140. Uncontrolled lending which causes this sort of inflation is far more detrimental to an economy.

More expensive oil? then don't buy a vehicle which has a truck engine in it.

If current oil price is soo bad why is the F-150 still the top selling vehicle?


I guess Americans think the Camry and Altima have a small engine.

Why do you have to reduce it to an either/or, high oil prices/poor lending practises debate? It's all part of the same corrupt system. The corrupt financials you mention have been going on for a long long time as the tool used to extract wealth from the middle class. Historically all that mess was continually buried under further economic growth, only facilitated by increased fossil fuels extraction. Now we have hit Peak Oil and oil production will not increase no matter what at this point. Coal and gas will still go up for a while but they cannot yet be substituted for oil at the drop of a hat. Any further oil demand will result in increased prices, beyond what any short term financial chicanery-induced fluctuations may cause. Therefore the corruption in the system is no longer being offset by increases in productivity taken from the natural world, because there is no more productivity to take, which used to facilitate our previous exponential yeast-in-a-petri-dish-like growth. The results of that corruption are now festering and destroying the world's fundamentally flawed financial system that's built around and dependent upon on debt and perpetual exponential growth.

And I would hope that you would understand that the world has NOT been growing, overall. GDP numbers are artificially overstated by understating inflation. It's all part of the same ploy that's been going on for 60 years.

And you have it wrong when you state: "They are in recession due to government incompetence and massive lending by their banks". That's not how it works. Governments are corporations that borrow from banks. You should have said: "They are in recession due to central bank incompetence and massive borrowing by their governments".

At the risk of pulling out the ad hominem card again here, you've been a member for 3 weeks (we get a lot of these one hit wonders here). I suggest spending more time on this and similar sites learning about the interrelations between energy and economy.

Edited for greater grammatical clarity.

Perhaps you need to read what I wrote again, I made the point that oil prices are high all over the world yet not all countries are in recession. Therefore other factors are at work here, it is therefore a more complex picture than high oil prices.

You are obviously one of these people who listens to what someone says but then decides they mean something different to the words they actually have spoken.

Also we have NOT hit peak oil, PEAK OIL is the time when the maximum amount of oil is produced, in the North Sea that was in 2001. Global oil production is now some 2.4 million barrels a day higher than in 2008.(C&C)

That is the amount of oil that Germany uses, so Globally the equivalent of a Germany has been added to the global economy, not bad I would say. perhaps you will now start arguing that oil consumption can go up but GDP go down?

Let us also not forget coal consumption increase since 2005 which has fueled massive growth in GDP.

In 2005 consumption was 3069 million tonnes increasing to 3955 million tonnes.

Also natural gas which will keep on increasing for many years.

In 2005 consumption was 2770bcm in 2011 it was 3276bcm


You conveniently did not reply to my two other points, firstly if oil prices are so high, why are Americans buying the biggest engined vehicles on the market?

Secondly house prices doubled due to bank lending to people not governments and paying £300 to £600 a month more on a mortgage has far more of an impact on people and the economy than £10 to £20 a month on fuel.

Honestly if I only read the oil drum, I would have spent 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 thinking peak oil was just about to destroy the global economy.

Perhaps 2013 will be a better year for the oil drum.

Greece was just as corrupt in 2002 as it is now, but it wasn't in recession in 2002, so that isn't a sufficient explanation for their problem.

My take on the last few years:

  • Oil prices spike
  • Therefore, global economy slows down
  • Investors lose confidence in worst performing countries first (large current account deficit, government spending deficit, bad governance)
  • Once investors start to pull out of a country, it can become a self-reinforcing phenomenon, until the country goes bankrupt.

My prediction would therefore be, that as (and to the extent that) oil becomes more scarce/expensive, more countries go the way of Greece.

What caused the great depression in the 1930?

Nothing to do with oil, it was to do with huge amount of borrowing by individuals who put this borrowed money into stocks and shares. This caused inflation in the stocks many times higher than their real worth.

Eventually the limits of debt were reached and when people started to sell to pay back the debt there were few takers because no one had any money, thus the crash.

This is what happened in Greece, the government and individuals borrowed on the strength of entering the Euro in 2001. This kind of borrowing hits a limit and that was reached in 2009.


As stated on another post US vehicles are very inefficient and if Americans drove European size cars US oil consumption would be reduced to Europeans levels with no harm to the economy.

This would reduce US oil consumption to around 12mbd.


A European tax on vehicles and fuel could make the US self sufficient, but Americans would not vote for these policies.

This conversation is actually off-topic here. I ignored it at first, thinking the thread wouldn't become this long. In the future, it's best to post general discussions in the Drumbeat threads.

Also, please review the commenting guidelines and avoid personal attacks.


That is the "interesting thing" about "money". While numbers tend to stay the same - say 100 $1 bills in 1999 are still 100 $1 bills in 2012 the "value" or "worth" of the $100 changes.

Is $100 from 2002 "the same" as $100 in 2012? If one wants to claim they are providing clarity and making statements like:

there will be an explanation as to why predictions of $100 plus oil would send the world into recession were wrong

Need to have far more parameters set so that the comparison can be made VS just grunting and pointing at a pile of 100 $1 bills and saying "the same".

When the conference was held in Syracuse in the past, there was a get together of some of the speakers and attendees the day after the conference, for further discussions and a little sight-seeing in the area. I attended such a get together last time, and it was a good way to get acquainted a little more with some of the other speakers.

Hello Gail ... I still think your the best teacher of this difficult subject, sustainability ... I have been spending much time at Enenews.com trying to grasp the gravity of what is actually happening right now at this very moment ... this is so bad it has been kept quiet I am sure to avoid the collapse of global social structure as we know it ... if you have not had the chance to keep up with what is happening at Fukushima, please take a moment to "catch up" . I am sure it will influence your perspective of our global condition ... the "Kill Shot" may very well be the radiation release interacting with the ozone. The radiation release has been ongoing since they lost the three reactors and most of thier spent fuel pools were also involved. If the ozone layer is completely eliminated, the resulting dramatic impact on all plant life can be predicted ... we all know where it goes from there I think ... your still my champion in this corner Gail, may God bless you in your efforts ... curlyq3

Hello TYS ... to worry about this mess would not be helpful ... the majority are not aware of the information that is avaiable as evidence of this disaster and it is good that they do not know. You may have actual knowledge of the serious threat that this ongoing event is and that there is no avoiding the truth and consequeces of splitting the atom ... no one planned on those reactors being lost therefore they were ... now we wait. curlyq3

Are any TOD members from western NY (I'm in Rochester) going to this? This traveling calculator estimates its cheaper and (slightly) more environmentally friendly to drive to Burlington from western NY.

I'd love to arrange a carpool to go to this if there is any other interest for it for people living along Interstate 90 in western NY. Just leave a comment and we can talk further!

"Biophysical Economics" = word salad

Isn't the "economics of biophysics" (thermodynamics?) just 'biophysics', or is it human behaviour; which? Why confuse the well defined hard physical science of biophysics with the term "economics" which is concerned with irrational and altruistic human behaviour, a "soft" social "science", and not well defined at all? If not, then why not use "thermodynamic economics", "economical thermodynamics" "the thermodynamics of economics", "the economics of thermodynamics" or some such other nonsense? Like the phrase "economic geology", "biophysical economics" is a word salad. I have a sneaking suspicion all the inquiry into "biophysical economics" will lead to the rediscovery that economics is human behaviour and biophysics is chemistry, physics and thermodynamics applied to the study of living organisms and biological systems.

Or, how about this: " The Metaphysics of Round Objects"?

Isn't the "economics of biophysics" (thermodynamics?) just 'biophysics', or is it human behaviour; which? Why confuse the well defined hard physical science of biophysics with the term "economics" which is concerned with irrational and altruistic human behaviour, a "soft" social "science", and not well defined at all?

As I understand it, 'The Economy' is a wholly owned subsidiary of nature and human behavior is part and parcel of the package. Neither can be understood without a solid grounding in the physical and biological sciences.

Having said that:


Biophysical economics is characterized by a wide range of analysts from diverse fields who use ecology and thermodynamics to analyze the economic process. The history of biophysical thought is traced from the 18th-century Physiocrats to current empirical research, with emphasis on those individuals who contributed to the development of biophysical economic theory.

The "economy" is a purely human abstraction; and obtusely, yes, therefor the "economy" is a "part" of nature. But in reality "economics" is the application of dogma at best. Your understanding of economics would benefit from a healthy understanding of human nature and that is outside the realm of chemistry and physics. For example, explain "altruistic behaviour", racial hatred and the Simpsons using thermodynamics, chemistry and physics.

Take point number three at the top:

"Money, Debt, and Energy"

"Money" is a purely human abstraction that is 100 percent dependent on confidence. How do you meter that? Lipstick indicator? "Debt" is a purely human concept that is simply a way for one group of people to control another group of people.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, outstanding student loan debt just topped that $1 trillion mark , with $864 billion in federal government student loan debt and $150 billion in private student loan debt.

That's a lot of bread, and college graduates who head into a weak job market with tens of thousands of dollars in debt can only wonder how they're going to pay that money back

From here: Managing Your Money, Before Taking Student Loan, Answer These Four Questions


I think you could define "energy" with no problems.

We could go on, ...and on. There are a few more really good examples up there that demonstrate how confused (not confusing- confused) this all is, perhaps on purpose?

confused (not confusing- confused) this all is, perhaps on purpose?

Trying to 'put a value' on energy and man's interaction with that via eMergy accounting is full of judgment values about "what is this worth"? What is the 'human energy' value of a solar panel made today based on a 30 year old design VS one made from a 5 year old design?


Energy doesn't have a "value". Excuse the zen, but it is what it is; energy. The "values" functions (variables) within "values"-related equations concern "man's interaction" with energy above and beyond organismic requirements for survival (and thiveability), and is, therefor, a human construct largely dependent on individual and goup human emotional states and separate from the established metric of energy, thermodynamics. A study of human behaviour is strongly advised. In addition, basic organismic requirements for survival (let alone thriveability) depend on the availability of clean air and water, in addition to a certain base-line availability of "raw" (usually metabolic and heat) energy. So, any "economics" applied to these very basic human (animal) resource requirements really should serve as a throttle, or governor on over consumption and depletion by any group/s or individuals of these (basic) resources.

Your understanding of economics would benefit from a healthy understanding of human nature and that is outside the realm of chemistry and physics.

And I think your understanding of human nature would benefit from a healthy understanding of biology and the theory of evolution which BTW can't be understood without an equally healthy understanding of physics and biochemistry.

But to go a step further you might enjoy listening to Dan Dennet's TED talk on the illusion of consciousness and then you might want to reassess exactly what it is that you mean by something being a purely human abstraction.

Dan Dennett: The illusion of consciousness

Here are a couple books I like:

Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
Peterson, Wrangham, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence

Carl I've read. Peterson sounds interesting, I'll have to look him up!