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Carey King Research Newsletter - January 2017:

Happy New Year!

Three items for this newsletter: 
(1) a podcast on energy in the economy,
(2) UT Austin Energy Institute's Full Cost of Cost of Electricity Study. was launched (and see new journal paper and online calculators comparing the cost of power generation)!

(3), an op-ed on the Dakota Access pipeline as a "power struggle", and

FIRST, ENERGY TRANSITION SHOW PODCAST, I was interviewed late in 2016 by Chris Nelder for his Energy Transition Show.  Chris and I discuss ideas related to the role of energy in the economy: decoupling (or lack thereof), energy intensity, net energy, and decarbonization.

Click here for a summary of the podcast discussion and a list of time points in the podcast when certain topics arise (including discussion of implications of reaching the cheapest energy and food starting about at 24:10 minutes).

Link directly to podcast:
SECOND, FULL COST OF ELECTRICITY STUDY: We at the Energy Institute launched our Full Cost of Electricity Study that we have been working on for the last 2+ years.  This has been a multidisciplinary effort of nearly a dozen faculty and researchers as well as nearly a dozen students. 

THIRD, OP-ED ON "POWER STRUGGLE", is an December 8, 2016 opinion editorial I wrote in December that made it to print in many of the major Texas newspapers. The topic was the protest regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

Austin American Statesman version: Pipeline, Standing Rock, Conflict is all about Power

Also versions printed in the Houston Chronicle and Dallas Morning News

"The recent decision by the President Barack Obama’s Administration, via the Army Corps of Engineers, to ask for a more in-depth environmental impact statement regarding a final section of the Dakota Access oil pipeline represents a clash of power.  The simple story is one of environmental and health concerns, but in reality the full story is much more. It is a continuation of the populist fervor building up in the United States.  It is a continuation of the pursuit of infinite growth. It is a story of physical power, political power and economic power."

On my website (link) I also include comments received via e-mail, from readers (with no names even though some gave permission to use their names). Most of the comments were "pro" pipeline and/or a little miffed at my mention of a potential viewpoint of any group protesting something like a pipeline. I do think pipelines are the safest and cheapest (per unit) means of transporting gases and liquids (say versus trucks and trains). The point of the op-ed is that if a group of people have some grievance, justified or not, and directly related to a particular energy infrastructure project or not (e.g., a pipeline and potential for water contamination or just opposition to expanded fossil infrastructure more generally), then inhibiting the physical flow of power (e.g., oil flow in a pipeline) is a tactic to attempt to gain or keep some level of economic or political power.
Thank you very much for your time.  As always, please contact me for more information about how you can be involved in and contribute to my research program and student researchers (they need food!). 


Carey W. King, Ph.D.
Research Scientist
Assistant Director, Energy Institute, The University of Texas at Austin, 512.471.5468,
,  @CareyWKing

Website (personal)
Website (personal)
Website (University of Texas)
Website (University of Texas)
My research takes a systems approach to describe the role of energy and energy technologies in our past and future. This approach provides the best way to both address questions about our future economy and environment as well as understand how individual technologies can and cannot affect the macro-scale and long-run trends that will frame our future options. I seek understanding of the relationships among:
  • energy resources and technologies,
  • population demographics,
  • water and food,
  • macroeconomic factors, and 
  • implications of internalizing environmental externalities.

Podcast on Chris Nelder's Energy Transition Show

2016, December 14:    Discussion on Energy Resources and the Economy

Click on the link in heading (or below) to hear a podcast by Chris Nelder’s Energy Transition Show We discuss the idea of energy in the economy: decoupling (or lack thereof), energy intensity, net energy, and decarbonization.

Discussion topics at certain time points (if you don't want to listen to the hour-long interview!):
  1. 17:00: is net energy (or energy return on investment) a metric independent of economic data (e.g., prices) ... it can be!
  2. 21:00: distinction between energy and power (very important to always keep in mind!)
  3. 24:10 - 33:40: discussion of the world economy reaching a low point in the cost of "energy and food" and how to view those costs since industrialization to today. Technology didn't stop, so why didn't energy continue to get cheaper?
  4. 38:45 - 40:50: The reason to think about costs by comparing the percentage of costs for food and energy (expenditures in $ / GDP in $) instead of prices ($/unit)
  5. 40:50 - 43:50: What is a threshold level of relative expenditures on energy (e.g., about 8% relative to GDP), and how does this relate to the rate of change in the energy system and transitioning to a low-carbon economy
  6. 43:50 - 47:45: Why the economy won't have $200/BBL oil (at least anytime soon), because if that price gets approached, a recession will be induced to cause people to consume less. One response can be to restructure the patterns of consumption in the face of energy and food costs that reflect scarcity.
  7. 47:45 - 49:00:  I refer to my latest paper in Biophysical Economics and Resource Quality on how energy and food costs did relate to how the U.S. economy changed its structure over time.
  8. 49:00 - 54:30: Challenge and role of using net energy and biophysical economics for making decisions. You have to  also include issues such as wages, debt, and analysis for transition studies.
  9. 54:30 - 59:30: How to think about modeling an energy transition by paying attention to the rate of transition. Consideration of how much investment is in capital versus operating costs at about 57:00. Can we figure out how to relate the rate of an energy transition to economic growth or similar outcomes?
  10. 59:30 -  62:00: What about the need to transition to low-carbon economy per rates suggested by the IPCC and COP 21 (Paris) agreement that people say we can do and growth the economy?  Well, the economic methods used by the IPCC (and most economists in the world) are incapable of answering the question of how a transition relates to growth ... they just assume growth.
  11. 62:00 - 64:40: The issue of debt in modeling an energy transition.  In the late 1970s interest rates were the highest in history, and post-2008 they have been the lowest in history.
  12. 64:40 - 66:30: Why lower interest rates make renewables look more attractive. 

Summary from the Energy Transition Show website: “The notion of “decoupling” energy consumption from economic growth has become vogue in policy circles, but how much evidence is there that it’s really happening? If the energy intensity of our economy is falling, are we sure that it’s becoming more efficient, or might we just be offshoring energy-intensive industries to somewhere else…along with those emissions? If energy reaches a certain percentage of total spending, does it tip an economy into recession? Is there a necessary relationship between energy consumption and monetary policy? Is there a point at which the simple fact that we live on a finite planet must limit economic growth, or can economic growth continue well beyond our resource consumption? Can the declining EROI of fossil fuels tell us anything about the future of the economy? And can we have economic growth using clean, low-carbon fuels, or might transitioning to an economy that produces zero net new carbon emissions put the economy into recession and debt?
To help us answer these thorny questions, we turn to an expert researcher who has looked at the relationship between energy consumption and the economy over long periods of time and multiple economies, and found some startling results with implications for the Federal Reserve, for economic policymakers, and for all those who are involved in energy transition.”



To learn more about Carey's research, visit his website or contact him using this information:
e:      |  web:    |     ph: +1 512-471-5468    |    t: @CareyWKing
The University of Texas at Austin, 2304 Whitis Ave, C2400, Austin, TX 78712-1718

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