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Carey W. King - Energy Systems Research Newsletter (Winter 2014)
Happy Holidays everyone!    In this newsletter I have three topics to feed your brain going into the 2014 home stretch.  There are many interesting issues of the last few months, and 2015 promises to hold more. Perhaps foremost on the minds of everyone is the fall in oil prices since the summer 2014.  The first link discusses water, energy, and food in Hawaii, no stranger to being exposed to oil costs. If you are interested in how oil prices affect oil expenditures of the world, then check out the 2nd story below, and see the VERY interesting graphic on UK energy expenditures in the blog  described in the 3rd item below.  The world has probably hit the bottom on energy expenditures ... call me if you want to know how me and my students are describing the trends, implications, and solutions we'll need! 

1. A new report on the Energy-Water-Food nexus in Hawaii 
A more diverse use of water can achieve multiple sustainability goals in Hawaii.

2. How much does the world spend on energy?  
This sounds like a simple question, but an accurate assessment requires tremendous diligence and time.  My recent calculations show that sometime around 1998-2002 was the cheapest energy ... probably IN HISTORY!

3. A blog entry discussing Google's backing out of the RE<C project.  
Why did Google stop trying to make renewable energy cheaper than coal? Perhaps getting into the energy production business is harder than staying in the information business.


Please forward this to individuals that you think might be interested in energy, resource, and economic research by sharing this link to join the newsletter.
You can always access my papers on my website at
Thank you!
Please consider contributing to energy systems research & education

I wish you a joyous holiday season!  

If you agree with me that we need high quality research that critically assesses our future energy options and you want to support students looking at multidisciplinary issues that affect our energy future, then send me an e-mail or give me a call to discuss how you can get involved.  I have great students, and every bit helps us do our work and present it to relevant audiences.  Call if you would like to join the existing sponsors! 

Thank you very much for your time.


Carey W. King, Ph.D., 512.471.5468,

My research and students seek 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.
To learn more about Carey's research, visit his website or contact him using this information:
e:     |  web:    |     ph: +1 512-471-5468
The University of Texas at Austin, 2304 Whitis Ave, C2400, Austin, TX 78712-1718

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Copyright © 2014 Carey W. King.
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Recent publications

A more diverse use of water resources than the present situation can serve multiple needs by using less land to grow sugar cane or another feedstock crop. The figure below summarizes different scenarios (based upon different feedstocks for making liquid biofuels: sugar cane, sweet sorghum, cassava, and banagrass) that use the water resources of Central and East Maui to produce crops to meet demand for 100% of Maui's dairy, most of Maui's fruits  and vegetables, and almost half of Maui's beef needs all while producing a significant amount of liquid fuels from biomass.   The "calibration = today" case models the use of 30,000 acres for sugar cane, where the others use only 23,000 acres for cane, or its substitutes, to leave water for other important crops and needs. 

Project Sponsor:
The Ulupono Initiative is a Hawai‘i-focused impact investing firm that uses for-profit and non-profit investments to improve the quality of life for island residents in three areas: (i) locally produced food; (ii) clean, renewable energy; and (iii) waste reduction.  Over the past several years we have worked in partnership with Ulupono Initiative (General Partner Kyle Datta and Associate Kandice Johns) to develop scenarios that demonstrate options for using the rainfall of East Maui for multiple purposes of local food and energy production while enhancing cultural heritage practices and sustainably managing Maui's freshwater aquifer.

Paper Summary:
The rain follows the forest. From Hawaii’s forest come streams that collect much of this rain, and the water in these streams enables much of the cultural, ecological, and economic value on the islands. Hawaii’s future sustainability is linked to its use of water resources. The Island of Maui is certainly no different. In many ways, Maui exemplifies the need for Hawaii residents to consider how they will adapt to climatic and economic changes that originate both from within and from without the Hawaiian Islands.

The world’s biophysical and climate systems are changing, in turn pressuring changes for adaptation in human socio-economic systems. Not only in Hawaii, but all over the world there is an increasing need to engage in as many coherent energy, water, and agriculture policies as are possible (King et al, 2013). Constraints in water resources can easily translate to constraints in energy and food production. To ensure Maui’s long-term prosperity it is crucial to resolve Maui’s societal conflicts focused on water. This report exists to provide information to the people of Hawaii such that they can facilitate further discussion as to their desired use of water in the context of a sustainable future for Hawaii.

This report seeks to inform actions for Hawaii’s sustainable water use in agriculture on East Maui using a systems approach. This systems approach considers water as available for multiple purposes to consider how Maui’s water resources can be used to achieve multiple sustainability objectives. From a water perspective, sustainability is narrowly defined as not drawing on groundwater beyond maximum sustainable yield. This report explicitly does not address the litigation issues related to instream flows and native uses of water. Ulupono commissioned this report to address the following questions:

• Is the current use of energy and water for agriculture sustainable?
• Do we have enough water to meet society’s goals of increased local food and renewable energy production without causing unintended consequences?
• How much food and electrical and fuel energy can we produce from the East Maui watershed while sustainably stewarding our water resources?
• What are the impacts to the broader Maui water and energy systems?
• What do we know about how much can water supply be increased through watershed management and restoration and at what cost?
The figure below shows my calculations for world expenditures for primary energy: oil, natural gas, coal, and electricity (from non-fossil sources).  These calculations are based on the Master's Thesis of John Maxwell.  Put into the context of long-term energy expenditures trends (e.g., the transition to fossil energy in the Industrial Revolution), these calculations indicate that the turn of the 21st Century has possibly marked the time of lowest cost world energy in the history of mankind!  Thus, the future "new normal" is characterized by more expensive energy.

See previous blog for U.S. only trend of food and energy expenditures: 
What goes down: Stein’s Law and the cost of energy.  

Contact me if you want to hear more about his research.  I currently have more data than resources for students to sift through the data, so every bit of suggestion and support helps us back out the important implications of this trend toward increasing energy expenditures.


Blog discussion of recent energy news

Is Google's cancellation of their RE<C project a typical view of Silicon Valley that energy production is much easier than in reality?

December 1, 2014: RE < C: The end of a project and the stereotype of Silicon Valley

Google’s foray into energy, the “RE<C = Renewable Energy less than Coal” was typical of the Silicon Valley mentality that is used to “solving” some technological problem quickly, selling the company or idea to a larger company, and then moving on to the next great app.  Whether it is RE<C or making advanced biofuels from algae or cellulosic feedstocks, the Silicon Valley stereotype thinks the “energy problem” will be solvable. Click the link above to read more details.

To learn more about Carey's research, visit his website or contact him using this information:
e:      |  web:    |     ph: +1 512-471-5468
The University of Texas at Austin, 2304 Whitis Ave, C2400, Austin, TX 78712-1718

unsubscribe from this list  update subscription preferences 
Copyright © 2014 Carey W. King.
You are receiving this email because you are a friend or colleague with whom I have exchanged business cards, or you have requested to be added to this newsletter.