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Corn ethanol is a good example where fertiliser, natural gas, diesel, electricity, land, water and labour gets converted into ethanol, a liquid fuel that can go in our cars.
But it does leave the question why we don’t just use liquefied natural gas as a transport fuel in the first place and save on all the bother that creating corn ethanol involves?
We use as much energy to gather energy as energy gathered. If ERo EI falls below 1 we end up with an energy sink.
Low ERo EI systems are effectively energy conversions where it may be convenient or politically expedient for us to convert one energy carrier into another with little or no energy gain.
The Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERo EI or EROI) of any energy gathering system is a measure of that system’s efficiency.
The concept was originally derived in ecology and has been transferred to analyse human industrial society.
And it is known that some of the strategies deployed have very low ERo EI, for example corn ethanol is around 1 to 2  and solar PV between 1 and 5 [2,3] depending upon where it is sited and the boundaries used to estimate energy costs.
This began by gathering fire wood and food and progressed to gathering coal, oil and natural gas.
But recently I have received this via email from Nate: Are we wrong to believe that ERo EI is a fundamentally important metric of energy acquisition or is it simply that the work done to date is not sufficiently rigorous or presented in a way that economists and policy makers can understand.
At this point I will cast out a bold idea that money was invented as a proxy for energy because ERo EI was too complex to fathom.
This led to gathering U and Th and learning how to convert this to enormous amounts of thermal and electrical energy.
And now we attempt to gather solar energy through photovoltaics, wind turbines and liquid biofuels.