Regional Analysis

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Regional systems are complex systems that for the purpose of this type of evaluation can be considered to be in a steady state. Their structure has many levels of organizations, and their openings to the outside and irreversible dynamics are typical features of complex systems. They require resources and energy to enhance internal order and to self-organize, while increasing the entropy of their surroundings. The increase in entropy exceeds the internal entropy decrease of the system, so the second principle of thermodynamics is observed. Hence, the region behaves like a dissipative structure.

For a rigorous and successful analysis, much historical and scientific information about the region must be collected. The first step of an emergy evaluation is energy modeling of the region with its inflows, outflows, and local stocks. Many emergy evaluations of states and nations have been done and can be found in the scientific literature (see, e.g., emergy evaluation of Italy, environmental accounting using emergy: West Virgina, etc.). In the analysis of nations, flows from outside the system (F) and flows exploited inside the system (R and N) are identified. Imported flows are considered nonrenewable as the transport component is mostly based on fossil fuel. Once inputs are expressed in emergy terms, it is possible to calculate emergy indicators. These can be useful to describe the characteristics of a region and to formulate future policy. Figure 7 shows a simplified energy diagram for West Virginia.

In the diagram, purchased resources are indicated F (fuels), G (Goods), and PI (services): R and N indicate the renewable and nonrenewable resources, respectively, while B and PE represent the exported goods and services, respectively. Dashed lines represent the counter-current to emergy in exchanges. The main characteristics and storage of the system are indicated. In particular, the storage of coal is very important for the state.

Once the diagram has been made, the next step is to quantify the inputs; it is necessary to transform resource and energy inputs into emergy units. The next step is to sum the resources in categories as stated above (renewable, nonre-newable, etc.). Then emergy indicators can be constructed. For a detailed analysis of West Virginia, see the 'Further reading" section; here, we only present the main characteristics to illustrate an application of emergy. Our analysis shows that the largest renewable emergy input is growth of timber (44 x 102°sejyr~1), while, among nonrenewable inputs, coal is the greatest emergy flow for production and consumption, followed by electricity, petroleum, and

West Virginia in 1997

Figure 7 Energy diagram of West Virginia. Reproduced from Campbell DE and Brandt-Williams SL (2005) Environmental accounting using emergy: Evaluation of the State of West Virginia, EPA/600/R-05/006, with permission from USEPA.

West Virginia in 1997

Figure 7 Energy diagram of West Virginia. Reproduced from Campbell DE and Brandt-Williams SL (2005) Environmental accounting using emergy: Evaluation of the State of West Virginia, EPA/600/R-05/006, with permission from USEPA.

natural gas. Among imports the largest are imported goods, services embodied in goods, and petroleum fuels. Natural gas is not considered as it only passes through the state of West Virginia and then it is not used here but somewhere else. Coal and electricity generated from coal amount to 63% of the total emergy exported.

The emergy results (Table 3) indicate that West Virginia has a low investment ratio (2.39 vs. 7 of US) and a high ELR (20).Thus, it is sustained by a flow of nonrenewable resources that is 20 times the size of renewable flows and needs little investment to exploit it. The system could sustain its future development by using its stocks of nonrenewable resources (e.g., coal), but it has to account for past consumptions of renewable resources (e.g., timber) and consider the negative effects of using nonrenewable resources, such as greenhouse gas emissions. At the current rate of use, West Virginia coal resources will be finished within 300 years.

By emergy evaluation, it is possible to assess whatever the emergy paid for a resource balances the real value of what the system is exporting. In economics, it is customary to relate the cost of a good to its cost of extraction; the real value of natural resources is often underestimated. This occurs in West Virginia, which exports twice as much emergy as it receives, causing a deficit of

1.46 x 1023 sejyr_1 (about 66% of annual emergy use in the state). This is mainly due to export of coal that is about 1.50 x 1023 sej yr~\ As stated by Campbell etal.,

West Virginia received 3.56 billion dollars in net transfer payments . .. from the federal government. This money makes up about 14% of the existing emergy deficit when converted to emergy using the West Virginia emergy to dollar ratio. The question of the equity of exchange between West Virginia and the nation could be further resolved using emergy methods to systematically consider all the benefits and costs accruing to both the state and the nation as a result of their relationship.

The emergy results also show a high emergy use per capita, in contrast to many social indicators. Emergy use is concentrated in the industrial sector while the rest of the population (58%) was in rural areas and does not benefit from the empower flows.

As in the case of West Virginia, it is appropriate to exclude flow that hides other characteristics of the system from emergy evaluation. In this evaluation export of coal and electricity were excluded, revealing that the development of West Virginia has similar characteristics to that of other American states, such as Maine and North Carolina.

Table 3 West Virginia emergy indices

Name of index




Renewable emergy received


1.05E + 22


Renewable emergy used


6.60E + 21


In state nonrenewable

No + N

2.06E + 23


Imported emergy

F + G + PI

1.59E + 23


Total emergy inflows

Rr + F + G + PI

1.70E + 23


Total emergy used

U = Ra + No + ^ + G + PI

2.21E + 23


Total exported emergy

B + PE + N2

3.05E + 23


Emergy used from home sources

(No + F2 + Ra)/U



(F + G + PI)—(B + PE + N2)

-1.46E + 23


Ratio of exports to imports

(B + PE + N2)/(F + G + PI)


Fraction of use, locally renewable



Fraction of use, purchased import

(F + G + Pl)/U


Fraction of use, imported service



Fraction of use that is free

(Ra + No)/U


Ratio of purchased to free

(F1 + G + PI)/(Rr + No)


Environmental loading ratio

(F1 + No + G + PI)/Rr


Investment ratio

(F + G + PI)/(Rr + No + F2)


Use per unit area


3.55E +12

sejm 2

Use per person


1.22E +17


Renewable carrying capacity at present




standard of living

Developed carrying capacity at same




living standard

WV State Econ. Product


3.83E +10


Ratio of WV emergy use to GSP


5.78E +12


Ratio of US emergy use to GNP


1.20E +12


Ratio of electricity/emergy use



Ratio of Elec. Prod./emergy use



Emergy of fuel use per person

FueI use/popuIation

3.41E +16



1.81E + 06



6.24E +10


Reproduced from Campbell DE and Brandt-Williams SL (2005) Environmental accounting using emergy: Evaluation of the state of West Virginia, EPA/600/R-05/006, with permission from USEPA.

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