Chapter II Entropy: Completing the Energy Economy

"A theory is the more impressive the greater the simplicity of its premises, the more varied the kinds of things that it relates and the more extended the area of its applicability. Therefore classical thermodynamics has made a deep impression on me. It is the only physical theory of universal content which I am convinced, within the areas of the applicability of its basic concepts, will never be overthrown."

– Einstein (1949)

Sustainability is only possible if the total disorder created by a life system on its surroundings can be overcome with energy. Until relatively recently, the energy needed for ecological sustainability has been kept paced naturally by solar energy, and thus largely taken for granted. But currently, the ecosystems we rely on to sustain life are intrinsically requiring more and more of our energy resources to be maintained, including resources that had been traditionally reserved for our economy. Energy is also central to what an economic system attempts to organize: the ability to perform work, and the inherent value of goods and services resulting from that work. Country Joe McDonald might reasonably ask, “What are we fighting for?” Greenspan has already answered,“the Iraq war is largely about oil,” and, “everybody knows.” The general public knows that energy is central to our economy.  But it’s not just the economy we’re fighting for.  The general public can also at least intuit that energy is essential for our survival, and that it comes from energy resources.  Certainly the fight for resources is the answer Joe McDonald vexes from his question, but his question still goes largely unanswered.  Just what IS energy anyway?  Most of the general public do not know exactly what energy is.

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