By , December 16, 2014

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” —Carl Sandburg

The acronym EROEI is slowly gaining prominence, although not nearly fast enough for the future of modern civilization. It stands for “energy returned on energy invested.”

Extracting energy, such as oil or coal, requires an investment of energy. When the amount of energy invested in extraction approaches the amount to be extracted, the cost of the energy becomes too high. EROEI will become painfully familiar to us all as we, our political leaders, and the media wake up to the realities of our energy-intensive economy.

I try to apply the principle of EROEI to my own life. All of the “homestead’s” resources are finite, and limited. We can’t afford to focus on one resource to the exclusion of others: yes, we need to save money, but it makes no sense to work three days to solve a problem that could be addressed in one day through a $10 investment. There are many more examples.

The most practical method I’ve found to gauge one’s energy investment—the coin of one’s life, to use Mr. Sandburg’s eloquent analogy—comes from Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin’s Your Money or Your Life. I’ve written about this book before, and have followed the basic concept—if not all of the charting and graphing—it recommends. It helps immensely in judging which projects are worth continuing to pursue, and which are not.

“Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” Self reliance means assessing “the coin of your life” continually, to make sure that your EROEI, the energy returned on energy invested, is properly in balance. And, when you find it is not in proper balance, take swift and certain action to correct it.

What brought this on? I closed out the account I had with the article Web site I spoke about in previous posts. Even with everyone’s generously-spent time and attention, I fell short of reaching the minimum payout requirement before the Website shut down. I actually closed the account a bit early, once I realized I would not make the minimum—the site continued to make money off my work, and the work of others right up until it went dark yesterday, so I decided not to let them make even a few extra pennies off my work. I’m well shut of them. EROEI!

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