Embedded or embodied energy is defined by Wikipedia as the sum of all the energy required to produce any goods or services, considered as if that energy was incorporated or 'embodied' in the product itself. The concept can be useful in determining the effectiveness of energy-producing or energy-saving devices, or the 'real' replacement cost of a building, and, because energy-inputs usually entail greenhouse gas emissions, in deciding whether a product contributes to or mitigates global warming. One fundamental question is: does the device produce more energy or save more energy than it took to make it?
Any calculation of the embodied energy footprint [let alone the much broader ecological footprint] is totally dependent on the parameters included. As all of the contenders, other than conservation, have an industrial component, so too do all of them have a financial component. Each of them has developers and investors who will turn into winners or losers financially. Who wins, who loses depends in part on what is included in the embodied energy and ecological footprint calculations. As with the solar and wind contenders, the devil is in the complicated and debatable details.
Another popular fantasy here in the car culture of North America is that the electric car is going to save us from our fossil fuel follies. Whereas a 2010 lifecycle analysis from the National Academy of Sciences concludes that the aggregate environmental damage from an electric car - that is, accounting for all the costs associated with its manufacture, use and ultimate disposal - is greater than that of a gasoline car, even if the gasoline comes from the highly polluting and greenhouse gas-intensive oil sands of Canada.
Notice where the calculations' parameter lines are drawn - manufacture, use and disposal. What about how all that electricity would be moved considering that the existing electric grid is already crumbling from lack of investment and over usage. What about the human costs in the third world of people who's land is stolen by Eminent Domain so that the necessary rare earth elements can be mined. What about their starvation in the city ghettos after they've been booted. What about the new infrastructure that must be built [charging stations etc] and the removal of all the old decaying and leaking fossil fuel infrastructure, etc.
It's the same parameter defining debate for all of them except conservation which sometimes has a negative footprint in that you don't use the infrastructure as much so it lasts longer. But there is no debate about the fact that huge sums of money swing in those winds. Or that wherever the big bucks swing, the 'truth' is whatever is most profitable for the tellers of the story.
"There are deceivers - those who know the truth and actively misinform others to advance their own financial or political positions. Then there are believers - those who, for whatever reason, including everything from self-interest to divinely granted dominion, honestly believe the deceiver's message." - The Mud Report
It's easy to see the self-interested motivation of the deceivers - money and power. The believers of the free lunch story have their own self-interested motives too. Conservation means having less, consuming less, even wanting less. Conservation doesn't 'grow' the capitalist economy, in fact it shrinks it. Conversation means lowered stock markets, lowered pension and investment income, lowered prices. Instead of the banker's target of 2% inflation, conservation of a meaningful size would mean deflation. Conservation could lead to a global financial meltdown for the elites.
It's hardly a mystery why all the 'green' and 'clean' energy pretenders get a turn at the corporate owned mainstream media microphone but conservation doesn't. 'Real Conservation is a Heresy That Threatens the Core Beliefs of Consumer Capitalism'. The solutions to our ecological and financial dilemmas are the same - De-Growth and mild De-Flation.
After another kick or two at the WWIII implications of the puppet show in Keiv including the bastards in the IMF, the compliant propaganda in the western media and the plummeting prospects of the petrodollar, The Mud Report return to the admittedly optimistic hope that conservation driven De-Growth and De-Flation can save humanity's self-interested asses.