CareyKing_McCombsPhoto.jpgDr. Carey W King performs interdisciplinary research related to how energy systems interact within the economy and environment as well as how our policy and social systems can make decisions and tradeoffs among these often competing factors. The past performance of our energy systems is no guarantee of future returns, yet we must understand the development of past energy systems.  Carey’s research goals center on rigorous interpretations of the past to determine the most probable future energy pathways.

Carey is  Research Scientist at The University of Texas at Austin and Assistant Director at the Energy Institute. He also has appointments with the  Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy within the Jackson School of Geosciences and the McCombs School of Business. He has both a B.S. with high honors and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. He has published technical articles in the academic journals Environmental Science and Technology, Environmental Research Letters, Nature Geoscience, Energy Policy, Sustainability, and Ecology and Society. He has also written commentary for Earth magazine discussing energy, water, and economic interactions. Dr. King has several patents as former Director for Scientific Research of Uni-Pixel Displays, Inc.

Carey’s Curriculum Vitae: pdficon_small PDF


Carey’s energy and economy systems “primer”:

The turn of this century saw the cheapest-ever energy and food combined, and here’s why we may never return to those historic low numbers.

“Contemporary discussions of energy resources and technologies are full of conflicting news, views, and opinions from extreme sides of arguments. The average person is understandably confused. Depending on who you listen to, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have either placed the United States on the verge of energy independence, or exposed the insolvency of oil and gas companies as they spend more money than they collect from sales. Renewable energy technologies can either obviously serve all of our needs, or are a subsidized path to economic ruin.”  Read more …

Latest Blogs and News:

2016, September 20:

Part 2 of 2: A blog written for the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation (see link here).

Part one of this blog post explained how macroeconomic models are flawed in a fundamental way.

These models are coupled to models of the Earth’s natural systems as Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) that are used to inform climate change policy. Most IAM results presented in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports show climate mitigation costs as trivial compared to gains in economic growth.

The referred to “elephant in the room” (from part one of this series) is the fact that economic growth is usually simply assumed to occur.

Click here to read the full post …


2016, September 12:

Part 1 of 2: A blog written for the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation (see link here).

If we want to maximize our ability to achieve future energy, climate, and economic goals, we must start to use improved economic modeling concepts.  There is a very real tradeoff of the rate at which we address climate change and the amount of economic growth we experience during the transition to a low-carbon economy.

If we ignore this tradeoff, as do most of the economic models, then we risk politicians and citizens revolting against the energy transition midway through.

Click here to read the full post …

2016, September 2:

Keep Austin Weird. The mantra is everywhere – on shirts, coffee mugs, and bumper stickers.  And yet Austin seems to be losing its weirdness.

I think we need a new mantra: Make Austin Wealthy – and by “wealthy,” I mean emphasizing all kinds of assets, and by “Austin” I mean every person and neighborhood in Austin.

This concept holds not only for Austin, it holds for all cities, and is a translational concept

Click here to read my post which is the full text of my September 2016 opinion-editorial in the Austin American Statesman.

2016, June 23:

The world has experienced profound changes recently regarding energy and the economy. Fossil fuels, while still abundant, are becoming more costly to develop as the most easily-accessible resources become depleted. Many renewable energy technologies are becoming less costly due in part to market forces as well as supportive state and federal energy policies. These technologies however would require massive capital investment to replace fossil fuels at current scale.

Meanwhile, a global financial crisis as well as mounting public and private debt have cast a shadow of lingering uncertainty over the world economy. Conventional thinking suggests an eventual return to “normal.” But slowing growth, increasing inequality, and a sense that an apparent recovery remains fragile are driving concerns that the world has entered a new era, where classic economic rules and tools may no longer apply.

Click here to read further …


2016, April 15:

Figure 1 is perhaps the most interesting chart I have ever made. The purpose of this figure (from my publication here) is to provide context into metrics of net energy and see how they relate to economic data. Here, I’m asking a fundamental question: should our (worldwide) society be able to leverage money more than we can leverage energy? My hypothesis is “no” and would be represented by values < 1 in Figure 1. Clearly the plotted ratio of ratios in Figure 1 is not less than one (for all years) per my hypothesis, so why might this be the case?  As I discuss below, understanding the data in Figure 1 is crucial for making better macroeconomic models of the economy that properly account for the role of energy.


Figure 1.  This is a ratio of how much the worldwide economy leverages money spent by the energy sector relative to how much surplus energy is produced by the energy sector itself.  Specifically this calculation (using world numbers) = (GDP/money spending on energy by the energy system) / [ (world primary energy production – energy spending by the energy system) / energy spending by the energy system)].

CONTINUE reading the full post …

March 3, 2016:

There have been dramatic changes in the U.S. energy system under our current president – a big drop in the use of coal, a boom in domestic oil and gas development from fracking, and the rapid spread of renewable energy.  But in terms of influencing energy technology deployment, the next president will have a lot less influence than you might expect.

When it comes to educating U.S. citizens on energy’s relationship to the broader economy, though, the next president could have a great impact. But I’m not holding my breath. In fact, I’d say it’s likely not going to happen.

Here I pose a few relevant questions about energy and the economy that could be asked of our next president and suggest some answers.


February 21, 2016:

Much of the hyperbole over the Supreme Court’s stay of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) is making a mountain out of a molehill. The CPP is very significant politically, legally, but its CO2 goals are trivial in the grand scheme of sustainable consumption patterns, technological capability, stated goals (not commitments) at Conference of Parties global climate talks. The CPP targets are a piece of cake. And I say this as someone that is not a techno-optimist in the sense that technology alone will not solve all socioeconomic problems.

May 26, 2015:

This is a guest blog for The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.  In the blog I discuss the ongoing lawsuit between the Texas Farm Bureau and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regarding the allocation of water rights in Texas’ Brazos River Basin.  One of the issues is whether or not electric power generators should have guaranteed access to water during droughts even if they do not have water rights more senior than some farmers.  I also close with numbers about how much water is consumed for power generation in Texas, and the quantities are much smaller than stated in the Texas State Water Plan.