Thursday, December 15, 2011

Economic Growth: The Limits Are In the Human Mind

Are human societies reaching their "limits to growth." One might think so when observing the economic problems faced by Europe, the US, Japan, and a number of other more advanced technological societies. The most popular modern argument for "limits to growth" revolves around the issue of limited energy supplies, eg "peak oil."
... in a recent article, Richard Heinberg, author of The End of Growth, claimed that growth has come to an end. Millennia of growth have now apparently come to a crashing end. We have gone from the slow-burning Neolithic revolution, which re-arranged nature to our liking, to the expansion of agriculture, and the great Industrial Revolution, which eventually freed us from the land. However, growth sceptics such as Heinberg are positing why economic growth should end right now, in the early twenty-first century, when we are more prosperous and resourceful than at any time in the past.

...The key point to Heinberg’s argument is that growth is constrained by the availability of energy. In this, he is correct. Physics tells us that we can put order into disordered matter using high-grade energy, generating low-grade waste heat in the process...Heinberg argues that high-grade energy is becoming scarce, that we have eaten the low-hanging fruit. Consequently, growth must end as we lack sufficient energy to rearrange matter into more useful forms, whether smartphones, tractors or vaccines. In reality, high-grade energy is anything but scarce.

We live in a finite world, with finite resources. Even the sun will expand and die out eventually, and life on the planet will be unsustainable. But that will likely take a few billion years to occur. In the meantime, perhaps there are steps that we can take to maximise our chances of survival?
Even the prophet of ‘peak oil’, M King Hubbert, a man beloved of growth sceptics, cleverly recognised that while fossil-fuel use will no doubt ultimately peak, nuclear fuels are essentially forever, because they are so energy dense.

Let’s be clear: there is no shortage of high-grade, carbon-free energy to deliver a future of shared prosperity. But we need the will, ambition and inventiveness to exploit it. We also need to recognise that we have only scratched the surface of nuclear energy. Even modern light-water reactors are woefully inefficient at turning the energy of collapsing stars stored in nuclear fuels into useful work. But through future innovation, we can tap almost all of that clean, compact energy considerately provided by nature. _Spiked-online

Modern environmentalists consider all forms of abundant and reliable energy to be unsafe. They consider fossil fuels to be unsafe due to pollution and global warming. Nuclear energy is said to be unsafe due to radioactive contamination and nuclear weapons proliferation. If biomass fuel and power are considered, environmental activists warn that food supplies would be threatened and planetary biodiversity would be destroyed.

The Obama administration has followed the environmentalist agenda of energy starvation almost to the letter -- creating political limits to energy and resources which would not otherwise exist.

Humans are always looking for better, cleaner, more economical sources of fuels and energy. But an innovation society cannot "think its way" out of current conundrums if its political leaders shut off the energy flow to society -- for whatever reason.

Eventually, human ingenuity will devise cleaner, more abundant, and more economical forms of energy than the dominant energy forms today. But big wind and big solar are too expensive and unreliable to substitute for natural gas, coal, nuclear, oil sands, and crude oil. Pursuing the solutions proposed by environmental activists will lead us down the path to global poverty, disease, die-off, and long term backwardness -- a new dark ages.

Here is the alternative: The Ultimate Resource. The human mind is constantly looking for better ways to do more with less. When allowed the freedom to innovate, experiment, invent, and create, the human mind can solve problems in a wide range of often unexpected ways.

The environmental greens who control the US government, the EU government, and many powerful inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations, cannot imagine the possible solutions to the problems which haunt their dreams. Their minds were never tuned to innovative problem-solving in the sense of science, technology, industry, and energy.

The human mind must be freed and empowered to solve problems. This means that the huge governmental, inter-governmental, and non-governmental bureaucracies of the world will have to relinquish significant power of action to ordinary people.

If these inbred monstrosities of cancerous bureaucracy cannot be reined in and partially dismantled -- if they are allowed to continue to grow out of control -- they will choke the life out of the societies they pretend to watch over.

What will you do about it?

1 comment:

bruce said...

As the cagw issue dies a slow death I wonder if the ever growing misconceptions the developed world's populations have with green environmentalism will wither from the light of reality.

However, it seems the propensity for societies to evolve towards perverse conservatism when dealt an easy existence is part of the genetic makeup of all Earth's life.

Its going to be rough sledding in the foreseeable future.