Limits to growth? Hush!
18 Jun, 2008 04:46 pm
The International Energy Agency (IEA) is calling for a major boost in clean technologies to address the world's soaring demand for energy. But who can believe that such energies will be able, when global annual fossil fuel extraction (oil, gas and coal all together) have peaked and then begun to decline, to satisfy an ever-increasing energy demand?
But who can believe that such energies will be able, when global annual fossil fuel extraction (oil, gas and coal all together) have peaked and then begun to decline, to satisfy an ever-increasing energy demand?
Fast growth feeds itself from energy produced at low cost, so that a substantial part of the energy return (EROEI) can be used to increase the annual energy production feeding economic growth. And most of today's energy is still produced at low cost. But why, then, do we have to pay so much when we buy it?
Answer: Simply because we have recently passed the threshold beyond which energy production (still growing) can no longer satisfy demand (growing faster).
In this new conjuncture, a substantial proportion of the profits gathered from high selling prices supports the numerical growth of the populations living in the producing countries and the ones they provide assistance to, allowing those populations to buy consumer goods and in doing so sustain world economic growth.
Another proportion allows the wealthy elites ruling those countries – and also many speculators – to acquire profitable capital, part of it concerning the development of alternative energies (nuclear, renewables) needed to keep growth going on.
But it is now becoming ever clearer that the average energy production cost will substantially increase in the course of the decades ahead. Therefore, the energy investment returns needed to feed energy-production growth will slow to such an extent that finally global annual energy production will come to a standstill and reverse into decline.
Improving energy efficiency may provide some delay but its limits will soon be revealed. At some point (within the next decades) the ultimate limits to growth will be reached and expansion will then reverse into contraction. Many of us expect that such an event will bring about economic collapse, as the exchange mechanisms between our world economic system's components rest on the existence of a financial bubble kept under pressure as long as markets in expansion allow investors to make profits re-injected into the bubble.
But even though they know, most people remain primarily concerned with everyday life and do not want to hear or talk about that. Only crazy people (like me), dubbed 'doommongers', dare…but hush! Let's talk about something else…doommongering is unsound. For the time being, in spite of soaring oil prices, our world still remains lifted upwards by the ascending front of the enormous growth wave coming towards us and wants to believe that so-called “sustainable development” will keep going on …
(Adapted from a Letter to the Editor published by EurActiv under the same title, Monday 16 June 2008.)