Growth isn’t possible!

Well, this is one post I had thought about writing and, thankfully, the New Economics Foundation (nef) has surpassed anything I could have got together. In January (2010), nef published ‘Growth isn’t possible: why we need a new economic direction’. As ever, I’m a few months behind the times. Not only does it have a wonderful Introduction (which explains the slightly bemusing cover image), it goes on to mention my pet hamster subject, net energy.

While they do not factor the declining net energy gains from fossil fuel extraction into their model assumptions, they at least recognise it. The lack of data is one reason why even those aware of the problem are often reduced to leaving it out of the equation. There is a whole section on peak oil, gas and coal, which includes a good explanation of the falling energy returns and why it’s a problem. If the energy return for a fuel falls to 1:1, it ceases to be a source of energy – you’ve put as much energy in as you get out of the other end, as previously discussed on this site (which, interestingly, has not yet elicited any comments…hmmm).

And finally, they even recognise that carbon capture and storage (CCS), one of the technofixes punted by some as the answer to rising atmospheric carbon levels, reduces the net energy gained from a fuel. All energy alternatives are looked at, including energy efficiency, and while our needs could, some say, be met by renewables it’s growth which is the question. So have a look, or watch this space as this report is definitely on my ‘to read’ list.

PS Happy Solstice!

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About The Cheery Pessimist

Waiting for some sign that we will change our ways before it all comes tumbling down...still, you've got to laugh
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3 Responses to Growth isn’t possible!

  1. Margaret says:

    Who thinks any of the controlling politicians know anything about biology? Did all of them just study politics/philosophy/economics and nothing else?

    Still, I don’t think that is any excuse for them or the economists. After all the Hero of Our Nation (to me at least), David Attenborough explained it all way back in 1984 in his series The Living Planet when, in one example, he talked about the owl and vole populations in the pine forests on the border between Russia and Finland.

    ‘All the owls, some visitors, some residents, scour the forest for voles. Tengmal’s owl, up in a tree hole, has three chicks, all flourishing and all demanding voles. The number of voles varies considerably. It gradually builds up over a period of five to six years until finally there are so many that they eat out their food supply and the population crashes. These changes have their effect on the owl population. More voles mean better-fed owls, which produce bigger clutches of eggs and rear more chicks. And as the number of owls increases, so they spread out into new territory. ‘

    This is the bit they should have been paying attention to – It gradually builds up over a period of five to six years until finally there are so many that they eat out their food supply and the population crashes.

    The owls are dependent on the voles, so without the voles….

    And then this And when there are no more voles as they move into new territory matters too…..

    Oil. Voles. Oil isn’t like water; water gets recycled through kidneys, clouds etc. Oil doesn’t. Oil comes from dead organic material and it takes millenia for Mother Earth to make.

    Maybe if the politicians stopped wasting their lives by hanging out with the rich business types and watched a bit of decent telly, they might learn something.

    (Suppose Mother Earth is a bit like my granny. Piss her off and she’d refuse to make another pot of soup so maybe pissing Mother Earth off isn’t so smart or that plan about the so-called elites heading off to the moon might have to be dusted off sooner than they thought.)

    • mandy meikle says:

      Excellent example – I’m also a big fan of David Attenborough and there’s no doubt in my mind that humans are well into ‘overshoot’. But as you say, politicians rarely have any scientific background so their denials are easier to create & maintain. As for getting to another planet (a la Stark), fortunately we won’t have the energy to do that so the galaxy is safe!

  2. Margaret says:

    Oh, they’ll dust it off, the elites will go and then they’ll realise they should have paid attention to genetics but only when it is too late! And then they’ll need some common folk to look after the disabled. But there we won’t be there to offer our lowly services!

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