Energy and the End of Growth
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January 29, 2013 - 8:11pm
by Michael Edesess, AdvisorPerspectives.com
Is economic growth coming to an end? That’s been a hot topic of discussion recently (including in this publication), thanks to a paper by Northwestern University economist Robert J. Gordon, Is U.S. Economic Growth Over? It had a simple but striking thesis: “There was virtually no growth before 1750, and thus there is no guarantee that growth will continue indefinitely.”
But before 1750 there were no fossil fuels either. Only once humans tapped the large deposits of coal and oil beneath us did economic growth truly awaken. Every technological innovation since then has depended on fossil fuels. The history of economic growth is, so far, the history of fossil fuels.
This gives us cause to wonder whether economic growth will end when it is no longer powered by fossil fuels. Civilization as we know it is – and has been –...
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