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Ken Barrows

The next question for me is: what is wealth? Is GDP a good proxy for "wealth?" For the link between wealth and energy consumption, it probably is.


Thanks a lot Dave. You made Garrett's work easy to understand.


A televised debate between you and Garrett would be an interesting experience. :-)

Greg Elsdon

Dave, so far yours is the only reference to Dilworth's Too Smart For Our Own Good I've seen in a blog or any other venue not directly related to selling or reviewing the book.

Very good.

Gregor Macdonald

We can conclude therefore that all policy initiatives that aim to reduce energy consumption, including policy proposals typical to climate mitigation, will fail. Only policies which attempt to divert the "biological imperative" to consume energy from different sources can possibly have some hope of success. Finally, and perhaps more importantly, any mix of factors which severely slow industrial growth and its consumption of energy--such as aging populations, high debt levels, and a price revolution (higher) in energy costs--will accomplish far, far, more to reduce exhaust levels (waste) from our economies.
To wit: http://peakfish.com/2012/11/19/us-carbon-dioxide-emissions-from-energy-consumption-million-metric-tons-of-carbon-dioxide-1973-2012/


I am confused. Is the claim being made that energy use and GDP are growing at similar rates? In that case, global energy intensity should stay constant. That is not the case. See http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/01/energy_use.

Over the last 40 years, global energy use has increased 115% (or 2% per year, roughly consistent with the data given here) and GNI 239% (3% per year, not consistent with the data above). (Check the Google Public Data Explorer). Of course, GDP or similar measures are inherently questionable. But what other metric is Garrett using? In any case, while the idea of a complete decoupling of economic growth from energy/resource use is probably illusory, the claim that there has to be a close correlation seems to me equally ill-founded. There clearly is a capacity for some dramatic reduction in energy intensity. Western Europe has much lower energy intensity than the US, and the difference is real. China is decreasing its (currently high) energy intensity.



Ok I overlooked that Garrett refers to "the world's total accumulated wealth" as the integral over GDP. If GDP grows at a steady 3% rate, which seems to be roughly the case, then the integral should look as follows:
P=P0 exp(pt), where p=0.03
C=Integral P= C0+P0/p exp(pt)
(Verify that C'==P).
Everything now depends on the integral constant C0. With C0=0, C would be growing at the same exponential rate as P. With a high C0, the growth rate would be smaller. I find the idea of "the world's total accumulated wealth" questionable if not meaningless, even more so than GDP itself. What about depreciation etc.? I suspect that Garrett is after a master theory of everything and I do not think there is good theoretical or empirical support for the idea of such a tight quantitative relation between wealth and energy use. There is a realistic approach between the illusory belief in limitless growth and a deterministic concept of "civilization" as a thermodynamic system.


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