What we learned this week

This week I’ve been reading Energy: Overdevelopment and the delusion of endless growth, the coffee table book from the Post Carbon Institute. It’s great on energy literacy, and full of impressive photographs of our energy predicament. On solutions, it’s disappointingly limited. It rails predictably against fracking and fossil fuels and nuclear power, but also against biomass, hydropower and even wind power, which it insists on referring to as ‘industrial wind’. Having backed itself into a corner, all we’re left with is energy conservation and local micro-generation, which is just not enough. There’s a purist view of nature here that gets in the way of real solutions, and when I read that “concentrated solar power plants industrialize the desert”, I lost patience with it entirely.


  1. The book sounds fascinating however you are right. To survive the future all possible solutions have to be considered, what works in one situation might not in another.

  2. I think your friend Ms Trebeck is sailing close to the lump of labour fallacy.
    “In an economy in which many people are simply trying to stitch together a semblance of a livelihood on short term contracts and too few hours, is pursuit of fewer people on the payroll a good thing for anyone other than those signing the pay cheques?” That does sound like there is only so much work to go around.

    A problem with not focusing higher productivity is that it either means low wages or higher costs. It sounds lovely that we should have care workers spending more time with their clients but of course that means we employ more care workers. If your social care budget is fixed then that means lower wages for all the care workers or we have the same number of care workers caring for fewer people. Resources aren’t limitless, especially if you are also tilting at economic growth.

    Now I don’t think that the wider populace appreciate the idea of stagnant or declining incomes. We have had over the last 7 years what can rightly be described as jobs miracle; the employment rate is at levels not seen in 40 years. Yet many of those jobs are low skill, low wage and as such productivity hasn’t grown, nor have real wages much. The recent election doesn’t suggest that people are very grateful.

    Of course going against productivity, looking for a work harder, earn less economy is the opposite of the high productivity, little need for work ‘Economic Possibilities of of Grandchildren’ by Keynes that you have previously extolled. Have you changed your mind? If so it would be good to hear rather than so many other ideas that come here as big issues, are widely debunked and vanish without trace.

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