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A New Economic Reality?

Hour 2: As the global economy continues to sputter, is there still a chance of recovery or has an economic paradigm shift occurred, creating a new normal? We’ll talk this hour with Post Carbon Institute Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg, whose latest book is “The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality” (New Society Publishers, 2011).

  • Ymrt99

    Look forward to hearing on iTunes. I’m thinking that the economy won’t recover. It reached its peak, maybe many years ago. The problem is that trends are hard to spot over long periods of time. All trends involve slight changes over time. On top of that, we adjust to trends, and so never notice them in the absence of a big tick in the trending direction.

  • Joe L

    It’s unfortunate to have some one whose thinking is as flawed as Richard Heinberg on a program that is usually provocative and serious.

    Heinberg’s fatuous assertions that “growth is over” and that there is “no way to pay back what we owe” are too silly to be on a thoughtful program. Personal debt in the US has fallen dramatically in the past couple of years and the savings rate is up.  Private debt in the aggregate is under control, and although public debt is troubling, we have been more endebted before and emerged just fine.

    Despite an economy that is troubled now… and it is agreed that this was self-inflicted distress due to bad government policies… a very strong consensus of experts agree that the future holds vast economic growth.

    As for carbon, mankind has only depended on oil and gas for several decades.  We will be doing fine when it is gone and replaced.

    A central thing these pessimists don’t seem to get is that, the amount of matter and energy is constant.  We must simply harness other forms of energy and raw material.  Nanotechnology is an important step in this direction.

    It seems we have these pessimistic ascetic Cassandras on the radio regularly, but never get to hear the opposite view, which is very unfortunate.  That view, which is correct, is that we will be able to solve problems and flourish.  To believe Mr. Heiberg’s Jeremiad could lead to very unhealthy thinking.

  • Robert Ressl

    At some time we have to recognize the growth is not sustainable.  My favorite question is “How many people can live on the planet Earth?”  When trying to answer the question the first thing you have to decide is what qualitity of life do you want for the people?  Do we live like the residents of “Solent Green” or do we live like the Native Americans before the arivial of europeans?  You have to consider technology but be realistic about what technology can achieve.  At some time we have to stop increasing population.

  • Carl Hartung

    “Joe L”, you are long on misleading glittering generalities and not just short of facts but you’ve really said nothing at all here. I’ve tried to glean something worthwhile from your musings and have failed. I don’t know why you and so many other delusional / disnfo types keep dogging honest researchers like Richard Heinberg but the jig is up. The science is overwhelming and indisputable. The math adds up. The empirical data is in and we all now know, at least those of us who are paying attention. Time for you and your fanciful Cornucopian economics cultists to find an honest way to make a living other than destroying the environment and planet that all of humanity depends upon for life.

  • Onesojourner1

    You should read some of his books. He explains pretty clearly that there just isn’t a good replacement for oil. Our future is going to be full of words like local, smaller and less. Heinberg is actually pretty positive. Would it be that terrible to buy tomatoes from the farmer next door instead of Mexico?

  • Treadlightly

    The most intelligent ideas have a bad habit of killing people and destroying the planet. So simply impressing people with your supposed superiority doesn’t cut it anymore.

  • Joe L

     Richard Heinburg is not an “honest researcher”.  He is eccentric, and despite his numerous publications, is a college dropout.  Probably just so much smarter than those egghead professors. The science is hardly ‘overwhelming and indisputable’,  the overwhelming consensus of scientists contradicts Mr. Heinburg’s musings.

    The ‘empirical data’ is very much against this nonsense. But one is a fool to argue with some one who writes things like “Time for you and your fanciful Cornucopian economics cultists  to find an honest way…”.

    But, of course, we live in time when Rick Perry can deny evolution and global warming, so Heinburg’s nonsense is hardly that strange.

  • Joe L

    There are many replacements for oil.  Already electric cars are becoming available propelled with electricity that can be derived from hydro-electric generation, nuclear, etc. in addition to natural gas or hydro-carbons. It reminds of the time in the 19th Century when a congressman introduced legislation to abolish the patent office “because every thing that could possibly be invented, has already been invented.”

    I am very familiar with the arguments that “There is no replacement for oil”.  What BS.  The world existed for thousands of years before oil and coal, and is now well on the way to replacing it.  Most of my income comes from oil wells and investments in oil companies.  I am strategizing how to replace that income as we speak, although it won’t be necessary for a while.

    I suspect global warming will force the use of petroleum to be curtailed before we run out of it.

    The Depression of the 1930s was much worse than the current Great Recession.  We shall recover from this one sooner and more easily than the last one, but it will still be a few years according to forecasts by the more respected economists.

    it might be worthwhile to note that although we have a recession currently, much of the World does not. Most of Latin America, China and India, for example, are booming.

    Atavism, trying to go back to a Golden Age of localism, which never really existed, is grossly unrealistic.

    If you wonder about tomatoes and produce,  understand that it takes less fuel to bring a tomato from Chile on a ship than it does from East Texas on a pick up truck, AND, vastly more energy is consumed cooking food than transporting it to the consumer.

    I wish Think would get some people who understood these facts on, rather than these illogical eccentrics.

    That would be an interesting program, and people might actually learn some thing useful. And those who have not had the advantage of rigorous education won’t become distressed thinking nonsense like Heinberg’s is true. 

  • Joe L

    For those interested in hearing the opposite view to Heinberg, that is, that there will be plenty of energy and resources in the future if we are wise, a good place to start is with the work of Stanford professor emeritus John McCarthy’s “Sustainability of Human Progress” and links from the website:

    These are more difficult to read than Heinburg, but are much more intellectually rigorous.

    Warnings such as Heinberg’s have been with us from Time Immemorial… witness the “End Times” of the Bible.  These are probably more a phenomenon of the human psyche than rational analysis based on empirical facts.

  • Torolav

    I hope we never get the answer to your question, because before and when we reach maximum, millions will die from starvation on a regular basis in the areas with the least food production or – distribution.

  • Andythepainter

    a machine  that can travel faster than the wind,a message that can travel to the other end of the flat planet    in the blink of an eye. 1600 ad not possible. Dream of not buying those tomatoes from mexico, but from the moon of a planet outside our solar system that can sustain the juiciest tomatoes in the whole universe. Then are transported back to earth via a couple of other drop offs on the way because we have a vehicle that can travel 20 times the speed of light. Due to realising another form of energy that is more efficient than oil. 2011ad not possible,3050 ad I have no idea. Maybe untill such a time if we learn to be a bit more efficient,learn to even things up a little bit,and not waste so much of our g
    lobal product we might have a chance. Oh yeah want and greed probably need to be addressed as well. Is growth sustainable, I don’t know I’m a spraypainter I paint cars                                                                                                                                      

  • Tony Robinson

    I teach a course in Environmental Sustainability at SMU and have been involved with energy efficiency and sustainability in the built environment for more than 30 years.  If there’s one thing you can count on in these debates, it is that very few people understand the controlling points of the science: energetics, the branch of physics which examines energy transformations. Economics, a convention of human beings for the production and distribution of good and services, says nothing about energy, or the Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI), a key concept in understanding the long-term functionality of any physical or biological system.  Unfortunately, political viewpoints and wishful thinking on either side, appear to rule the discussion, not the laws of physics.  The ability of any species in an ecosystem to survive long-term has everything to do with the way it manages energy consumption.  Human beings are doing a poor job of that and are astonishingly wasteful with the fossil fuel and mineral capital of the earth.  No one is the prophet Isaiah, but you can say with great certainty that a finite quantity of any commodity required for survival which is consumed at any increasing rate whatsoever, will eventually be exhausted and the results are always the same: starvation and war.  In this regard, water is more important than oil.

  • Drumbeat: August 19, 2011 | Crude Oil News

    [...] A New Economic Reality? As the global economy continues to sputter, is there still a chance of recovery or has an economic paradigm shift occurred, creating a new normal? We’ll talk this hour with Post Carbon Institute Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg, whose latest book is “The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality” (New Society Publishers, 2011). [...]

  • JimH

    Some things to ponder Joe L:
    -Wages for non-supervisory workers peaked in the US in 1970, the same year that US oil production peaked.  By the way it peaked first in Texas so you can’t blame environmentalists or socialists.  We are getting poorer, not richer.
    -The recession of the 1930s was really not any worse for those whose unemployment benefits have run out.
    -The only thing that really pulled the US out of the 1930s depression was a terrible war.  We could do that because we had enormous stores of natural resources.  Look up the Mesabi iron range for example.
    -The population of the earth was only 2.5 billion in 1940 It is closer to 7 billion today.  Is there something you don’t understand about “finite”?

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