When the Economy Gets Squeezed by Too Little Energy

When the Economy Gets Squeezed by Too Little Energy

By Gail Tverberg

Most people have a simple, but wrong, idea about how the world economy will respond to “not enough energy to go around.” They expect that oil prices will rise. With these higher prices, producers will be able to extract more fossil fuels so the system can go on as before. They also believe that wind turbines, solar panels and other so-called renewables can be made with these fossil fuels, perhaps extending the life of the system further.

The insight people tend to miss is the fact that the world’s economy is a physics-based, self-organizing system. Such economies grow for many years, but ultimately, they collapse. The underlying problem is that the population tends to grow too rapidly relative to the energy supplies necessary to support that population. History shows that such collapses take place over a period of years. The question becomes: What happens to an economy beginning its path toward full collapse?

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