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Scarce or Abundant? The Economics of Natural Resource Availability

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  • Neumayer, Eric

Abstract

Most natural resources that are used in production are non-renewable. When they become depleted they are lost for future use. Does it follow that the limited availability of natural resources will at some time in the future constrain economic growth as many environmentalists believe? While classical economists have shared the belief in limits to growth, the distinctive feature of modern neoclassical economics is its optimism about the availability of natural resources. This survey suggests that resource optimism can be summarised in four propositions. First, a rise in the price of a resource leads to a substitution of this resource with another more abundant resource and to a substitution of products that are intensive in this resource. Second, a rise in the price of a resource leads to increased recycling of the resource and to the exploration and extraction of lower quality ores. Third, man-made capital can substitute for natural resources. Fourth, technical progress increases the efficiency of resource use and makes extraction of lower quality ores economical. In a critical analysis of these four propositions it is shown that while the conjecture that natural resources will never constrain future economic growth is logically conceivable, we do not and indeed cannot know whether it will be possible in practice to overcome any resource constraint.
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Suggested Citation

  • Neumayer, Eric, 2000. " Scarce or Abundant? The Economics of Natural Resource Availability," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 14(3), pages 307-335, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jecsur:v:14:y:2000:i:3:p:307-35
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    Cited by:

    1. Agnani, Betty & Gutierrez, Maria-Jose & Iza, Amaia, 2005. "Growth in overlapping generation economies with non-renewable resources," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 387-407, September.
    2. Fatma El-Hamidi, 2007. "Early Retirement in the Government Sector in Egypt: Preferences, Determinants and Policy Implications," Working Papers 721, Economic Research Forum, revised 01 Jan 2007.
    3. Louis Dupuy & Matthew Agarwala, 2014. "International trade and sustainable development," Chapters,in: Handbook of Sustainable Development, chapter 25, pages 399-417 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Apergis, Nicholas & Ewing, Bradley T. & Payne, James E., 2016. "Oil reserve life and the influence of crude oil prices: An analysis of Texas reserves," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 266-271.
    5. Bazhanov, Andrei, 2008. "Sustainable growth in a resource-based economy: the extraction-saving relationship," MPRA Paper 12350, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Bazhanov, Andrei, 2011. "Investment and resource policy under a modified Hotelling rule," MPRA Paper 32428, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Dietz, Simon & Neumayer, Eric, 2007. "Weak and strong sustainability in the SEEA: Concepts and measurement," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(4), pages 617-626, March.
    8. Arslan Razmi, 2013. "Environmental Macroeconomics: Simple Stylized Frameworks for Short-Run Analysis," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2013-02, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
    9. Bazhanov, Andrei & Belyaev, Alexander, 2009. "Адекватность Закрытой Модели Для Российской Экономики В Задаче Сравнительного Анализа Энергетической Стратегии России
      [Adequacy of a closed model for Russian economy in the problem of comparative a
      ," MPRA Paper 15109, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Jamil, Faisal, 2012. "Impact of different public E&P policies on natural gas reserves and production in Pakistan," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 368-374.
    11. Andrei V. Bazhanov, 2009. "A constant-utility criterion linked to an imperfect economy affected by irreversible global warming," EERI Research Paper Series EERI_RP_2009_03, Economics and Econometrics Research Institute (EERI), Brussels.
    12. Fabbri, Giorgio, 2007. "Non-renewable resources and growth, the case of the oil: a simple endogenous model," MPRA Paper 5718, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Bazhanov, A., 2011. "The Dependence of the Potential Sustainability of a Resource Economy on the Initial State: a Comparison of Models Using the Example of Russian Oil Extraction," Journal of the New Economic Association, New Economic Association, issue 12, pages 77-100.
    14. Plamen Tchipev, 2006. "Evolutionary and Institutional Economic Analysis of the Scarcity Concept in Modern Economics," Economic Thought journal, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences - Economic Research Institute, issue 3, pages 44-58.
    15. De Santis, Roberto A., 2003. "Crude oil price fluctuations and Saudi Arabia's behaviour," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 155-173, March.
    16. De Santis, Roberto A., 2000. "Crude Oil Price Fluctuations and Saudi Arabian Behaviour," Kiel Working Papers 1014, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    17. Wittmann, Nadine, 2013. "OPEC: How to transition from black to green gold," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 959-965.
    18. Bazhanov, Andrei, 2011. "Зависимость Долгосрочного Роста Ресурсной Экономики От Начального Состояния: Сравнение Моделей На Примере Российской Нефтедобычи
      [The dependence of the potential sustainability of a resource econom
      ," MPRA Paper 35888, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • Q20 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - General
    • Q30 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - General
    • Q40 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - General

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