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Thermodynamics on Main Street: When entropy really counts in economics


  • Fisk, David


The implications of thermodynamics for economic theory have been a source of debate for 40Â years. Adopting the framing used in modern engineering rather than physics suggests that the market place has already recognised most of these thermodynamic truths as self-evident rather than challenging basic concepts. The exception is the relatively small market for heat where the idea of thermodynamic grade, conveniently represented by the exergy or available work content of a heat source, exposes inconsistencies especially in monopoly supply and economic instruments. Earlier commentators were not wrong in the thrust of their criticisms of economic theory but may have been overly elaborate in their attack.

Suggested Citation

  • Fisk, David, 2011. "Thermodynamics on Main Street: When entropy really counts in economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(11), pages 1931-1936, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:70:y:2011:i:11:p:1931-1936

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Spreng, Daniel, 1993. "Possibilities for substitution between energy, time and information," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 13-23, January.
    2. Roma, Antonio & Pirino, Davide, 2009. "The extraction of natural resources: The role of thermodynamic efficiency," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(10), pages 2594-2606, August.
    3. Ayres, Robert U. & Warr, Benjamin, 2005. "Accounting for growth: the role of physical work," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 181-209, June.
    4. Sollner, Fritz, 1997. "A reexamination of the role of thermodynamics for environmental economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 175-201, September.
    5. Dincer, Ibrahim, 2002. "The role of exergy in energy policy making," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 137-149, January.
    6. Caliskan, Hakan & Hepbasli, Arif, 2010. "Energy and exergy prices of various energy sources along with their CO2 equivalents," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(7), pages 3468-3481, July.
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