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The pre-industrial energy crisis and resource scarcity as a source of transition

  • Steinmueller, W. Edward
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    The historical British ‘timber famine’ of the 18th century is re-examined in the light of contemporary concerns about transitions in energy use. The alternatives of scarcity-induced and opportunity-led transition are considered in relation to the economics of sustainable fuel timber production for industrial uses. The paper finds that the production of timber was an economically sustainable use of land and that observations of timber shortages may have therefore either been claims made by interests favouring the use of coal or the consequence of abandonment of fuel timber cultivation in favour of coal use. The longer-term sustainability of domestic UK sources for industrial timber fuel timber is shown to be problematic. The consequences of the alternative views of the ‘timber famine’ for contemporary policies attempting to promote transition to low carbon or sustainable energy use are examined. In particular, if the present is an echo of the past, opportunity rather than crisis may be the more powerful lever of change.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Research Policy.

    Volume (Year): 42 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 10 ()
    Pages: 1739-1748

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:42:y:2013:i:10:p:1739-1748
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/respol

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    1. Geels, Frank W., 2004. "From sectoral systems of innovation to socio-technical systems: Insights about dynamics and change from sociology and institutional theory," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(6-7), pages 897-920, September.
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    4. Rosenberg, Nathan, 1973. "Innovative Responses to Materials Shortages," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(2), pages 111-18, May.
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    6. Mokyr, Joel, 1992. "The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195074772, March.
    7. Geels, Frank W., 2002. "Technological transitions as evolutionary reconfiguration processes: a multi-level perspective and a case-study," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(8-9), pages 1257-1274, December.
    8. Geels, Frank W. & Schot, Johan, 2007. "Typology of sociotechnical transition pathways," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 399-417, April.
    9. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521131858 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Dasgupta, Partha & Stiglitz, Joseph, 1981. "Resource Depletion under Technological Uncertainty," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(1), pages 85-104, January.
    11. Clark, Gregory, 2002. "Land rental values and the agrarian economy: England and Wales, 1500 1914," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(03), pages 281-308, December.
    12. Hyde, Charles K., 1973. "The adoption of coke-smelting by the British iron industry, 1709-1790," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 397-418.
    13. Philip Riden, 1977. "The Output of the British Iron Industry before 1870," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 30(3), pages 442-459, 08.
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    15. Geels, Frank W., 2010. "Ontologies, socio-technical transitions (to sustainability), and the multi-level perspective," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 495-510, May.
    16. Madureira, Nuno Luis, 2012. "The iron industry energy transition," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 24-34.
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