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Natural resource scarcity and technological change

  • Stephen P.A. Brown
  • Daniel Wolk

Nonrenewable natural resources, such as aluminum and crude oil, exist only in fixed amounts on Earth. Consequently, some observers are concerned that natural resource scarcity will eventually limit future economic growth and human well-being. Others remain optimistic that technological change will overcome geophysical scarcity. Brown and Wolk examine the evidence for natural resource scarcity and find that over the past century reliance on free markets has promoted sufficient technological change to overcome geophysical scarcity for most nonrenewable natural resources. Rather than rising--as would result from increased scarcity--the relevant real prices of most nonrenewable natural resources have fallen. Although declines in real prices have moderated since World War II, the authors find little evidence of increased scarcity in the postwar era. Increased reliance on markets during the closing decades of the twentieth century is cause for optimism that these trends will continue in the twenty-first.

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File URL: http://www.dallasfed.org/assets/documents/research/efr/2000/efr0001a.pdf
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Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in its journal Economic and Financial Policy Review.

Volume (Year): (2000)
Issue (Month): Q1 ()
Pages: 2-13

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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedder:y:2000:i:q1:p:2-13
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  1. Brown, Gardner M, Jr & Field, Barry C, 1978. "Implications of Alternative Measures of Natural Resource Scarcity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages 229-43, April.
  2. Solow, Robert M, 1974. "The Economics of Resources or the Resources of Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(2), pages 1-14, May.
  3. Nordhaus, William D, 1973. "World Dynamics: Measurement Without Data," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 83(332), pages 1156-83, December.
  4. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521297615 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Slade, Margaret E., 1982. "Trends in natural-resource commodity prices: An analysis of the time domain," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 122-137, June.
  6. Berck, Peter & Roberts, Michael, 1996. "Natural Resource Prices: Will They Ever Turn Up?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 65-78, July.
  7. Ronald H. Schmidt, 1988. "Hotelling's rule repealed? An examination of exhaustible resource pricing," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Fall, pages 41-54.
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