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Energy, Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainability: Five Propositions

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  • Steven Sorrell

    () (Sussex Energy Group, SPRU—Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex, Sussex House, Brighton, BN1 9QE, UK)

Abstract

This paper advances five linked and controversial propositions that have both deep historical roots and urgent contemporary relevance. These are: (a) the rebound effects from energy efficiency improvements are significant and limit the potential for decoupling energy consumption from economic growth; (b) the contribution of energy to productivity improvements and economic growth has been greatly underestimated; (c) the pursuit of improved efficiency needs to be complemented by an ethic of sufficiency; (d) sustainability is incompatible with continued economic growth in rich countries; and (e) a zero-growth economy is incompatible with a fractional reserve banking system. These propositions run counter to conventional wisdom and each highlights either a "blind spot" or "taboo subject" that deserves closer scrutiny. While accepting one proposition reinforces the case for accepting the next, the former is neither necessary nor sufficient for the latter.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven Sorrell, 2010. "Energy, Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainability: Five Propositions," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(6), pages 1-26, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:2:y:2010:i:6:p:1784-1809:d:8718
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sue Wing, Ian, 2008. "Explaining the declining energy intensity of the U.S. economy," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 21-49, January.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Cahen-Fourot, Louison & Lavoie, Marc, 2016. "Ecological monetary economics: A post-Keynesian critique," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 163-168.
    2. Adam R. Brandt, 2017. "How Does Energy Resource Depletion Affect Prosperity? Mathematics of a Minimum Energy Return on Investment (EROI)," Biophysical Economics and Resource Quality, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 1-12, March.
    3. Bruce Tonn & Paul Frymier & Jared Graves & Jessa Meyers, 2010. "A Sustainable Energy Scenario for the United States: Year 2050," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(12), pages 1-31, November.
    4. Naser, Hanan, 2014. "On the cointegration and causality between Oil market, Nuclear Energy Consumption, and Economic Growth: Evidence from Developed Countries," MPRA Paper 65252, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 25 Mar 2015.
    5. Jin Xue & Hans Jakob Walnum & Carlo Aall & Petter Næss, 2016. "Two Contrasting Scenarios for a Zero-Emission Future in a High-Consumption Society," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(1), pages 1-25, December.
    6. Sorrell, Steve, 2015. "Reducing energy demand: A review of issues, challenges and approaches," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 74-82.
    7. Hans Jakob Walnum & Carlo Aall & Søren Løkke, 2014. "Can Rebound Effects Explain Why Sustainable Mobility Has Not Been Achieved?," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(12), pages 1-28, December.
    8. Paul E. Brockway & Harry Saunders & Matthew K. Heun & Timothy J. Foxon & Julia K. Steinberger & John R. Barrett & Steve Sorrell, 2017. "Energy Rebound as a Potential Threat to a Low-Carbon Future: Findings from a New Exergy-Based National-Level Rebound Approach," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(1), pages 1-24, January.
    9. Font Vivanco, David & Kemp, René & van der Voet, Ester, 2016. "How to deal with the rebound effect? A policy-oriented approach," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 114-125.
    10. Sjak Smulders & Michael Toman & Cees Withagen, 2014. "Growth theory and ‘green growth’," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 30(3), pages 423-446.
    11. Xiucheng Dong & Jie Guo & Mikael Höök & Guanglin Pi, 2015. "Sustainability Assessment of the Natural Gas Industry in China Using Principal Component Analysis," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(5), pages 1-17, May.
    12. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:7:p:1092-:d:102344 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Graham Palmer, 2012. "Does Energy Efficiency Reduce Emissions and Peak Demand? A Case Study of 50 Years of Space Heating in Melbourne," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(7), pages 1-36, July.
    14. Stocker, Andrea & Großmann, Anett & Madlener, Reinhard & Wolter, Marc Ingo, 2011. "Sustainable energy development in Austria until 2020: Insights from applying the integrated model "e3.at"," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(10), pages 6082-6099, October.
    15. Borozan, Djula, 2013. "Exploring the relationship between energy consumption and GDP: Evidence from Croatia," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 373-381.
    16. Pirlogea, Corina & Cicea, Claudiu, 2012. "Econometric perspective of the energy consumption and economic growth relation in European Union," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 16(8), pages 5718-5726.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    rebound effect; steady-state economy; monetary reform;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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