Energy, Economics and Exponential Growth

Posted by Christian Franklin

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3/17/12 2:18 PM

Energy, the management and consumption of it, is a topic that we pay a fair amount of attention to at TamGroup. Economics and global economic growth also gets its fair due given the recent turmoil and our pending election cycle.

I'm in the throes of reading Nicolas Carr's book - The Big Switch - which caused me to reflect on the role and impact the electric grid has had on society. In essence, the development of the electric grid was a huge enabler of industry, and thus, economic growth.  If we think about energy in more generic terms (i.e. all energy used) the world is consuming about 12 TW with an annual growth rate of 2.9%.

I was interested in the intersection of aggregate power demand, economic growth and the global population. After applying some basic math and physics you come up with some interesting extrapolations. In short, we won't be able to create enough energy to satisfy global demand for much more than the next 240 years or so. Now, this seems a bit incredulous so I started looking around to see if any academic research on this was available and came across an interesting lecture by an Associate Physics Professor at UCSD, Tom Murphy.  He makes an interesting case:

The points illustrated by Tom Murphy in the video are much more comprehensive than what I put together and he raises some interesting things to think about concerning energy usage, growth and inflections points driven by thermodynamics.

Sustainability, alternative energy, deeper analytics around energy usage and consumption all tie back to why energy producers and providers are focused on alternatives and wholesale improvement to 'business as usual'.

Topics: Energy & Utilities