Julian Simon's
Natural Resource Fantasy

"Natural resources. Hold your hat - our supplies of natural resources are not finite in any economic sense. Nor does past experience give reason to expect natural resources to become more scarce. Rather, if history is any guide, natural resources will progressively become less costly, hence less scarce, and will constitute a smaller proportion of our expenses in future years. Population growth is likely to have a long-run beneficial impact on the natural-resource situation."

Julian Simon, 1996
The Ultimate Resource 2


"Our energy supply is non-finite, and oil is an important example . . . the number of oil wells that will eventually produce oil, and in what quantities, is not known or measurable at present and probably never will be, and hence is not meaningfully finite."

Julian Simon, 1996
The Ultimate Resource 2


"The fallacy in the last sentence quoted is evident. If I have seven gallons of oil in seven one gallon cans, then it is countable and finite. If I dump one gallon of oil into each of the seven seas and let it mix for a year, those seven gallons would no longer be countable, and hence not "meaningfully finite, " therefore infinite. This is straightforward nonsense."

But what about Simon's empirical evidence against resource finitude? It fares no better than his fallacious attempt at logical refutation. He leans heavily on two expert studies:

'The Age of Substitutability' by Weinberg and Goeller (Science, February 20,1976)¹, and Scarcity and Growth by Barnett and Morse². His use of these studies is amazingly selective.
From Weinberg and Goeller he quotes optimistic findings of "infinite" substitutability among resources, assus buttresses Simon's earlier premise of "infinite" subdivisibility or substitutability among resources. But it does not lend support to his fallacious conclusion that resources are infinite and therefore growth forever is possible. More to the point, however, is that Weinberg and Goeller explicitly rule out any such conclusion by stating in their very first paragraph that their "Age of Substitutability" is a steady state. It assumes zero growth in population and energy use at the highest level that Weinberg and Goeller are willing to say is technically feasible. And they express serious reservations about the social and institutional feasibility of maintaining such a high consumption steady state.

We must abandon the shallow, contrived optimism of growthmania once and for all. The end of growthmania is no cause for despair; it is a hopeful new beginning. To me the optimistic alternative is that of a steady state at a sufficient, sustainable level in which many future generations can rejoice in the loving study and care of God's creation.

Further prolongation of the current compulsive quest for infinite growth, power, and control is what I find depressing."

Herman Daly, 1996
Minnesotans For Sustainability

References
1. Harold Barnett, and Chandler Morse, Scarcity and Growth, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Press, 1963).
2. V. Kerry Smith, ed., Scarcity and Growth Reconsidered, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1979.


TUESDAY, AUGUST 10, 2004


SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2004

As the article states: "Nothing lasts forever"

This is another harbinger of things to come. Just how long will the mid-east oil last? What will happen when the oil runs low and demand becomes higher...will the oil cartel raise prices? And just how long will the oil fields of Alaska last even if all possible wells are drilled....and the world population doubles in 40 years, then double agains in the next 40 years??? Julian Simon would simply say "Have more babies!"

From Julian Simon's Ivory Tower comes this quotation (as mentioned previously):

"Our energy supply is tioned previously):

"Our energy supply is non-finite, and oil is an important example . . . the number of oil wells that will eventually produce oil, and in what quantities, is not known or measurable at present and probably never will be, and hence is not meaningfully finite."

Julian Simon, 1996
The Ultimate Resource 2

Oh sure, Julian, whatever you say.