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History’s greatest Ponzi scheme

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scavengerPost Carbon Institute’s Richard Heinberg writes about our ailing economy and alternative solutions in this article: Temporary Recession or the End of Growth?

“…Given that growth cannot continue on a finite planet, this wager, and its embodiment in the institutions of finance, can be said to constitute history’s greatest Ponzi scheme.

 We have justified present borrowing with the irrational belief that perpetual growth is possible, necessary, and inevitable. In effect we have borrowed from future generations so that we could gamble away their capital today.

Until recently, the Peak Oil argument has been framed as a forecast: the inevitable decline in world petroleum production, whenever it occurs, will kill growth. But here is where forecast becomes diagnosis: during the period from 2005 to 2008, energy stopped growing and oil prices rose to record levels. By July of 2008, the price of a barrel of oil was nudging close to $150—half again higher than any previous petroleum price in inflation-adjusted terms—and the global economy was beginning to topple……

……..a good argument can be made that speculation in oil futures was merely magnifying price moves that were inevitable on the basis of the fundamentals of supply and demand……

About 85 percent of our current energy is derived from three primary sources—oil, natural gas, and coal—that are non-renewable, whose price is likely to trend sharply higher over the next years and decades leading to severe shortages, and whose environmental impacts are unacceptable. While these sources historically have had very high economic value, we cannot rely on them in the future; indeed, the longer the transition to alternative energy sources is delayed, the more difficult that transition will be unless some practical mix of alternative energy systems can be identified that will have superior economic and environmental characteristics.”