Saturday, November 15, 2008

World Energy Outlook 2008

This report, and economics more generally, completely lacks the understanding that those numbers are not only quite unproven but irrelevant and useless by themselves, for the important number is not “how many barrels are in the ground” but “how many of those barrels will be gained at a significant energy profit for society.” In effect, the notional figure of 106 mbpd gives the impression that oils net benefit to society will continue and even grow into the future.

Neoclassical economics and economists have reigned supreme despite their dismal track record of late, as evidenced by governments turning to the same economists who got us into the credit crisis situation to get us out. It used to work better: economies expanded simultaneously with an expansion of economic departments and economic theory. It looked like the theories worked, although since more and more oil was being pumped out of the ground perhaps any theory could 'seemingly' work. Capitalism may be a giant Ponzi scheme once fueled by ever more investors and ever more oil at its base, but this has ceased, most likely forever.

The economic theories became ever more analytically elegant as they got further and further from reality. Our most prestigious economics departments not only did not teach very much about oil or grain or other sources of real wealth but increasingly not even about money. Rather their focus was far too often complex econometric models using rather stupid starting assumptions. Acceptance of graduate students was increasingly taken based on their math skills rather than their ability to understand real commodity paths. Wall Street followed the lead of our major economists. As we have seen in other disciplines, such as ecology, there has been massive conflation of mathematical and analytical rigor with scientific rigor.

Full Monty at the Oil Drum.