Thursday, October 19, 2017

Barcelona Talk

I'll be giving a presentation in the "distinguished speakers series" at ICAT, Autonomous University of Barcelona on 5th December. I just wrote the abstract:

The Role of Energy in the Industrial Revolution and Modern Economic Growth

Abstract: Ecological and mainstream economists have debated the importance of energy in economic growth. Ecological economists usually argue that energy plays a central role in growth, while mainstream economists usually downplay the importance of energy. Using the (mainstream) theory of directed technological change, I show how increasing scarcity of biomass could induce coal-using innovation in Britain, resulting in the acceleration in the rate of economic growth known as the Industrial Revolution. Paradoxically, industrialization would be delayed in countries with more abundant biomass resources. However, as energy has become increasingly abundant, the growth effect of additional energy use has declined. Furthermore, both directed technological change theory and empirical evidence show that innovation has increasingly focused on improving the productivity of labor rather than that of energy. This explains the focus of mainstream economic growth models on labor productivity enhancing innovation as the driver of economic growth.

The paper will draw on my 2012 paper with Astrid Kander – it shares the same title after all – my recent working paper with Jack Pezzey and Yingying Lu, and maybe my ongoing work with Akshay Shanker on understanding trends in energy intensity in the 20th and 21st Centuries. The talk is for an interdisciplinary audience, so that will be challenging, but I think I can do it :)

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