Rust Never Sleeps

Bix Beiderbecke, the hell-raising jazz cornetist when he passed in 1931 was said to have “died of everything.”

It was a prophetic obituary especially if you work in and around the construction industry, as many commercial vehicle operators do.

Raw material suspensions. Fuel spikes. Trade tariffs. Government mandates. Labour shortages. Rate rises. Inflation. Energy destabilisation.

It recalls the old saying if Lillee doesn’t get you Thommo will.

Whole market sectors, for the moment, have been reduced to nervous 1970s English batsmen.

The health of the global economy and the cause of its rapid diminution might matter less if they weren’t made to mirror polemical narrative effects driven increasingly by hegemonic economic powers.

The progressive onboarding of the world, per James Poulos, into a networked system of constant communication has in the digital age, instilled a domino effect in which a crisis is but one sneeze away from a global catastrophe that some NGO, with its silent investors, has been patiently anticipating.

Wikipedia, itself a non-profit, launched new restrictions on users to suspend edits made to its recession page.

The network effect also can work the other way if the objective is to stop the herd from being spooked.

Australia’s Productivity Commission, as if wary of a fate worse than some burnt-out Depression-era horn player, cites the global surge of protectionism and the transition to net-zero emissions by 2050, as additional causes which will, under the siege of continued inflationary pressures, warrant productivity enhancing reforms.

The Government having spent $16 billion in industry assistance for Australian businesses that needed support now wants to roll back that same assistance as conditions improve as a countermeasure to overheating the economy.

The problem is conditions have not improved but don’t tell Wikipedia whose policies might have made former Iraqi Minister of Information Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf blush.

The solution to expeditious downturn, a decline in living standards and supply shocks, as far as two researchers at the Utah State University are concerned, can be found in a greater consumption of energy, not less.

Austin Vernon and Eli Dourado are convinced that the shift in mindset for this to occur will happen once energy becomes superabundant.

To achieve energy superabundance, society must go far beyond just replacing existing fossil fuel use with carbon-free alternatives.

Theirs is a vision that insists on an increase of energy production by at least an order of magnitude fostered by cost declines achieved through advanced nuclear or geothermal technologies.

Energy technology, in short, must be reimagined. “If our society remains suspicious of high energy expenditures, at least part of the reason is a lack of vision of what we might realistically do with superabundant energy,” the report notes.

Much of the paper, ‘Energy Superabundance: How Cheap, Abundant Energy Will Shape Our Future’, goes someway to supplying that vision.

Econometric research has shown that higher energy consumption directly increases economic growth, contrary to a consensus that only richer countries demand more energy by virtue of wealth.

Cheap energy decreases the cost of all the goods and services that use energy in their production.

Of critical importance, it also helps with production of more and new goods and services in ways that are only economical when energy costs are low.

In other words, the relationship between economic growth and energy consumption runs in both directions.

Transportation, which accounts for about 20 per cent of global primary energy consumption, is deeply bound up with energy costs.

It takes energy to accelerate objects and to keep them moving in the face of drag and rolling resistance.

In a world of superabundant energy, it will be, according to the authors, one of the most explosive sectors enabling the number of kilometres travelled by both people and goods to increase prodigiously.

Until then red tape masks our complacent, comfortable, consumerist depreciation.

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