By Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen
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Extra resources for Energy and Economic Myths. Institutional and Analytical Economic Essays
The same idea should be borne in mind when discussing the future of direct uses of solar radiation. Economists, however, insist that "resources are properly measured in economic, not physical, terms" [51, 663; also 3, 247]. The advice reflects one of the most enduring myths of the profession (shared also by others). 15 This myth will be duly examined later on, but here we need only emphasize the point that from the point of view of the longrun it is only efficiency in terms of energy that counts in establishing accessibility.
There are also limits set by some purely physical obstacles. The sun cannot possibly be mined even by a robot. From the sun's immense radiating energy, only the small amount which reaches the earth counts in the main (Section IX). Nor can we harness the immense energy of the terrestrial thunders. Unique physical obstacles also stand hopelessly in the way of 16 The evidence is ample [3, 240f; 4, 337f; 49; 51, 663, 665; 74, 46f; 80; 69, 9f, 14fJ. The appeal of the myth is seen in that even many on the other side of the fence share it [58; 62, 65; 6, 10, 12; and Frank Notestein, quoted in 62,130].
Nor could we aspire to implement economic plans (at any level) of our own choosing. It is also because of the entropie indeterminateness that life does matter in the entropic process. The point is no mystical vitalism, but a matter of brute facts. Some organisms slow down the entropie degradation. Green plants store part of the solar radiation which in their absence would immediately go into dissipated heat, into high entropy. That is why we can burn now the solar energy saved from degradation millions of years ago in the form of coal or a few years ago in the form of a tree.