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Energy, Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainability: Five Propositions' Sustainability

Citation Sorrell, S. Energy, Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainability: Five Propositions' Sustainability. 2010. https://doi.org/10.3390/su2061784.
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Author(s) Sorrell, S.
Opus Title Sustainability
Pages 1784-1809
Volume 2
DOI https://doi.org/10.3390/su2061784

This paper advances five linked and controversial propositions that have both deep historical roots and urgent contemporary relevance. These are: (a) the rebound effects from energy efficiency improvements are significant and limit the potential for decoupling energy consumption from economic growth; (b) the contribution of energy to productivity improvements and economic growth has been greatly underestimated; (c) the pursuit of improved efficiency needs to be complemented by an ethic of sufficiency; (d) sustainability is incompatible with continued economic growth in rich countries; and (e) a zero-growth economy is incompatible with a fractional reserve banking system. These propositions run counter to conventional wisdom and each highlights either a blind spot or taboo subject that deserves closer scrutiny. While accepting one proposition reinforces the case for accepting the next, the former is neither necessary nor sufficient for the latter.