20 25

In year t-1

Figure 18.7 Steel intensities in the Netherlands, 1960-95, in kg/1000 US$ (1990)

can be described as 'business cycles'. The intensities of use remain relatively stable and economic growth has the effect of an equiproportional increase in the consumption of materials and energy. Hence the equilibrium state of the economy implies that materials consumption and economic growth are perfectly linked.

However, during times of (radical) shifts in technological and institutional paradigms, intensities start to fall rapidly and throughput declines, at least until the economy stabilizes again around a new attractor point. Then the positive relationship between economic growth and materials consumption is restored and throughput rises again at approximately the same rate as the growth in incomes until a new technological or institutional breakthrough enables another dematerialization phase. The result is an N-shaped relationship between income and throughput in the medium term, as discussed in the previous section. In the long run a saw-like pattern will appear, in which periods of dematerialization are followed by periods of rematerialization. The effects on long-term total throughput cannot be stated beforehand. It depends on the duration of the rema-terialization and dematerialization phases. However, the data in Figure 18.4 suggest that rematerialization may be as important globally as 'strong dematerialization' since higher-income countries also have higher levels of throughput.

This pattern of resource use also clarifies why it has been so difficult in the past to estimate the future development of material use (see Table 18.1). The econometric implication is that there is no stable relationship between material use and income. In the absence of a stable relationship between materials demand and income, predictions cannot be

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