Abstract: From a thermodynamic point of view economies are open systems far from equilibrium, and neo-classical environmental economics is not the best way to describe the behaviour of such systems. Standard economic analysis takes a continuous, deterministic and predictive approach, which encourages the search for predictive policy to 'correct' environmental problems. This is actually what happens with the relationship between economic growth and energy consumption under the dematerialisation hypothesis, so-called environmental Kuznets curve or the inverted-U shaped curve. Rather, it seems to us that, because of the characteristics of economic systems that may follow complex behaviour, an ex-post analysis under the framework of ecological economics is more appropriate, which describes economies as non continuous and non predictive systems and which sees policy as a social steering mechanism. With this background, we present some empirical data on energy intensity evolution for both developing and developed countries. In order to test the hypothesis of a de-linking between economic growth and energy use, we apply here phase-diagrams in which the intensity of use of the year t and that of the year t-1 are represented. This will allow us to check the validity of the continuous relationship, or to check the possibility of the existence of a step-wise behaviour, which can be seen at a lower time-scale, as something similar to the idea of “punctuated equilibrium ” for the evolution of systems at larger time-scales.
|Published - 2003