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经济学需要反思。查阅记录可以发现:发生在美国海岸的英国石油公司(BP)石油泄漏将增加400亿美元的GDP,这意味着我们需要进行某些经济核算工作。中国各省习惯于夸大经济增长量来证明他们善于理财,以得到国家更多的资助。2008年8月华尔街上的大银行倒闭,受其牵连的金融界奇才们提议约需8000亿美元的激励计划但是却从未给出他们提出这个数目的理由。这其实更像是一个魔术,,因为它既非诺克斯城堡的黄金国库储备的财力,也非今后征税所能支持的政策。大部分的激励计划资金甚至都不是印刷出来的纸币,只是电脑设备的“嘟嘟声”,是传送到各州基础设施基金和给破产了的汽车大亨的电子指令。最近的就是欧元主权债务危机,由于一些无中生有的新贷款而再次被推迟。看来,我们记录美元数据的方式需要反思。

经济领袖就像老僧人一样,正在滔滔不绝的谈论“恢复”,这否认“双下降”的可能性,这只是他们对更为持久的第二次经济崩溃的恐惧的最滥的婉辞。如果我们继续尝试外推当前生活方式和基于现有化石燃料技术的所谓的增长,那么,这将不仅仅是下降,增长更是绝对不可持续的。我们的世界经济将成为一片荒地,就像电影《疯狂的麦克斯》(Mad Max)中所描述的那样。我很愿意成为一名乐观主义者,并渴望整个中国、以及印度和非洲都成就深圳奇迹。这种新技术和金融魔术可以遍及世界各处的原料天堂。但是,一旦我们考虑到全球,我们的世界就必然有一个终结。人类,就像在一个大球上的蚂蚁,操控着这个星球表面一层薄薄的土地、水和空气。虽然我们渺小、世界看起来庞大,我们可以在新世界和殖民地进行掠夺,且经济学家相信资源措措有余,可是,现在是时候承认现实了。我们正在以显著规模毁坏着我们的栖息地。在一个篮球大小的地球仪上,我们的世界,就是下至12公里深,上至12公里高,在地球仪上约是半毫米厚的空间,这个空间脆弱而物质有限。现有技术对碳、水和能源的自然循环造成了压力,而这些循环渐进的变化可能会使灾祸加剧。目前极端的洪水和干旱、气温,正是迫在眉睫的事端的前兆。我们正向水中“投毒”,空气的污染已经到了接收和反射的太阳光线双向受阻的程度,这显著地影响着我们的气候。那些愚昧自私的人可以比作心中摒除了科学的布莱思傻瓜,困在电梯中的他们抽着烟,暴饮成箱的啤酒。我们的生活不得不伴随着各种排放物。

寻觅经济过程的非货币量度

我们需要了解的惊人真相是,钱不会解决我们当前和今后的困境。过去以美元计量方法推算的增长数据并不够可靠。自然不会仅仅因为我们宣布了政客们的财务顾问根据想象编造出来的新激励政策而解救我们。在过去的三十年,中国发现了西方逐步演变而来的发展模式是基于一个假设,即污染行业在欠发达地区受欢迎,而其他地方可随时满足其资源需求。到时,当轮到中国遵循这种发展模式时,地球可开采之地所剩无几,也没有人视污染为一种外部性。

纸币是一种绝妙的发明,方便携带,可以交换实物和服务,可以贮存甚至借贷,还可以让我们计算财富,彰显福利状况,尽管后者的联系微妙。比起一群牛、一幢公寓楼或成堆的金锭,纸币更容易被盗窃和伪造。过去十年,伪造账目和电子市场促使犯罪以指数级增长。伯纳德·麦道夫(Bernie Madoff)从熟人手里骗取了上百亿美元,并从股息中取20%付给新一波贪婪而又轻信的不可思议“投资者”,直到盗窃总额达到500亿美元。

因为这样,全球金融危机分为两组观点,一组是金融家/经济学家只是高谈阔论数以百万计的美元的增加,另一组为真实经济辩护着。第一组告诉奥巴马需要更多赌资才能走出困境,要不然就飞到上海去做“顾问”,就像跳蚤从一个尸体离开来到下一个尸体。

测度真实经济

人们所寻觅的用来衡量真实经济的度量并不是美元。一种笨拙的办法是使用重量。中国粮食出口以数亿吨计——大米,小麦和玉米,其中土豆占25%,以均衡了热量值。2009年总计达5亿3082万吨。英格兰银行曾经在英镑纸币上印上了用纸币可以在柜台兑换相应盎司黄金的承诺。全球金本位来了又走了——那时,那时,财富是用金锭来衡量的。然而,在中东石油利益集团能以美国国库担保的一盎司73美元的价格买进几船的金锭时,这就证明了金本位的不堪一击。金本位下的石油危机在美国爆发,导致现实主义者尝试使用能源的某种形式来测度经济状况。目前,已经有以公吨石油当量(toe)、公吨煤当量(toc)、焦耳、卡路里和英国热量单位(BTU)为衡量单位的核算。这事实上仍然是在能源密集行业测度能源效率的工作。例如,要生产1吨的锌锭,需要投入1.9吨的精炼锌和使用189.7亿焦耳的能量。这对精炼厂管理员而言是有效甚至是至关重要的信息,但对经济学家和政策顾问却毫无意义。会计拿着这些数据,它们本该能反映成账簿中的美元,但对他们来说只要看起来没问题就放过——不屑一顾!

崭新的方法

目前,中国科学家团队已经掌握了一种新的度量方法。该方法基于能源分析和物质流分析,但使用了基于实用主义基础概念的普适性核算新单位,该单位客观而且科学。首先,我们要明白中国人是被迫走进这项研究的。他们面临令人失望的市场,拥有实用唯物主义的传统。David Bonovia曾经写道,当中国人看见天上的馅饼,他们想要明白如何把饼弄到地上再吃掉。清华大学环境科学与工程系的石磊教授带领其团队进行物质流分析、资源跟踪研究,跟踪的资源包括水、空气这样充足的资源,也包括经济学家称之为“物品”(goods)而科学家认为也是“垃圾”(bads)但却又需要购买的东西。事实上,从热力学第二定律,我们能够确信,将物品和垃圾求和,总额比之前开始的状况恶劣。只有在垃圾可以处理(比如,忽略或清扫地毯下的垃圾,或倾倒在邻居后院),我们才能将物品称之为好物品。就像中国人民大学环境学院院长马中教授所强烈推崇的那样,物质确实守恒。投入的每一个原子都可以用输出的原子来记录。当人们化作轻烟时,通常指消失了,但是,CO2并没有消失。在这个过程中,两个氧原子(好的)与一个碳原子结合形成了排放物(坏的)。

这有一个重要又有趣的故事。在20世纪50年代的东欧,斯洛文尼亚人Goran Rant被工业污染物呛到了,于是,他写了一篇文章,指出了能源核算隐藏了没被揭示的东西,之后提出了一个区别无用能(熵-坏东西)和有用能(好东西)的新概念,他所提出的术语称为火用。波兰科学家Jan Szargut,想出了一个概念并发表了上百篇热力学工程学的文章,论述发动机、热水器和冰箱的能效。他的著作都是以以波兰文发表的,甚至当他晚年访问美国以英文发表时,许多信息因翻译、复杂的概念而流失了,还有一部分流失是因为文章展现了传统发展的反面。

那时候,中国与东欧交好,欣然接受了这个新概念。2007年,西方发展模式已遭遇碰壁,中国将具有开创意义的科学发展观写进了党章。这是对西方模式的明确否决。中国城市的智囊团提出和研究新技术——太阳、水藻、风和潮汐。除了新潮的实用技术之外,评估成本的新方法是必须的。而美元不起作用。Szargut用他的异国语言提出了一种新范式:不仅燃料能用焦/千克来衡量,而且,将一种天然物品转换成一种商品的过程,也能计算资源每千克消耗的能量(焦耳)。例如,铁矿石只是一种红色泥土,在澳大利亚和巴西有成百上千英亩。只要授予了或者取得了行政执照后,基本就可以免费取走。理论上,从1.4kg铁矿石中提取出1kg的铁所消耗的能源成本是670万焦。这就是生产1kg铁的能源消耗成本。普通的汽车,由上百千克的铁组成,还有铜、铝、玻璃和塑料。我们还包括了设计所消耗的体力劳动和人力付出。这是估计生产汽车能量成本的有难度却可行的做法。因此,我们或者说汽车成本是1000亿焦耳或19000美元。在一个正常运作的市场中,美元价值更合适。

在一个机能失调的市场中,零的数目反复无常,那么,做一项能源消耗核算将呈现一些现实情况和方向。现在中国,北京大学陈国谦教授以及北京师范大学陈斌教授双双带领其团队,致力于企业、地区、国家和全球的能源消耗核算的合作。与微观和宏观经济不同的是,这些结果是可以加总的。它检验了我们是否走在正确的发展道路上。

讽刺而偶然的是,人与自然和谐在中国有着悠久的历史,千年前书吏的记载就展示了和谐的缩影。人与自然的合一高深莫测、不可思议。

盲目追求美元的GDP增长就是愚蠢地接受了400亿美元的BP石油泄漏。盲目追求消费以提高需求和增长就像是被困在电梯中的人,他们抽着烟,暴饮成箱的啤酒,而对之后的事毫无所知。燃料的能量消耗核算以及到2010年我们所造的汽车,所建设的建筑物、城市、国家,甚至地球的能量成本估算都让我们对我们的福利有了一种清醒评估。这就是经济范式转变,就是中国政策顾问们正在做的事。

Economics needs rethinking.  Check the record:  The BP oil spill off the US coast will add $40 billion positive to GDP, and that shows something needs to be done about economic accounting.  Chinese provinces routinely inflate their growth accounts to suppose they are good managers and deserve more national funds and support.  When big banks on Wall Street crashed in August 2008, the financial wizards involved in the failure advised a stimulus of about $800 billion, a number whose background that was never explained.  It was in fact magic, not backed by treasury reserves, gold at FortKnox, nor even promises of future taxing.  Most of it was not even printed paper money, but computer bleeps transferred to infrastructural funds in the various states, and the busted auto giants. The latest papering over of imminent disaster has been the Euro sovereign debt crisis, again postponed by making up some new loans out of thin air.  The way we record dollar data needs a rethink.

The economic gurus, like shamans of old, are talking up “recovery”, and denying the possibility of a double dip, which is just the sleaziest euphemism for their fear of a second more-permanent crash.  If we keep trying to extrapolate current life styles and so called growth based on existing fossil fuel technologies, it will not be merely a dip, and growth will be absolutely unsustainable.  Our world economy could become a wasteland as depicted in the Mad Max movies.  I would love to be an optimist and dream that all of China, and India and Africa too, could all be like the Shenzhen miracle.  That new technologies and financial wizardry could extend material paradise all over the world.  But as soon as we think global, our world has an end.  Like ants on a big round ball, humans operate in a thin layer of land, water and air around the planet.  Though when we were small and the world seemed large, and there was a New World and colonies for the taking, economists deemed resources “abundant,” it is now time to acknowledge the reality.  We are clearly desecrating our habitat on a noticeable scale.  On a model globe the size of a basketball, our operating world, drilled to 12 km down and flying up to 12 km high, would be half a millimeter thick , and is materially finite and fragile.  The natural cycles of carbon, water and energy are stressed by existing technologies and gradual changes may tip over to catastrophes.  Present extremes of flood and drought, and temperatures, are a manifestation of what may be imminent.  We are poisoning our water and polluting air to the extent that incoming and reflected rays of sunlight are impeded both ways, which noticeably affects our climate.  Blasé fools who dismiss the science can be likened to ignorant selfish people guzzling a carton of beer and smoking in a stuck elevator.  We have to live with our emissions.

The search for non-monetary measurement of economic processes

The striking fact we need to grasp is that money will not solve our current and future predicament.  Extrapolating past growth data, measured in dollars, will not suffice. Nature will not bail us out just because we announce new stimulus packages conjured in the imagination of the politicians’ financial advisors.  China has discovered in the last 3 decades that the model of development evolved by the West was based on an assumption that industries that grew dirty would be welcomed in undeveloped places, and that other places could always supply the resources in demand.  By the time it became China’s turn to follow this development path, there were few places left on Earth to exploit, and there is nobody left to accept pollution as an externality.

Money is a wonderful invention, convenient to carry and trade for real goods and services, to save and even borrow.  It also allows us to count wealth, and to imply wellbeing, though the last link can be tenuous.  Money is much easier to steal and fake than a herd of cattle, a block of flats or bars of gold.  In the last decade, creative accounting and electronic markets have leveraged blatant crime to exponential scales.  The Chief Financial Officer of Enron simply changed billion dollar minus signs to positive.  Bernie Madoff took millions off acquaintances and from that paid out 20% dividends to new waves of greedy trusting incredulous “investors”, till the ripoff totaled $50 billion.

So the Global Financial Crisis has bifurcated opinion, with financiers/economists just talking up more mega sums of dollars, and another group pleading for the Real Economy. The first group are telling Obama to spend his way out of trouble with more play money, or else jetting into Shanghai as “advisors” like fleas fleeing one dead body for the next sucker.

Measuring the Real Economy

The Real Economy people are searching for a measuring stick that is not dollars.  One clumsy method is weight.  China counts its grain output in hundreds of millions of tonnes – rice, wheat and corn, with potatoes weighted at 25% to balance the calorie value. Aggregated as 530.82 million tonnes in 2009.  The Bank of England used to print pound notes with the written promise that it was changeable for ounces of gold at the counter.  A global Gold Standard came and went – a time when wealth was measured in ingots of gold, but proved untenable when Middle East oil interests were able to buy shiploads of gold ingots at a price guaranteed by the US treasury as $73 an ounce.  The oil crisis that came out of the US backed Gold Standard led realists to attempt to measure economies in some form of energy.  There was accounting done in tonnes of oil equivalent (toe), tonnes of coal equivalent (toc), in joules, in calories, in British Thermal Units (BTU).  This actually still works for measuring energy efficiency, and in energy intensive industry.  For example, to produce a tonne of zinc in ingots requires an input of 1.9 tonnes of zinc concentrate and 18.97 gigajoules of energy.  This is useful, even vital information for refinery managers but meaningless to economists and policy advisors.  An accountant sitting on these number would assume they were reflected in the dollars in his books and look right past them.  Dismissively.

A new approach

Now teams of Chinese scientists have grabbed a new approach.  It is based on energy analysis and also material flow analysis, but uses a new universal objective scientific accounting unit based on a pragmatic foundational concept.  First, let us realize the Chinese were forced into this search.  They faced markets that let them down, and had a tradition of functional materialism.  David Bonovia once wrote that when Chinese see a pie in the sky they want to figure how to get it down on the ground to eat it.  Professor Shi Lei of Tsinghua University Department of Environmental Science and Engineering leads teams conducting Material Flow Analysis, tracking resources, including so called abundant ones like water and air, as well as those paid for, through to where economists call  “goods” and to where scientists know there are also “bads”. In fact, from the Second Law of Thermodynamics, we can be sure that adding the goods and bads, the total is always worse off than at the start. Only by disposing of the bads (somehow – ignoring, sweeping under the carpet, dumping in a neighbors backyard) can we call the goods as good business.  As passionately promoted by Professor Ma Zhong, Dean of Environmental Department, RenminUniversity, material does balance. Every atom inputted can be accounted for as every atom out.  To say “going up in smoke” used to mean to vanish, but carbon dioxide does not vanish.  In the processes we do, two atoms of oxygen (good) combine with an atom of carbon as emission (bad).

There is a funny but important story emerging.  In Eastern Europe in the 1950’s, choking in industrial pollution, a Slovenian, Goran Rant, wrote a paper pointing out that energy accounting hides more than it reveals, and put forward a new concept differentiating unavailable energy (entropy – a bad) from useful (good) available energy, an offered the term, exergy. A Polish scientist, Jan Szargut, picked up the concept and published a hundred articles on thermodynamic engineering on energy efficiency of engines, heaters and fridges.  He published in Polish.  Even though in later life he visited the US and published in English, his message was lost, through translation, complex concepts, and because it showed conventional development in a bad light.

China was familiar with Eastern Europe at this time and embraced the new concept.  It was a useful, brilliant idea.  In 2007 the Western development model had hit a brick wall and China wrote into its Constitution the Concept of Pioneering Scientific Development.  This was a specific denial of the Western model.  The word went out to think tanks around Chinese cities:  research and design new technologies – solar, algae, wind, tide. Apart from the smart pragmatic technologies, a new way of assessing cost was needed.  Dollars did not work. Szargut, in his exotic language, had proposed a new paradigm:  Not only fuel can be measured in joules per kilogram, but any resource can be costed in joules per kilogram

in the process of turning from a natural item into an economic good.  Iron ore is just red dirt, and there are hundreds of acres of it in Australia and Brazil. It is almost free for the taking (give or take administrative licensing).  The theoretical calculated energy cost of making a kilogram of iron from 1.4 kg of iron ore is 6.7 megajoules.  This is the energy cost of producing a kilogram of iron.  When we look at a common car, it has several hundred kilograms of iron in it, plus copper, aluminium, and glass and plastics. We also include physical labor and trace back the human endeavor in design.  It is a difficult but feasible task to estimate the energy cost of producing a car.  So we end up either saying the car cost 100 gigajoules or $19,000.  In a properly functioning market, the dollar value is preferable.

In a dysfunctional market, where dinosaurs are prodded with stimulants , and the number of zeroes are made up whimsically, doing an energy cost account will add some reality and direction.  In China now, at Peking University, Professor Chen Gouqian and at Beijing Normal University, Professor Chen Bin, are both leading teams, and collaborating, on energy costs of enterprises, regions, the nation and the globe.  Unlike micro and macro economics, it all adds up.  It shows when we are going in the right or wrong direction in development paths.

Ironically, and fortuitously, China has a long history of man and nature in harmony, epitomized by scribes millennia ago. Inscrutably, inexplicably, Man and Nature are one.

Blind pursuit of growth in dollars of GDP stupidly embraces the BP oilspill as a $40 billion plus.  Blind pursuit of consumption to boost demand and growth is like the fellows in the stuck elevator enjoying a carton of beer and smokes, with no cognizance of the after effects.  Energy costing of fuels and the imputation of the energy cost of what it takes to make a car, a building, a city, the nation, and indeed the Earth we have built on to by 2010, leads to a sobering assessment of our wellbeing.  This is an economic paradigm shift that policy advisors in China have in the making.

 

: http://www.coulterexergy.com/archives/1005

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