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Home / Tim Worstall /Apparently we shouldn’t have that circular economy when it’s more expensive

Apparently we shouldn’t have that circular economy when it’s more expensive

Summary:
As we all know the entirety of officialdom now buys into the idea that we should have a circular economy. This is something that has been pushed by the environmental movement for many a decade and in terms of intellectual fashion this has now won the day. Our argument has always been that where this is cheaper, taking all costs into account, then of course it’s a sensible idea. Cheaper is better - achieving our goal, whatever it is, at the expenditure of fewer resources is a good idea. Where it’s more expensive it’s not a good idea as in a market economy greater expense is the very proof that more resources are being used to achieve that goal - whatever it is.This isn’t how that fashion now goes, the circular economy has become reified. It’s a good, a goal, all by its lonesome, a pursuit

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As we all know the entirety of officialdom now buys into the idea that we should have a circular economy. This is something that has been pushed by the environmental movement for many a decade and in terms of intellectual fashion this has now won the day.

Our argument has always been that where this is cheaper, taking all costs into account, then of course it’s a sensible idea. Cheaper is better - achieving our goal, whatever it is, at the expenditure of fewer resources is a good idea. Where it’s more expensive it’s not a good idea as in a market economy greater expense is the very proof that more resources are being used to achieve that goal - whatever it is.

This isn’t how that fashion now goes, the circular economy has become reified. It’s a good, a goal, all by its lonesome, a pursuit that must be chased whatever the cost. Except, apparently, when it isn’t.

In a discussion of the new nuclear reactor designs being persued by Mssrs. Buffett and Gates the Union of Concerned Scientists tells us that:

These estimates find that closed fuel cycles are more expensive even after accounting for several factors that tend to offset the additional costs of reprocessing and recycle. These include the reduced demand for natural uranium and the potential to reduce the required footprint for geologic repositories for long-lived radioactive wastes.

This is used as an argument against the use of this technology. The circular economy is more expensive and therefore should not be used. Even to the point that not digging up Gaia for more uranium is a cost, not a benefit.

Well, yes, we agree, obviously. Higher costs are indeed higher costs and if they outweigh benefits then that should be the end of that idea or technology.

It’s just that the higher costs of that recycling are ignored when it is fashionable to do so - say plastic bags - and are proof perfect when it’s something that is unfashionable - nuclear power. Which isn’t, to us at least, how science works, concerned or not. The arguments about the costs of closed cycle systems are logically valid whatever it is that is being fed through such systems. But of course it’s terribly unfashionable to say so these days.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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