Energy, labor, and the conserver society

Bruce Hannon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The decisions we make in America today will determine how we use energy in the future. We can continue to accelerate our per capita energy consumption and optimistically rely on emerging technologies, controlled energy prices, or increasingly clever statesmanship to postpone resource shortages. Or we can open the options for a conserver society and adopt the somewhat pessimistic but perhaps more realistic view that there is a limit to the availability of low-cost energy. The second strategy would be a new one for the U. S. , and it is important to consider the technological, social and economic problems that would arise in such an emerging conserver society. Such a society would have to forecast scarcity and plan for shortages of energy. Such a society would learn to juggle supplies of labor and capital - flexible, renewable resources - to fill the gaps left by shortages of nonrenewable resources. Members of a conserver society would be wise to choose energy, particularly usable solar energy, as the most valuable commodity. Labor can be maintained without nonrenewable energy resources, but capital in any significant quantities requires nonrenewable energy. So capital would be chosen as the next most scarce production input. Recycling of nonenergy materials would therefore become a matter of prime importance. Labor would be considered the least scarce input. Consumption would be minimized to avoid the need for an expanding population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-53
Number of pages7
JournalTechnology Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1977

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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