You really should read this. Connects the dots between the financial impropriety and ecologically disastrous energy policies.
Wall Street culture—not to mention the entire suite of economic expectations that guides the behavior of governments, businesses, and most individuals in today’s America—assumes that the close-to-zero return on investment that’s become standard in the last few years is a temporary anomaly, and that a good investment ought to bring in what used to be considered a good annual return: 4%, 6%, 8%, or more. What only a few thinkers on the fringes have grasped is that such returns are only normal in a growing economy, and we no longer have a growing economy.
Sustained economic growth, of the kind that went on from the beginning of the industrial revolution around 1700 to the peak of conventional oil production around 2005, is a rare anomaly in human history. It became a dominant historical force over the last three centuries because cheap abundant energy from fossil fuels could be brought into the economy at an ever-increasing rate, and it stopped because geological limits to fossil fuel extraction put further increases in energy consumption permanently out of reach. Now that fossil fuels are neither cheap nor abundant, and the quest for new energy sources vast and concentrated enough to replace them has repeatedly drawn a blank, we face several centuries of sustained economic contraction—which means that what until recently counted as the groundrules of economics have just been turned on their head.
You will not find many people on Wall Street capable of grasping this. The burden of an outdated but emotionally compelling economic orthodoxy, to say nothing of a corporate and class culture that accords economic growth the sort of unquestioned aura of goodness other cultures assign to their gods, make the end of growth and the coming of permanent economic decline unthinkable to the financial industry, or for that matter to the millions of people in the industrial world who rely on investments to pay their bills. There’s a strong temptation to assume that those 8% per annum returns must still be out there, and when something shows up that appears to embody that hope, plenty of people are willing to rush into it and leave the hard questions for later. Equally, of course, the gap thus opened between expectations and reality quickly becomes a happy hunting ground for scoundrels of every stripe.