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Misuse of thermodynamic entropy in economics

Kovalev, Andrey V.
Energy 2016 v.100 pp. 129-136
aluminum oxide, economics, ecosystems, entropy, humans, industrial wastes, natural resources
The direct relationship between thermodynamic entropy and economic scarcity is only valid for a thermodynamically isolated economy. References to the second law of thermodynamics in economics within the context of scarcity ignore the fact that the earth is not an isolated system. The earth interacts with external sources and sinks of entropy and the resulting total entropy fluctuates around a constant. Even if the mankind finally proves unable to recycle industrial waste and close the technological cycle, the economic disruption caused by the depletion of natural resources may happen while the total thermodynamic entropy of the ecosystem remains essentially at the present level, because the transfer of chemically refined products may not increase significantly the total entropy, but it may decrease their recyclability.The inutility of industrial waste is not connected with its entropy, which may be exemplified with the case of alumina production. The case also demonstrates that industrially generated entropy is discharged into surroundings without being accumulated in ‘thermodynamically unavailable matter’.Material entropy, as a measure of complexity and economic dispersal of resources, can be a recyclability metric, but it is not a thermodynamic parameter, and its growth is not equivalent to the growth of thermodynamic entropy.