The Economic Function Of Energy

Consciousness and personality can be seen as individualized expressions of energy coursing through metabolic forms we call human life. Similarly, civilization and culture and economics can be seen as social expressions of energy coursing through the web of interpersonal relationships we call humanity.

The nature of the forms of energy used by a society (a nation, a region, an economic class) are an integral part of its identity. So, to answer “what is the right kind of energy to power society X?” requires first determining what kind of society X is intended to be.

This means that all discussions about “energy policy” are disguised arguments about the structure (or restructuring) of one’s society; politics at its deepest. Nature itself voices an opinion in this argument in the form of climate change, its response to humanity’s century-long ringing endorsement of fossil fuels, expressed as global warming.

Using technical results I arrived at some years ago (https://manuelgarciajr.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/energy-for-human-development/), I explore this theme in some detail in the following article.

The Economic Function Of Energy
27 February 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci41.html

The best economic function of energy is to improve living conditions in harmony with nature.

I try to show the types of futures we could have, both desirable and undesirable, based on the choices we make as a society about energy technologies to power our industrialized way of life. You will not find another article like this. Enjoy.

Energy for Human Development

The United Nations uses an economic parameter called the Human Development Index (HDI) to characterize the typical standard of living of every nation. It is observed that affluent nations have high HDI scores (they range from 0 to 1) and a high use of electrical energy per year per capita (in kilowatt-hours/year/person the range is from 0 to 30,000), while poor nations have relatively low values for both quantities. The following graph shows 2005 data for 177 nations (red x), and a curve fitted to the trend of the data (blue line); HDI is plotted along the vertical axis, energy use (MW-hr/year/person) is plotted along the horizontal axis.

HDI vs. Megawatt-hours/year/capita

HDI vs. Megawatt-hours/year/capita

Data from 2005 include the following:

1. The range of annual per capita electrical energy use among 177 nations was between 40 kWh/year/person and 29,247 kWh/year/person. The range of HDI was 0.281 to 0.963.

2. The United States of America ranked 10th in HDI, at 0.944, with 13,456 kWh/y/p for 4.5% of the world’s population, which produced 24.4% of the CO2 emissions from human activity.

3. The People’s Republic of China ranked 85th in HDI, at 0.755, with 1,484 kWh/y/p for 21% of the world’s population, which produced 12.1% of the CO2 emissions from human activity.

How are the Human Development Index (HDI) and per capita electrical energy use related quantitatively? How are the energy technologies chosen to power a nation or region related to the political economy there?

I explored these questions in 2006, and wrote several reports that present my findings. It is my belief that the United States has wasted the years since 1973 — the first Arab Oil embargo — by not developing a robust public energy generation network for the nation, to replace the patchwork of private fossil fuel and and nuclear energy powered grids we still have today.

Hence, my EFHD reports #1 (Energy for Human Development) and #2 (The Circle of Power) remain up to date. Here they are:

EFHD_R_01

EFHD_R_02

My “GNEP” series of reports is summed up in a presentation¬†(Energy Choices For An Uncertain Future) on the use of Decision Theory to show how the character or preferences of the national persona (or that group empowered to choose the energy technologies for the nation) can be quantified and used to rank the choices between all the combinations of: renewables, coal, nuclear and oil.

GNEP_MG_P_c1

Graphs of the correlation between HDI and per capita electrical energy use are presented in this next report (Comparing HDI and Energy Use, Data & Model)

GNEP_04h.01

The way that Decision Theory was used to rank energy choices is described at length in the next report (Ranking Energy Choices For An Uncertain Future)

GNEP_MG_R07h2a

Technology is not the barrier.

Enjoy