Saturday, April 26, 2008

Other Things On My Mind

I chose to maintain the "perkier" attitude that Kristy talked to me about earlier this week by not writing about the celebration of Vladimir Lenin's 138th birthday. What's that, you didn't hear about this celebration? You actually did, but most people just called it "Earth Day." Anyway, I spent most of this week either sick (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) or thinking about another topic (Standard of Living).

More specifically, I was wondering what makes a country like the U.S. have a high standard of living compared to say, Liberia (technically, the U.S. and Liberia were "founded" on the same principles). Well, rather than look at the typical answers of lack of resources, colonialism, and exploitation by the West for the difference, I decided to look at something else: Energy Use Per Capita.

This actually turned out to be kind of a chore because the Gross National Income (GNI) Per Capita numbers were not available for some of the high standard of living countries while the Energy Use Per Capita were not available for some of the low standard of living countries. I obtained the 2006 GNI Per Capita for the top 16 and bottom 26 countries of the world (as estimated by the World Bank) and plotted that against the 2003 Energy Use Per Capita (as estimated by EarthTrends Environmental Information). What I discovered is found in the figure below.

Basically, the top 10 countries in standard of living use at least 15 times (in cases almost 60) the amount of energy per capita as the bottom 10. Why in the world is this important? It is because access to energy (electricity, oil, etc.) at a reasonable price correlates well with standard of living. It is also important because those countries at the bottom don't want to stay where they are. They want to move up the list to where Luxembourg, Kuwait, and the U.S. are.

For those of you intent on saving the world by recycling, changing your light bulbs, and adjusting your thermostat up and down depending on the season, remember that you are nibbling at the edges of the energy equation. There is an entire (third) world out there wanting the kind of standard of living that we have, and the only way to satisfy that demand is to find and produce more energy.

So, instead of spinning our wheels, let's look at actually solving the energy equation by investing in energy sources that we know will work (coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear) and leave the rest of the energy sources (solar, wind, biomass, etc.) to those celebrating Vladamir's birthday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Big fat huh?

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