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Does a country's wealth come from its energy use?

Plotting countries by their wealth and energy use shows a clear correlation. Is energy use the cause of wealth or does wealth simply creates the ability to consume energy? Clearly, having rich energy reserves (e.g., oil) often results in richness... but not always. The same is true of rich countries, like Singapore, being wealthy without natural resources. Will international environmental policies like the Paris Accords reduce wealth and standard of living? Are the long-term benefits of reducing energy consumption worth the short-term pain?

Source: [jaymaron.com] (not a direct source)

Suggested by @jaymaron

Can countries stay wealthy while using considerably, say 50%, less energy?

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Charter 6 Feb 14
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9

This I learned many years ago and I still believe it’s true: for every job created there are five spinoff jobs. Take those jobs away? The effect will be felt by many, many people.

The country runs on energy. Want to use less? Pick what you want to do without - gas for your car and your car itself. Heat for your home in winter. The clothes on your back and the food on your table...what will YOU do without?

I’m tired of these fucking flakes and their hare-brained schemes to make “us” better people. Can’t use coal, too dirty. Can’t use oil, non-renewable. Can’t use nuclear, too risky. Well, fuck! All of the self-indulgent virtue signalling is only putting us back into the 18th century! Wind turbines? Takes more energy to make than they’d ever produce. But they’re clean! Until they’re taken down and can’t be recycled and have to be buried in Wyoming or wherever. Solar? Expensive and right now provides only a fraction of the nation’s energy needs.

Don’t want oil? Fuck off to some island and let the world pass you by.

What a rant! Feel better now? Lol

@Naomi I do! Kinda.

I use social media for it’s cathartic effect - kinda like a cleansing enema. This was a morning of not tolerating idiots and my message was the result... 🙂

@parsifal
I suspect you had a wonderful morning...

Amen

5

Based on current technology, we cannot advance as a society by hamstringing ourselves with inadequate or overly expensive energy.

Dale Level 5 Feb 16, 2021
5

Nuclear (SMRs) - Small Modular Reactors. I did the math. Our small city has about 50,000 people. With 2 SMRs, each the size of a school bus, could power all the residents at about $10 per month. ZERO carbon emissions, very small footprint - no big energy required.

Spread the news:

Spent 15 years of my life working on SMR’s.
Some good work being done by X-Energy in Baltimore in collaboration with Idaho National Laboratory.

@Hanno

Your opinion on molten salt reactors and thorium energy?

@wolfhnd
I am not an expert in either.

Fast reactors are always difficult. Worked on lead cooled reactors for the purpose of destroying nuclear waste in Belgium ... not easy.
Liquid metal and Molten salt reactors has lots of material science problems.

If we could get them to work... great. But there are lots of problems we still have not solved on an economical level.

Thorium’s problem is that uranium is still plentiful and cheap, so difficult to justify using thorium as a breeding material.
In the long term though thorium will be more important than uranium, unless we solve fusion technology and fission reactors becomes obsolete, however that is unlikely to happen within the next 50 years.

I worked for more than a decade on gas cooled high temperature reactors. However they are large with small energy output, though they are the safest technology we so far invented.

@Hanno SMRs are usually water cooled:

@JeffHoneyager
SMR means reactors that are generally smaller than 300 MW and can be constructed and assembled in a modular fashion... you just keep adding new ones on at the same site.

There is a whole bunch of technologies competing for that market. Small PWR’s, HWR’s, HTR’s, MSR’s, LMR’s... especially in China and the US large amounts of funding have been made available after 2008 when the South African PBMR project was closed.

The most advanced SMR project in the world right now is the Chinese HTR-PM. Helium cooled, graphite moderated, uranium fueled.

India has bigly thorium and they're working on thorium reactors.

Another alternative is Stirling generators. They're simple, unlike turbines. Shovel biomass into a Stirling generator and it generates electricity. Pay the shoveler for the electricity he produced.
Put them in the California forests and clear away the biomass that's causing fires.

The carbon in the biomass is going into the atmosphere no matter what, either by Stirling generator or by bacterial decomposition. Biomass is a terrible thing to waste.

4

Energy does not necessarily lead to wealth, but cutting back on energy does indeed lead to recession and plunging standards of living. That’s my major objection to the Paris Accord. It seeks to deal with climate change by reducing energy usage only in wealthy western countries; but nothing is asked of countries like Brazil, India and the economic powerhouse of China.

Paris demands the west reduce its industry and economy, and even provide billions in cash payments to the developing world — laughably, including China.

These are the same minds that have effectively shut down Canada’s oil industry. The same minds that reject outright, contemporary nuclear technology, and even hydro developments in favour of the fantasy “fuels” - winds and solar.

The progressives stump-jumper seek to manage climate change by leading us back to the Stone Age.

GeeMac Level 8 Feb 16, 2021

Indeed. I would think a more honest accord would seek to help places like Brazil and India accomplish cleaner power generation. Oh, and Africa as well.

4

Correlation =|= Causation.

Energy use does not generate wrath. As countries generate more wealth through innovation and trade the demand for energy goes up. The difference between energy use and wealth in the United States and a 3rd world country is vast but the wealth is not related to how efficiently it uses Energy. As countries become more wealthy, they are able to economize effort and make processes more efficient (including energy usage and production). Example: A smart phone has more processing powers than a server room in the 1950s and uses substantially less power than that server room. The Kuznet’s curve can be applied to energy use and efficiency as other technology and economic wealth is generated.

RitBorg Level 7 Feb 15, 2021
4

I voted "Yes", but I'm against Green Politics. I'm for Smart Politics, feel the difference, please...

El_Uro Level 5 Feb 14, 2021
3

Energy begets primary materials, which beget manufactured goods, which beget exports, which beget wealth. The cheaper and more abundant the energy, the stronger the exports.

The plot shows the world energy budget for producing primary materials.

For example, natural gas -> hydrogen -> ammonia -> fertilizer -> food.

The price of metals is usually proportional to the energy required to extract them.

Democrats are trapped in the nutshell of "what is the best energy source?". The answer is all of them, and as much as possible of each. This is how you make energy cheap, and the price of energy drives exports.

The nations that have anomalously high gdp/power tend to be the ones with small populations. Norway stands out because it has ludicrous energy and a small population.

Democrats love to say: "but true socialism has never been tried!". They cite Sweden, then Sweden collapsed. Their last stand is Norway. But Norway stands not because of socialism, but because of its ludicrous energy/capita. Canada also has ludicrous energy/capita, but Trudeau fails to use it.

Norway also stands out because the government rigged it so that the natural resource wealth goes to the people. In most other nations this is not the case.

jaymaron.com/mining.html

3

Energy, the capacity to do work and in its "raw state" energy is the only true global currency.

If a country has "energy" in its raw state, is able to efficiently convert it to useful work, yielding a product in demand by others outside the country, it can use this "advantage" to stay wealthy.

Staying wealthy with less "raw energy" is an exercise in efficiency and, gosh dang it, you run into those stubborn laws of physics and thermodynamics.

So really, the question is how do you define "wealthy". < You can provide your own answer here >.

Just an aside here, speaking as an energy industry veteran with operating experience in just about every generating methodology out there < oil, gas, nuclear, wind, solar, biomass, hydrostatic and landfill > only the first three in my list make any sense when you look at the entire process chain, birth to grave, which is never done for the renewable resources.

100% Agree! And I would go even further... Time Is the ultimate currency and how you use it determinates your "wealth".

I agree, that hydrocarbons and nuclear are the way to go for the near term.
Leftists keep claiming that solar and wind are ready for prime time but it never happens.
WInd and solar are still a feeble fraction of American power.

Coal saved the trees. If it hadn't been for coal, America would have cut down all its trees to fuel trains.

Nuclear reactors can do cool things besides the usual heat and electricity production. If people knew how cool they were they would want one, especially people living on frozen tundra. Fission reactors can:

Produce electricity

Produce heat for the chemical industry.

Heat buildings with discard heat.

Create valuable elements and isotopes by transmutation.
For example, cheap tungsten can be transmuted to valuable rhenium, osmium, iridium, platinum, and gold. Reactors can create isotopes necessary for the future of Space War such as Californium-252, Californium-254, and Curium-251.

Extract valuable elements from spent fuel, such as rhodium and palladium.

Extract radioisotopes from spent fuel, which can be made into nuclear batteries.
These include strontium-90 and caesium-137.

Serve as a neutron source for scientific research.

Neutralize radioactive waste with discard neutrons.

A neutron is a terrible thing to waste. If you generate them with accelerator spallation they cost 120 million dollars per kilogram.

A chief goal of reactor design is maximizing temperature, which maximizes
efficiency. The dominant industrial chemical produced by reactors is hydrogen,
which requires a temperature of 925 Celsius, and so this is the target.

Fast neutrons can fission all the fuel and slow neutrons can't.

3

I doubt wealth could be maintained while using less energy. International environmental pacts like the Paris Accord could conceivably reduce the standard of living. Knowing the potential negative impacts from a reduction of energy consumption, it certainly would not be worth the aggravation and hardship in exchange for supposedly being "greener".

3

Like @El_Uro, I voted "Yes" but my "Yes" is contingent on a clarification of how one defines "wealth." If it means everyone having a gas guzzling automobile or two and a gas guzzling boat or two... or three; two retired people living in a 12 room house just because they have worked for it their entire lives and can afford it, then perhaps I'm wrong. I, however, do not equate conspicuous consumption of energy with wealth but with waste. I believe the root of the word wealth is actually "weal" from earlier English to mean well-being or welfare, which to me speaks more to one's mental and emotional state than one's financial status. In the USA the promoting of the general welfare of the people has been twisted to mean almost exclusively, financial status. I think health leads to wealth as long as one is not hypnotized by the bright lights and shiny glitter of endlessly perishable monetary based goods.

I can agree that a comfortable and desirable home and lifestyle doesn’t have to include wastefulness (and wastefulness should never be encouraged), but I would not advocate restricting an individual of the earned rewards of hard work and good financial decisions in life. FTR, I live a comfortable but pretty modest retirement.
On another level, petroleum products are a much bigger part of the economy than just personal comfort or the ability to buy lots of glitter. Manufacturing and machinery, transportation, lubrications for all kinds of mechanical motion, production of medicines, medical supplies, plastics, and much more most people don’t see or think about mean reducing or eliminating the use of oil and gas will be a monumental job. Is our ability to innovate to provide for all these petroleum-dependent things without or with much less oil and gas going to allow for adequately maintaining our living standards? And will the elite class still get to enjoy the perks of petroleum while the rest of us lower our comfort and change our already modest lifestyles?
It’s my contention that we need to develop new sources of energy since we likely will eventually deplete oil resources but the transition to these other sources of energy won’t be as easy as environmentalists believe and will take a much longer time—and shouldn’t disrupt our living standards if it can be avoided.

@Garsco I agree with you entirely but I believe that petroleum products have become too big a part of the economy. Especially as we've seen plastics replace glass and artificial petroleum based fibers replace traditional fabric fibers like cotton, hemp and jute etc. Yes some agricultural crops deplete the soil but most petroleum products pollute the soil. I do not believe that petroleum can be replaced for fuel at any practical scale for probably several generations. Perhaps if we quit using petroleum for non-fuel uses it might last longer.

@Geofrank Yes, a transition at the very least. Seems we’re in near-perfect agreement. I’d definitely like to see plastics in packaging and other wasteful uses curtailed as quickly as possible.

@Garsco The sad thing is the main reason why the governments are increasing the taxes on petroleum based fuels is that the plastics and other materials made from the same petroleum is much more valuable material and they make a huge amount of money off of that over fuel derived from crude oil.

The sad thing is the amount of folks who are currently online some even on this forum that are arguing for the removal of all crude oil based materials from an item that is made from crude oil based materials.

Then there is Lithium, which is more toxic in the lifespan of it's existence then crude oil. As it is toxic to mine, toxic to refine, and when it is finally spent toxic to deal with the remainder. The sad thing is less than 3% of Lithium power supplies are currently recycled and last I knew (this may have changed since as the data is over 2 yrs old, but might not have also) you only get about 65-70% of the original value in Lithium out of recycling process.

Wealth is a strange thing that is difficult to define depending on cultural views and social conditioning. It is much like the issue of finding an actual capitalistic economy these days (hasn't been a real one in existence for most if not all my lifespan). How folks measure wealth really depends on many factors and whether or not they buy into the group think of one group or another.

The interesting thing is those in this thread who are showing how much they have been conditioned by social programming by trying to put one group above another. yet when you look at actual consumption chart over the life span of the groups being compared the younger generational group is already far out doing the older. mainly due to the fact that technology has allowed them to use more resources faster and that they have access to much more plastic then the older generation did or actually does use.

The argument is a poor attempt to create causation with to items by the simple method of circular logic. Doesn't equate well nor does it survive actual critical evaluation. Then again you have the entire "climate change" cult which doesn't take into account many points of solid science that makes the impact of humanity on the planet ecosystem finite. That doesn't mean we don't have things we need to clean up nor that we don't need to be very good stewards. That should be taught from early on in life. Only not in the draconian group think that is currently being pushed. makes one wonder even more why the excellent tools of the McGuffey readers were removed from schools by "progressive" groups in the 1960's. rather interesting as they taught social and environmental responsibility on the individual scale.

That is were a huge gap appears that makes a good bit of the wealth issue mute. As what you are seeing is conditioning. Intentional conditioning. It will be interesting to see how long those who are currently accepting to be lambs continue to do so as they realize how much they are falling into a near slave state.

2

Greenies aka watermelons and tree huggers should find a secluded area and live the practice what I preach lifestyle, likely wouldn’t last a week while we indulge in a good standard of living with our petroleum haha

2

America has, at least since the advent of railroads, always used energy to overcome continental distances. Oranges from Florida, raisins from California, beef from Texas all shipped by rail, and then trucks and then air. Now it's even more diverse. Grapes are airlifted from Chile. Or I can get my butter from Ireland. And we're not the only recipients of these blessings.

None of this happens without abundant energy. Energy supplies are not only wealth themselves, they make wealth easier to generate.

2

Complicated! Lol
I voted yes. They are constantly improving production efficiency and cost-effectiveness across all industries. I also remember reading some surveys indicating that long work/operation hours does not equate high productivity. So, if they can strike a right balance, I think that high productivity can be achieved with much less time and energy.
Also, the future is naturally going to depend on millennials and younger generations. Their financial behaviours are very different from the financial behaviours of boomers for example. Millennials are also more conscious of environmental and social responsibilities and that is probably reflected in their perspectives on energy security and their energy consumption behaviours.
These are the two things that popped in my head. I'll ponder on.
Thanks for the thought-provoking poll. It makes a good change!

Naomi Level 8 Feb 15, 2021
2

I voted no cause I’m not a dumb ass liberal

I'm not a liberal either.

1

China dominates world mining and they do it with coal. They're cashing in the coal by converting it to steel, aluminum, and magnesium. Aluminum and magnesium extraction is dominated by electricity, and coal is the electricity source with the worst energy/carbon.

China leads the world in CO2 production and they have a poor value for energy/carbon.

1

There is a difference between less power and more efficie t power. However, beyond encouraging more efficient power generation by deploying more Nuclear power and seeking need scalable alternatives (as opposed to wind and solar which scale up in availability when they want, and not when you need)...most measures are accomplished only via increased tyranny.

1

Yes, that's why the nuclear program to poor countries were cancelled. Look up Morrice Strong, UN, Nuclear power. They didn't want nuclear power going to poor countries so they gave it a bad rap and let it's infrastructure fall apart.

1

Energy usage goes hand in hand with many aspects of a society. Manufacturing for example... less energy = less manufacturing... less profits etc, etc, etc...

1

Well let's simplify to something a bit more important. Can I be as wealthy while using 50% less energy?

Let's start with fuel for my car. If I use 50% less fuel, I will only be able to make it half way to work. If I don't make it to work day after day, I will be less wealthy. And, we're done.

But you say "You don't need a car to get to work?" Or maybe "Use a solar powered scooter." Or walk, etc... The response to all of these things is "If I could save a reasonable amount of money by sacrificing a reasonable amount of my time, effort and comfort I would do so in order to become more wealthy. However, I have judged that the sacrifice would make me less wealthy, which is the goal of the question.

Assuming that you have no wish for any change in the status quo, I guess you're right.

@Naomi - nonsense. I am always looking to promote myself over the current status quo (and so are you). I would even argue that most people try to make environmentally sound decisions at some economic cost to themselves.

@RobBlair But, but, but... your above comment, "I have judged that the sacrifice would make me less wealthy...", for example, sounds like you assume only adverse effects of alternative energy sources on the current level of wealth you have.

@Naomi - no again. Solar panels are sold with the expectation that customers will save/make a certain amount of electricity over the span of their investment. That is considered a positive outcome with solar and it is considered by almost all who look at it (you have such a low opinion of me - lol).

@RobBlair No, I don't have a low opinion of you! Lol But sometimes, I'm under the impression that you are so conservative that you may be skeptical of new ideas. Obviously I'm wrong! I'm all for having a variety of energy sources, and if we have more technologies to synthesise energy/fuels instead of exhausting natural resources, that can only be a good thing. Like someone said here, technologies are constantly advancing; we have batteries that can discharge energy more efficiently for longer time, we have more environmentally-conscious electric appliances, all mobile (cell) phones come with energy-saving functions nowadays, agricultural produce logistics is more localised rather than depending on imports, insulation walls for houses and buildings to cut down on heating costs, etc., etc. New ideas and inventions are waiting to be industrially applicable and I'm positive that new energy solutions can be made available to everybody at affordable prices - one day!

@Naomi - Oh I am definitely skeptical of new ideas, but my favorite apostle is Thomas. As an engineer I say "show me" not because I need to prove myself correct but because I need evidence before I believe in something.

My wife is currently running for local office and I was doing some research on solar panels. 15 years ago, solar panels were a boondoggle and served to advertise who was foolish with their money. However, things have changed dramatically since then. Although I still need to finish my research, I have found enough evidence to convince me that SPs, although not necessarily the answer to energy production, are at least worth considering. I expect that in 15 years, I'll feel the same way about battery technology and cars.

Of course, all these things are more about efficiency and not so much about reducing how much electricity we use. I too am optimistic about the future.

@RobBlair Your children will benefit from all good stuff that is yet to come - definitely! 🙂

1

WAY too complex a question to address from that simple graph.

For example, that graph doesn't differentiate between power used by private and public sectors, from industry, commerce, or personal use. It could be that all that power is being used by people watching TV and driving around, neither of which would show up as contributing to the GDP.

Geography is also an important factor. Take Iceland and Qatar at the very top. Are their power per capita contributing to their GDP or used to keep their countries hot and cool, respectively? Notice that all the countries on the low end of the spectrum are warm countries, where there might not be a need to use power for heating/cooling.

Also, a "per capita" analysis distorts wealth. China and Chile use about the same power but Chile, having less population than China, shows up as "wealthier" with a higher GDP/capita... a view that I think not many would agree with.

So "Can countries stay wealthy while using considerably, say 50%, less energy?"
No conclusions can be drawn from that graph.
But it bears noting that since the graph is logarithmic, a 50% drop in watts/capita (which is technically power, not energy) would be a trivially small drop on the y-axis and would represent a trivially small change in GDP/capita on the x-axis.

True true.
However warm countries are also poor.
However that is for another reason entirely.
It is more a case of correlation between energy use and wealth and not so much a case of causation.

Since energy is mobile, it is not the main driver of wealth... it is a result partly of the actions that also creates wealth, and partly a result of being healthy.

A good example is Angola who has energy coming out of its ears and are dirt poor, and South Korea that is extremely energy poor however very wealthy.

It may be a better question to ask how much energy waste can be removed before we see a reduction in living standards.

1

Wealth is created by energy: first by the hands, later by the machines.

Energy is mobile and can be obtained.
Compare for example Angola, energy rich, wealth poor.
With
South Korea, energy poor but very wealthy.

So although you need energy, it is not the most important or limiting factor.

Intelligence x work x culture = prosperity.

@Hanno
Sixth: I am persuaded that freedom and prosperity are linked.

From my list of principles....

Think more resources than just energy.

0

Energy exports and imports can affect GDP but I don't reasonably believe a reduction in use or a reduction in production is going to increase wealth. At the same time though it may or may not stagnate growth depending on what makes an individual countries GDP based on trade.

0

its part what keeps the populations constantly moving... you realize how we've been gradually shifting what we perceive as being valuable of the years? If theres too much of a delay between the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, then the masses might realize that we are on the verge to becoming completely enslaved and dependent on those in control of the energy plants, as well as the food supply which they will be developing in their labs..its not about environmental issues, never has been...its always been about control

0

We've gotten much more efficient at generating wealth with less energy and pollution but that's a process. An arbitrary chopping 50% off energy consumption would work as well as chopping 50% off your body and assuming everything will work fine.

0

In regards to the question " Is energy use the cause of wealth or does wealth simply creates the ability to consume energy"? The answer is both.

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