Position of power: global energy

Gail Tverberg on why our global energy problem comes down to quantity rather than quality.

Electrical wire spark: Getty

Reading many of today’s energy articles, it is easy to get the impression that our energy problem is a quality problem—some energy is polluting, while other energy is hoped to be less polluting. 

There is another issue though that we are not being told about. It is the fact that having enough energy is terribly important as well. Total world energy consumption has risen quickly over time. In fact, the amount of energy consumed, on average, by each person (also called ‘per capita’) has continued to rise, except for two flat periods.

There is a good reason why energy consumed has risen over time on a per capita basis. Every human being needs energy products, as does every business. Energy is what allows food to be cooked and homes to be heated. Energy products allow businesses to manufacture and transport goods. Without energy products of all kinds, workers would be less productive in their jobs. Thus, it would be hard for the world economy to grow.

When energy consumption per capita is rising, it is easy for workers to become more productive because the economy is building more tools (broadly defined) for them to use, making their ...

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