It’s a well-established fact that modern industrial economies run on energy, and the greater the energy resources, the more prosperous the economy. Countries with the highest energy consumption per capita, also have the highest average income per person.
With the possible exception of Venezuela.
The second half of the 20th Century saw an unprecedented rise in western living standards, with energy consumption accelerating sharply. This continued with China’s rapid industrialization, and oil hit a high of US$ 147 in 2008. Global shocks like the Financial Crisis and the 2020 Pandemic have moderated growth, but it still continues.
For a while, we became obsessed with efficiency; LED lights, better batteries and frugal jet engines all helped. But Jevon’s paradox rules: The more efficiently you can use something, the more people will use it more often, so total consumption increases with increased efficiency and affordability.
Now we are on the brink of a new expansion phase. Solar power, electric vehicles and smart cities are pushing us into a new age of energy abundance, driven by technology, not resources. Unlike energy resources, that require ever deeper and more expensive mining and drilling, energy tech becomes cheaper and more productive as it matures and benefits from innovation.
We’ve rediscovered the one energy source that’s truly unlimited – human ingenuity.
Households, businesses, and countries are trading with each other on the ‘energy internet’ and everybody wins. Micro-grids and storage innovations are creating more jobs than the fuel industries are losing, and prosperity is rising. Watts, or rather Terajoules, are up, and so is GDP.