Power The kind that turns on the lights and keeps you fed.
A man can produce two hundred fifty watts from his muscles for a reasonable length of time. When he has no more power, he is a savage. Life Expectancy at Birth About 20
When he gains a kilowatt of energy from the muscles of a horse, he is a barbarian, but the new power cannot be directed wholly as he wills. When he can apply it to a plow he has a high barbarian culture, and when he adds still more he begins to be civilized. Life Expectancy at Birth About 25
Steam-power put as much as four kilowatts to work for every human being in the first industrialized countries. Life Expectancy at Birth About 30
In the Mid Twentieth Century there was about 60 kilowatts available per person in the industrialized countries. Life Expectancy at Birth About 45
Nowadays, of course, a modern culture assumes 190 to 350 KW per person. The US is right in the middle of that. Life Expectancy at Birth About 80
These are just some back of the envelope calculations and do not take into account the power consumed elsewhere and used to create commodities and products imported into your life.
This is an interesting correlation. More importantly than just from a historical point of view, the same relationships hold true today as you look at the same data for industrialized nations and less developed. Life expectancy and power available are closely related. But it takes an order of magnitude change in power to be reflected in LE.
The relationship here and similar relationships with GDP and family income present a problem for the Green Power movement. The next power jump will will be to about 1 Megawatt per person. That is only four times the amount currently used, the same change from the 1955 level to now, not a huge jump. Where will it come from and how do we get there in the next 50 years? What about those other nations that need to move two orders of magnitude just to reach USA 1960 levels.
There is a really great book by David MacKay FRS, professor of Physics at Cambridge University that begins to open the dialog around a cogent approach to sustainable energy. Just to get you thinking, if the US were to cut back its current power consumption and life style from 250 KW to the level in the UK lifestyle and consumption of 125 KW, we could replace ALL hydrocarbon fuels by building 525 new 1 Giga Watt Nuclear power plants. Let us be clear about this. The silly little bits that the “greenies” shout about won’t do it, Cap and Trade will bankrupt industrialized nations and hoping for a new energy source to show up tomorrow is a fantasy. We and the rest of the world need to get serious about implementing all of the sources, nuclear, solar, wind, tide, wave and and most importantly of all, research into new sources.
You may read MacKay’s book on line or download a pdf of it, at his website “David MacKay Sustainable Energy without the hot air” . I strongly recommend it.