The Cost in Human Energy

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

For a while, I taught a course in human-powered machinery for the Peace Corps. You know, bicycle powered generators, treadle powered pumps, that kind of thing. One of the very rough rules of thumb regarding human energy is that an adult human can put out about a hundred watts on an ongoing, constant all-day basis. If you were to hook up a bicycle to a generator you could generate a kilowatt-hour every day … if you were in good shape and you put in a ten-hour day. Sounds like work to me.

bicycle powered can crusherFigure 1. Human-powered aluminum can crusher, Burning Man 2012.

I got to thinking about this number, one kilowatt-hour’s worth of electricity for a long ten-hour day’s work, in the context of the discussion about energy costs. Some people think raising energy costs to discourage CO2 production is a good thing. I say that raising energy costs, whether to discourage CO2 or for any other reason, trades a certain present loss for a very doubtful future gain. As such, it is an extremely bad idea. Here’s why:

The existence of electricity is perhaps the one thing most emblematic of human development. With electricity, we get refrigeration to preserve medicines and foods, light to extend the day, electric heat, power to run machinery, the list goes on and on. Now, as I showed above, we can hire somebody to generate electricity for us, at the rate of a kilowatt-hour for each ten-hour day’s work. Where I live, this day’s worth of slave labor, this thousand watt-hours of energy, costs me the princely sum of about thirteen cents US. I can buy an electric slave-day of work for thirteen cents.

That is why I live well. Instead of having slaves as the Romans had, I can buy a day’s worth of a slave’s constant labor for thirteen measly cents. That is what development consists of, the use of electricity and other forms of inexpensive energy in addition to and in lieu of human energy.

Now, here’s the next part of the puzzle. Out at the farther edges of society, where people live on a dollar a day or less, electricity is much more expensive than it is where I live. In the Solomon Islands, where I lived before returning to the US in 2009, electricity in the capital city cost fifty-two cents a kilowatt-hour, and more out in the outer islands.

Now, let us consider the human cost of the kind of “cap-and trade” or “carbon tax” or Kyoto Protocol agreements. All of these attempts to decrease CO2 have the same effect. They raise the cost of energy, whether in the form of electricity or liquid fuels. But the weight of that change doesn’t fall on folks like me. Oh, I feel it alright. But for someone making say $26.00 per hour, they can buy two hundred slave-days of work with an hour’s wages. (Twenty-six dollars an hour divided by thirteen cents per kWh.). Two hundred days of someone working hard for ten hours a day, that’s the energy of more than six months of someone’s constant work … and I can buy that with one hour’s wages.

At the other end of the scale, consider someone making a dollar a day, usually a ten-hour day. That’s about ten cents an hour, in a place where energy may well cost fifty-two cents per kilowatt-hour. Energy costs loom huge for them even now. I can buy six months of slave labor for one hour of my wage.  They can buy a couple of hours of slave labor, not days or months but hours, of slave labor for each hour of their work.

And as a result, an increase in energy costs that is fairly small to me is huge to the poor. Any kind of tax on energy, indeed any policy that raises the cost of energy, is one of the most regressive taxes known to man. It crushes those at the lowest end of the scale, and the worst part is, there is no relief at the bottom. You know how with income tax, if you make below a certain limit, you pay no tax at all? If you are below the threshold, you are exempt from income tax.

But energy price increases such as carbon taxes don’t even have that relief. They hit harder the further you go down the economic ladder, all the way down to rock bottom, hitting the very poorest the hardest of all.

So when James Hansen gets all mealy-mouthed about his poor grandkids’ world in fifty years, boo-boo, it just makes me shake my head in amazement. His policies have already led to an increase in something I never heard of when I was a kid, “fuel poverty”. This is where the anti-human pseudo-green energy policies advocated by Hansen and others have driven the price of fuel so high that people who weren’t poor before, now cannot heat their homes in winter … it’s shockingly common in Britain, for example.

In other words, when James Hansen is coming on all weepy-eyed about what might possibly happen to his poor grandchildren fifty years from now, he is so focused on the future that he overlooks the ugly present-day results of his policies, among them the grandparents shivering in houses that they can no longer afford to heat …

Perhaps some folks are willing to trade a certain, actually occurring, measurable present harm to their grandparents, in order to have a chance of avoiding a far-from-certain distant possible future harm to their grandkids.

Not me.

I say let’s keep the old geezers warm right now, what the heck, they’ve been good to us, mostly, and lets provide inexpensive energy to the world, and thus encourage industry and agriculture to feed and clothe people, and let the grandkids deal with the dang future. That’s what our own grandparents did. They didn’t dick around trying to figure out the problems that we would face today. They faced the problems of their day.

Besides, according to the IPCC, fifty years from now those buggers are going to be several times wealthier than we are now. So why should I be worried about Hansen’s and my  likely wealthy grandkids in preference to today’s demonstrably poor children? My grandkids will do just fine. Heck, they’ll probably have the dang flying cars I was promised, and the fusion power I was supposed to get that would be too cheap to meter, so let them deal with it. We have plenty of problems worrying about today’s poor, let’s focus on that and let the future take care of their poor.

The real irony is that these folks like Hansen claim to be acting on behalf of the poor, in that they claim that the effects of global warming will hit the poor hardest. I have never found out how that is supposed to happen. I say this because the effects of global warming are supposed to hit the hardest in the extra-tropics, in the winter, in the night-time. I have a hard time believing that some homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk in New York City in December is going to be cursing the fact that the frozen winter midnights are a degree warmer … so exactly which poor are they supposed to be saving, and from what?

w.

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Ryan

Human power isn’t very efficient. You need to take in a lot of calories to power all the anciliary parts of the human body (brains for instance). Probably burning ethanol would be more efficient…..

Capell

Interesting point about fuel poverty in the UK. He’s quite correct, fuel poverty is increasing. What might not be understood is that the fuel poverty percentage is nibbling at the bottom of the UK income distribution. If that’s any sort of Gaussian distribution then any increase in electricity costs will raise the numbers in fuel poverty supra-linearly, and I think, quite rapidly.

bilbaoboy

I have been arguing this with my ‘right-on’ friends for sometime. We are creating the worst kind of unnecessary poverty within rich countries (UK fuel poverty is the classic example. Tax energy until it is too expensive then pay allowances to older people) but on top of everything we are denying the true poor (third world) a safer and richer future with a longer healthier life.
A regular supply of affordable electricity is possible now. It is the key to human development. Of course, if you think development is, per se, evil, then there is not much left to talk about.
Will the greens ever have to face the true results of and accept responsibility for their anything but benign policies ? I suppose we will hear, ‘but, I only had their well-being in mind’
I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.

Bloke down the pub

Hitting the nail on the head as usual Willis. Unfortunately, in this touchy feely world we have created, no politician would dare to be so ‘heartless’ as to state the obvious as you have done. It would be a ‘very brave move’ as Sir Humphrey would tell the prime minister.

Willis,
Are you by any chance a descendant of Wolfram von Eschenbach?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfram_von_Eschenbach
Inquiring minds and all that….
Happy New Year to you.

Telboy

Another thought-provking pot from Willis. Thank you.

nigelf

Bang on Willis, as usual.

Telboy

thought-provoking post – fat finger syndrome

The word incontrovertible sprang into my mind as I reached the end of this article. I would love to ask Hansen to respond to it.
Happy new year Willis, another great article.
I Look forward to many more.

Which releases the most CO2/kw-hr – man powered generators or gas or coal powered plants?
My guess is that the answer would be yet another embarrassment to the greens.
Thanks
JK

Once again Willis,great stuff.

Tim Clark

Espousing a philosophy like this will get you tagged a shill for big oil. Oh wait, you already have been!
/sarc
Nice write-up.

RESnape

Most interesting read Willis and most apposite for the UK
Here we not only have a Fuel Poverty Strategy:
http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/funding/fuel_poverty/strategy/strategy.aspx
But also a Fuel poverty Advisory Group (FPAG)
http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/about/partners/public_bodies/fpag/fpag.aspx
This is an extract from the FPAG Tenth Annual Report (Yes the TENTH! does that not say it all?)
Chapter 6: Fuel poverty and poverty
In 2009-10 there were 7.8 million working age adults, 3.6 million children and 1.7 million pensioners living below the poverty line.30 Income is a key determinant in a household’s ability to afford to heat their home to healthy levels.
In 2010, 50 per cent of households in fuel poverty in England were in the lowest income decile along with a further 22 per cent of those in the second decile. In comparison, only 13 per cent of households in fuel poverty were in the fourth to tenth income deciles. The mean annual
income of fuel poor households in the UK was £11,000 compared to an average income of £32,000 for non-fuel poor households.
Fuel costs
Since 2007 the average annual electricity bill has increased by 24 percent and the average gas bill by nearly 40 per cent. Between 2010 and 2011 the average electricity and gas bills grew by 8 per cent and 9 per cent respectively, a rate significantly out of step with increases in household income.
In 2011 most benefits were increased in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI). In April 2011 RPI stood at 5.2 per cent. Increases in average earnings lag even further behind the price of fuel. During the 2010-11 tax year average earning for full time employees grew by 1.4 percent and the minimum wage by 2.5 per cent.
Those with the lowest incomes are least able to absorb these price rises. In 2009 the lowest income decile spent almost 8 per cent of their income on fuel in contrast to the highest decile which spent 3.4 per cent on fuel. While exact percentages are likely to have altered since 2009, as fuel prices have continued to rise faster than household income it is reasonable to assume that the lowest income deciles continue to spend a higher proportion of their income on fuel costs than the highest deciles.
Whenever producers increase their charges in the UK absolutely NOTHING is said about the ever increasing percentage of these costs that are subsumed by the Government for their lemming like rush for the so called ‘Green energy’.
They think that setting up a QUANGO (Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation), (one of many that in total are a drain to the public purse to the tune of £38.4 BILLION) is going to solve the problem!

daveburton

Amen! Well said, WIllis.

geoff

We have given the greenies a big say in Australia over the past few years. That has resulted in 22cents/kwhr . Thats about 23US cents.

Steve Thatcher

Exactly, the only fear I have for the future and the people therein is if the UN or whoever actually manage to take the power they’re trying to grab now. It is imperative to stop them for our children and grand-kids sake!!
Steve T

Frank Gaudet

I see this as a crime against humanity. This greater cause,”save the planet ….bull sh**t… nothing else !

Ian H

I like Greens. They tend to be nice people. They care. They want to do the right thing. They are idealistic. There is a strong green presence among students. It is the thing to be. If you are not Green these days you must not care. Lots of sexy young things with bright shining eyes – eco warriors – the beautiful people – the girls all looking good in their Che Guevera berets. It must be nice to be one of them – to have the sense of belonging to that crowd where everyone is on the side of right and knows what to think and is marching to the beat of the same drum.
And yet we’ve seen this kind of thing many times before. A century ago the original communists were exactly like this – young – full of ideals – committed to the cause – fighting injustice (undeniably there was lots of injustice to fight) – out to make a better world. I have no doubt that they were nice people too – most of them. They had good intentions. But crusades of idealistic youth have a habit of being subverted by cynical old men with other goals in mind. Stalin follows Lenin who follows Marx. And what started off as a cause driven by high ideals ends up as just another brutal dirty dictatorship. The true idealists get shunted aside by those with more pragmatic objectives (the ones who won’t stand aside are shot).
It is happening today too with the green crusade although they cannot see it. The greedy exploiters are already in full cry; leading the march in more profitable directions; enriching and empowering themselves in the name of the cause. The trillions in carbon credits; the carbon markets where banks and money men can become filthy rich trading meaningless bits of paper; the rich subsidised agribusinesses burning food as biofuels while millions starve; the poor people shivering in the dark unable to afford power. The wind power scam; billions for unworkable machines that can’t deliver but who cares so long as the subsidy is big enough (Build ’em quick, take the money and run ).
And just how did a world government funded by carbon taxes – socialist of course – welfare for nations – become step number one in the plan to save the planet. Someone perhaps sees themselves in charge? Some shadowy figure. How selected? Not elected! The first true global leader perhaps? Ultimate power. Now just whose idea was that?

SandyInLimousin

Willis,
excellent, succinctly put and covering all the pertinent points.
thank you

Chris Phillips

The truly frightening thing is that the proponents of “sustainable development” believe that reducing the number of humans alive on earth is fundamental to achieving their goals. For them, pricing the poor out of electricity is a very useful step along the way.

MorningGuy

ever heard of solar panels???
you can pick up a 200W solar panel now for about $200, will generate about a 1kWh.
here in Oz 1kWh costs ~30cents – $200/30cents = ~700 days payback time, makes sense to me …
no punt intended ;P

Truthseeker

Whatever moral high ground motive is used to justify such measures, you can be sure that it is not the real motive for doing it. It is about power and control and redirecting wealth that has not been earned. The poor will be used as a justification and then forgotten when the wealth is being redistributed.
Willis, your logic is valid, but clearly beyond the understanding of the zealots who say and do all these things for no other reason than the power that they crave above all else. They say that they are doing the moral thing, but they are only doing the greedy thing.
The light of logic will always illuminate the lies of others.

The consequence of fuel poverty is excess winter mortality, which is a subject pretty much worth googling. You wouldn’t know.

Spot on Willis (as usual).
Let the poor deluded CAGW believers do their bit in my KiloWatt Gym – a bit of satire from a while back.

BoE

Yepp!
These dang alarmist have forgotten (or never understood) the hardships that our forefathers had just some 150 years ago. And we are all to be blamed for that fact.

daveburton

The Climate Movement activists who reject scientific evidence, such as the measurements that falsify the predicted link between CO2 and accelerated sea level rise, in order to promote the supposed benefits of carbon taxes and resultant high energy prices, are heartlessly condemning the world’s poor to grim poverty.
I remember “bleeding-heart liberals.” What ever happened to them? They were likable folks, maybe not always especially smart, but mostly Christians, with their hearts were in the right place. I miss them. Now liberals seem to have hearts of stone. The Left just wants to freeze the elderly, kill the unborn babies, and reduce the surplus population. It seems that when liberals rejected Christ, they lost their souls, not just in the afterlife, but even in the here-and-now.

John

Off topic but did no one else spot this a few days ago?
http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/12/ipccs-climate-projections-on-target-so-far/
There are links to two papers in the article, although one of them is pay walled.

LazyTeenager

Now, let us consider the human cost of the kind of “cap-and trade” or “carbon tax” or Kyoto Protocol agreements. All of these attempts to decrease CO2 have the same effect. They raise the cost of energy, whether in the form of electricity or liquid fuels. But the weight of that change doesn’t fall on folks like me.
———-
Sounds too simplistic to me.
1. If the USA demanded less fuel, prices should go down for the rest of the world including poor people.
2. But in poor countries the wholesale cost is just a small proportion of the total, so any additional due too carbon tax will have little impact.
3. The impact will be so small that there will be little need for carbon taxes to be applied in poor countries.
So I reckon carbon taxes or other measures to reduce fuel usage in rich countries will help poor countries.

Robert of Ottawa

Willis, how much CO2 was produce by the cyclist to output an additional 1kW-Hour? Breathing is still part of a combustion process.

Andy Wehrle

Superb insight. But…so what. How do we counter this outrage? That is the question to which I have not an answer.

SandyInLimousin

RESnape
Excellent additional information on the original post.

Stefan

I’d heard a problem was people just didn’t understand how much energy we really use.
Stating it in human (slave) power is jaw dropping.

John West

Bravo!
Why would we want to undo all the gains of the greatest century ever?
http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa364.pdf

Crabby

Exactly Willis!! They want to make it so expensive to live that the poor will find it so hard to live that they will keel over. Then they will only have the middle class to deal with!! My wife is in a wheelchair and I’m her carer and while we’re both on the pension, we both live a reasonably comfy life. I have an old volvo which does not take much money to keep going. We save about 1/3 of both our pensions for bills and luxuries. Our state housing rent is about 1/5 of our pensions and the rest is ours. I’m attending tech school trying to get some qualifications in computers. I get various emails from around the internet and know that the World financial System will collapse and won’t get better again at all!! It is simply because most governments spend to much for their citizens to bear so that creates deficits and DEBTS!! Debt is going to kill all economies because no-one wants to pay the piper. In this country (Australia), we were very fortunate that the Howard Government (1996-2007) payed off all the commonwealth guv debts but that didn’t stop Business debt and the private debt from sky-rocketing. So debt is still a major problem and now that the Socialists are running things well need I say any more. They just want to spend a load of cash on their mates (the union movement) and to hell with the fed guv debt. It now stands at $250-260 Billion and no doubt will be more by years and decades end. Fortunately, we have a federal election this year and will they have a surprise in store for them. Thank you for putting up with my off-topic rambling. We’re soon going to need the miracle of Jesus feeding the 4,000 and the 5,000 (two seperate miracles). HFTC.

Doug Huffman

Santo fumo! I wonder what is the AU$ to US$ that an Australian kilowatthour costs 30AU¢. My REA co-op manager’s mantra is 6¢ per KWH avoided costs, i.e., without the infrastructure investment costs. But I set out to associate a work-day’s labor on a bicycle generator for 6¢.
I have spent many days and many tens of thousands of miles (stopped counting at 50K) pedaling my recumbents, bicycle and tricycle.

Willis writes: “I say let’s keep the old geezers warm right now…”
We old geezers appreciate that, Willis! We don’t like being cold.

Simon

This also sums up the churches response to the perceived climate ‘issue’, i.e. of CAGW. The truly Christian response would be to look at the evidence and see that climate policies such as cap’n’trade, carbon taxes, ethonol-for-fuel, bio-mass combustion, etc. are injurious to the poor such that they should be resisted to their last breath and the poor/3rd world/developing nations relieved of poverty. But no, their response is to jump on the CAGW bandwagon and exacerbate the poor’s plight, committing them to far worse poverty.
As for 350.org’s Bill McKibben’s desire to see fossil fuel use outlawed (and his current student based fossil fuel stocks divestment program), the man is either evil personified or criminally insane. The generation of electricity from such fuels (and also from nuclear) is the one thing that has made life more than just bearable, but pleasant, and lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and sub-human conditions.

Gail Combs

Very nicely put Willis.
What were our grand/great grand parents worrying about ? The Great Horse-Manure Crisis of 1894 (Original has been removed, I guess it was too popular….)
The other point everyone skims over is the move from people power to mechanized water ( and horse drawn) power in the 1800’s was what actually freed the slaves in the USA. If slave labor had been necessary in the north, the powerful men in the north would not have wanted to get rid of it. It is that simple. At the time of the Civil War, the north did want to sell their machines and machine made goods therefore high import tariffs blocking the importing of British goods was seen as desirable. The south’s whose economy relied on slave labor to produce export cotton to exchange for imported goods did not want those high import tariffs. link and the “Official” USA history of economics of that time.
Farmers made up about 90% of labor force before 1790 by 1860 Farmers made up only 58% of labor force and by 1930 Farmers made up 21% of labor force. Between 1980 and 1990 farmers fell from 3.4% to 2.6% of labor force. link
People forget the industrial revolution was alive and well in the 18th century and many advances were made that freed people from a grinding subsistence level existence. This lead to free time and an explosion of inventions. Up until the 1800’s animals were only used to break the land, all else was done by hand except for milling.

18th century – Oxen and horses for power, crude wooden plows, all sowing by hand, cultivating by hoe, hay and grain cutting with sickle, and threshing with flail…. [
1830 – About 250-300 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (5 acres) of wheat with walking plow, brush harrow, hand broadcast of seed, sickle, and flail….
[A whole list of inventions]
.
.
.
1890 – 40-50 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (5 acres) of wheat with gang plow, seeder, harrow, binder, thresher, wagons, and horses
1890 – Most basic potentialities of agricultural machinery that was dependent on horsepower had been discovered….
http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blfarm1.htm

The universal availability of electricity in the USA is less than 100 years old. My parents (and husband) saw the transition from horse to a petroleum based economy.
In the USA in

1930
58% of all farms had cars
34% had telephones
13% had electricity
1940
58% of all farms had cars
25% had telephones
33% had electricity
1954
70.9% of all farms had cars
49% had telephones
93% had electricity
1980-90 Hard times and indebtedness affected many farmers in the Midwest
http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blfarm3.htm

Bruce Cobb

Here in the northeast U.S., the “Green” Power grab has begun: http://www.lowelectricrate.com/
Essentially, we are being bribed with our own (and some of others’) money to buy so-called green energy. This North American Power cartel is a front for Big Green, and even though I could save some money on the power portion of my bill, I want no part of it. It’s an outrage.

Roisin Robertson

So it wasn’t the hottest summer in the USA this year(for the last 117 years), so it wasn’t the wettest year on record in the UK, so climate change isn’t happening, so the Gulf Stream didn’t move south when expected to move north in Europe this year? Laugh if you like about ‘young enthusiastic Greens’, Glad you all know so much and can smirk behind your hands about the destruction caused by (once freak, now normal) weather events (Sandy Superstorm, etc) Climate Science and understanding changes as more research is done….castigating everyone for not agreeing with you is hardly the way to win friends and start a communication..if the Greens are so wrong….

Sounds too simplistic to me.
1. If the USA demanded less fuel, prices should go down for the rest of the world including poor people.
2. But in poor countries the wholesale cost is just a small proportion of the total, so any additional due too carbon tax will have little impact.
3. The impact will be so small that there will be little need for carbon taxes to be applied in poor countries.
So I reckon carbon taxes or other measures to reduce fuel usage in rich countries will help poor countries.

So your solution to “simplistic” is… something simplistic?
Lets take this in order.
1. How do you make the US demand less fuel? And, for that matter, why pick on the US when China or India both use more fuel by quite a wide margin these days? But ignoring that, lets answer my first question: the only way to make the US demand less fuel is to artificially raise the price of fuel. Who does that affect first? Why, it would be all those poor that you seem so keen on saving. All those who live on the edge of poverty and just about manage, who would be driven over that edge by rising fuel costs. And of course those rising fuel costs would increase the cost of doing business at every point where transportation, heating or lighting is used (which is every point), slowing the economy further, putting more people out of work, creating more of those poor people who now can’t afford to heat their homes because the price of fuel is so high for some goddamn reason.
2. The wholesale cost is proportional to the supply just as the retail cost is. Wholesale costs of fuel transport to outlying islands are the reason prices are so high out there, never mind the retail markup, which is probably quite low. It costs a lot of money to transport that fuel in small quantities on a regular basis – and, believe it or not, a large part of that cost is in energy required to transport it. Either a pipeline, or ships, or some other method of transportation is required and all these things will become more expensive as the “wholesale cost” of fuel rises. In more than a few causes they will become so expensive that it’s no longer cost-effective to transport that fuel, because the people who are buying it are already on the very edge of what they can afford. They can afford a light, or heat. Possibly not even both at once. They can afford to run their boats, but they might have to sacrifice lighting to do so. They spend a huge proportion of their wages on that, and if you raise the price just a little, they are forced to choose between energy use and feeding themselves.
3. Demonstrably false if you spend even a couple of minutes thinking about it.
Given that “rich countries” are no longer the largest uses of energy on the planet, your premise falls flat before it even starts. Given that those rich and/or energy-intensive countries are usually the producers of the fuel and technology required to maintain our energy networks, anything that slows their economies will impact the entire human race’s ability to efficiently transport and use that energy.
Given that you want to do exactly that, I have to conclude that you either want to see the human race driven into penury, or you are simply too intellectually lazy to consider the nonsense you’re spouting.
I almost wish it was the former. At least then you’d be thinking.

Doug Huffman

I’m re-reading N. N. Taleb’s Antifragile and thinking about its practical applications.
Without having the concept, I’ve been making my home more robust, antifragile, to energy cost fluctuations.
Light can come from a diesel powered 60/100 Watt Welsbach mantle lamp that also produces good quality waste heat. I have diesel stored for the car and tractor too. We cook and heat with a 500 gallon tank of propane that usually lasts two or three years, and a mantel lamp could be added to its load.
Primary heating is with electric baseboard strips, the cost of which is subsidized by the electric co-op, encouraging adequate load to properly run a generator set at night.
For now I cannot escape electricity for electronic devices and the deep well. When I win the lottery I’ll buy an Aeromotor driven well. We live in a woods that will provide a lifetime supply of firewood – screw the insurance company.
I encourage my Town Board to convert our sewage treatment to mesophilic anaerobic digester for the fuel gas.

Speed

The carbon taxers acknowledge and respond saying, “Carbon taxes can be a regressive tax, in that they may directly or indirectly affect low-income groups disproportionately. The regressive impact of carbon taxes could be addressed by using tax revenues to favour low-income groups.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_tax
And we know how well that will work.

Chris D.

This is a great post, Willis. You’ve neatly reframed the issue, especially when one considers Verity Jones’ analysis of the futility of trying to significantly limit CO2 emissions. What shame so much money has been funneled into green boondoggles. I’ve long held the belief that if we were to finally achieve cost-effective room temp superconductor tech and net energy fusion, then most of our dreams could come true. Those areas seem to be far better areas for public investment than current embodiments of wind and solar. Once practical superconductor tech were to be available on a large, and economically feasible scale, then suddenly wind, solar, and all sorts of things would be viable parts of the answer to our energy needs for a very long time.

Bill Illis

Very powerful analogy.
The majority of the Greens are left-of-centre as well as many of the pro-AGW’ers. Maybe we can get them think twice about the inefficient green power sources by focussing on how much it hurting the poor and making some rich people, even richer. The whole scam is based politically-correct shaming anyway.
Just keep restating that Green technology hurts poor people and maybe it will eventually sink in and the political-correctness will swing back the other way.

Nick

And then we have the pensions. All the contributions spent, 5,010 bn pounds of debt left. Hidden off the books

Excellent as always Willis. The human aspect is the neglected part of the climate debate. I’d like to see all the warmists forced to power their laptops, iPods and Internet connection with bicycle power. I think their blogs and posts would then be a lot less energetic.
This guy is also good at putting the “hard core” greens in their place.
http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_and_the_magic_washing_machine.html

Gail Combs

Capell says:
January 2, 2013 at 3:44 am
…..If that’s any sort of Gaussian distribution then any increase in electricity costs will raise the numbers in fuel poverty supra-linearly, and I think, quite rapidly.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
It is.
This fits what Willis is saying:

[UK] Annual Report on Fuel Poverty Statistics 2011
The majority of households in fuel poverty are consistently in the lowest three income decile groups. In 2003, there were 1.2 million fuel poor households in the lowest three decile groups, representing 96 per cent of all fuel poor households. In 2009, the number of fuel poor households in these groups rose to 3.4 million, representing 87 per cent of all fuel poor households.

From a questionable site.

More than one in five British households suffers fuel poverty
Figures released recently by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) from their Annual Report on Fuel Poverty Statistics 2011 show a large rise in British households suffering from fuel poverty.
Households are defined as being in fuel poverty if they spend at least 10 percent of their income on energy bills. According to the study, the number of families that fell into fuel poverty had risen from 4.5 million in 2008 to 5.5 million in 2009. The majority of these were in England, where the number rose from 3.3 million to 4 million…..

Several reports available from: link
Fuel Poverty Monitoring Indicators : link This report is very interesting. It shows a sharp decrease from 6.5 million in 1996 to 2 million in 2003 &2004 followed by a sharp increase back up to 5.5 million in 2009. “* Figures for England in 1998 and 2002 are estimates based on movements in energy prices, incomes and energy efficiency.
Actual Report 2011: link

…In 2003, the number of households in fuel poverty stood at 1.2 million, representing 5.9 per cent of all households in England. In 2009, this figure rose to 4.0 million, which represented 18.4 per cent of all English households. A common theme throughout the chapter is the impact of rising bills between 2003 and 2009 on fuel poverty. Using figures from the Retail Prices Index (as compiled by the Office for National Statistics), domestic electricity prices increased by almost 90 per cent between 2003 and 2009, while gas prices increased by almost 140 per cent over the same period….
One in fifty households with at least one dependent child were in fuel poverty in 2003, rising to one in ten by 2009. In 2003, one in ten households with at least one person aged 60 or over were
in fuel poverty but, by 2009, this had risen to one in four. However, Chart 5.1 shows that the number of fuel poor households tripled across all household age groups (illustrated by age of the oldest occupant) in England between 2003 and 2009. The largest increase was the group where the household reference person was aged 35 to 49….
…households containing someone with a disability or a long-term illness had a higher rate of
fuel poverty than other households. Although the percentage of households in fuel poverty in this group increased between 2003 and 2009 (from 9 per cent in 2003 to 24 per cent in 2009),
The majority of households in fuel poverty are consistently in the lowest three income decile groups. In 2003, there were 1.2 million fuel poor households in the lowest three decile groups, representing 96 per cent of all fuel poor households. In 2009, the number of fuel poor households in these groups rose to 3.4 million, representing 87 per cent of all fuel poor households.

eco-geek

Fuel Poverty in Britain. Yes I know all about it, at least I found out the other day as my wife told me our energy bills total £170 ($278). a month. It also seems we are behind on our direct debit to the tune of £174 over the year so our actual usage is costing us £184.5 ($302) a month when we settle the difference. This is about 18% of our income (about £1000 a month). Local taxes and water cost us £167 a month, her medication £100 per month, house insurance and telephone leave us with about £500 a month to subsist on. That the Greenies are mad keen on our energy costs rising dramatically in future does not encourage me a great deal especially as many rises are already in the pipeline.

jhborn

For some time I, too, have meant to set the problem out in terms of human power, but you’ve no doubt done it in a better fashion than I would have.
I note only that the hundred watts you use as a rule of thumb results from using the body in an advantageous way, such as pedaling, which cannot conveniently be applied to all tasks. A hundred watts is also the power expended in raising five five-pound bricks three feet once every second; I’m sure that even as a young man I couldn’t have sustained that pace for ten hours. And I wonder how much energy it would take to provide the food to fuel that kind of task for ten hours.