Idiotic claim from WH science advisor John Holdren: 'Finally, less energy can mean more employment.'

The Magical Power of the Kilowatt-Hour

Guest essay by Tom Scott

The typical follower of this blog is likely more knowledgeable in math and the sciences than the average reader, so many of you will find the following quite obvious on an intellectual level, but the facts below may still stimulate a new awareness of just how powerful is the concept of energy available at the flip of a switch.

The incentive to write down these brief thoughts came while reading from Dr. Roy Spencer’s blog the other day. There I came across this stupefyingly dumb quote from our White House Science Advisor, John Holdren . In a 1975 newspaper article in the Windsor Star, entitled “Too Much Energy, Too Soon, a Hazard”, he wrote:

“Finally, less energy can mean more employment. The energy producing industries comprise the most capital intensive and least labour intensive major sector of the economy. Accordingly, each dollar of investment capital taken out of energy production and invested in something else, and each personal consumption dollar saved by reduced energy use and spent elsewhere in the economy will create more jobs than are lost.”

To evaluate the above quote, consider the difference in productivity between the solar and coal power production industries. Both industries support about 174,000 jobs in the U.S. while coal provides about 150 times more power at this time (about 0.25% to about 39%). Hardly a winning substitution.

But can’t we (or the third world) live just as well without electricity?

To answer this, lets start with the term “horsepower” as it is rooted in real-world imagery. One horsepower is defined as 550 pounds of force displaced one foot per second. In other words, with one horsepower at hand one could start at sea-level and lift a 550 pound weight 1 foot higher every second. It was thought that a horse could do this kind of work on a reasonably regular basis, thus the name. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine a human generating this kind of power for more than a few seconds at a time.

It so happens that a kilowatt is about 1.34 times “larger” than a horsepower, or about 737 lbs raised one foot each second, or 100 kg raised 1 meter each second. If we assume than our electric motor and transmission are about 75% efficient (1/1.34), we would be right back to an output of 550 ft-lb of useful work from each KWH purchased. For each KWH we pay about 0.10 to \$0.15 at retail prices here in the U.S.

The U.S. median household income is about \$50,000 per year, which spread over 2,000 work hours would be \$25 per hour. Historically an employer has loaded costs of about 1.4 times the pay rate, so the cost to the employer would be about \$35 per hour. How does that wage compare to the work which can be done by the kilowatt-hour? At a price of 10 cents per unit, an employer could substitute 350 KWH for each man-hour of payroll. Assuming 75% efficiency, this equates to lifting almost 8000 one hundred pound bags of concrete 40 inches (one meter) each hour, eight hours per day, 250 days per year. For the rest of the world that is about 7,200 fifty-kilogram sacks raised one meter each hour. Would you be able or willing to do such work for 30 years in order to modestly raise a family and fund a small retirement? Not if you are human because it would be physically impossible.

So the next time you hear someone suggest that killing a job in the coal-based power industry and replacing it with one in the solar industry will lead to a better world, realize that each job so displaced will come with vastly reduced productivity. And the next time you hear a green advocate suggest that you can do manually what we are currently doing with the “help” of evil electricity, consider your child’s working life spent lifting 8000 one hundred pound sacks every hour for 25 or 30 years. Or until he/she dies trying.

Such is the magical power of the kilowatt-hour.

291 thoughts on “Idiotic claim from WH science advisor John Holdren: 'Finally, less energy can mean more employment.'”

1. Perry says:

Thank you for this analysis.

• Anto says:

Would anyone care to analyize Holdren’s carbon footprint over the past three or four decades? I’ll bet it’s outrageous.

• Catcracking says:

How about the carbon footprint of Holdren’s boss? It is huge!!!

• Robert of Ottawa says:

Catcracking, there are a few people I’d like to see their carbon fingerprint on charge sheets.

• “Affordable energy in ample quantities is the lifeblood of the industrial societies and a prerequisite for the economic development of the others.” — John P. Holdren, Science Adviser to President Obama. Published in Science 9 February 2001
It looks like John P. Holdren and Obama hates America and want to destroy it by making energy less affordable and less available?

• asybot says:

I agree Perry, it becomes even more pointed when you realize that it is roughly 2.2 100 lb bags per second 8 hrs per day for 25 -30 years.!

• Barry says:

Interesting, except that Holdren doesn’t suggest PRODUCING less energy, but conserving energy. Obviously increasing jobs requires growth in SOME sector, and he’s saying (40 years ago??) that energy savings can be invested elsewhere to grow jobs. He also doesn’t say anything (in this quote) about renewables, but more recently, we’ve seen that growing the renewable energy sector can also provide more job opportunities.
http://energy.gov/eere/education/clean-energy-jobs-and-career-planning

• Barry says:

Conserving energy = Not lifting 100-lb bags of concrete if you don’t have to.

• Mike Jonas says:

Those jobs in renewable energy are a net loss because they destroy more jobs in other industries. See Bastiiat’s broken window.

• His point was to reduce society’s investment in energy “production” (really transduction) to allocate more resources elsewhere. His current crusade is to greatly increase the cost-per-unit of energy “produced”. He would now have us spend trillions on renewables and storage to save billions on nuke and coal plants. You and he seem to have missed his point entirely.

• MarkW says:

While conserving energy, per se, is a good thing. Spending unlimited amounts of money in order to conserve ever smaller amounts, is stupid. And that is what Holdren is proposing.
When it makes economic sense to conserve, companies are already doing so.
When it doesn’t make economic sense to conserve, conserving just takes resources away from more productive pursuits and ends up making us all poorer.
Beyond that is Holdren’s belief that by forcing people to use solar instead of coal because solar employees more people per kilo-watt is so far beyond stupid that only those who believe in economic fairies would ever fall for it.

• simple-touriste says:

Also, energy conservation is very “capital intensive”. Is that a bad thing for power plant and not for “conservation”?
“Capital intensive” is not evil or inherently bad (we have capital, why not use it), but it’s a cost that must be accounted for.
The cost of capital is usually used to as an argument mostly against fission energy; it isn’t used as much when hydro, wind, or solar energy is discussed, or when energy conservation is hyped.
Capital is the result of work elsewhere or work of others. Building a power plant gives years of work to people before the first kWh is produced and sold. And someone has to pay for that.
The French nuclear fleet was built with money mostly from US workers retirement plans; the electric energy produced paid back. That was possible because US workers had enough pay and could save for their retirement. Work allows capital accumulation; capital enable more productive work. Only when work produces more than immediately needed you can accumulate capital.
The French government at that time gave the responsibility to scientists and engineers (mostly from “le corps des Mines”) to prepare the state owned energy sector based on needs and available technology. Now it’s more unicorns and rainbows strategy.

• No, holdrrn and his worthless boss do want to shut down existing sources of energy and are getting away with it. Also, re new ables do NOT save money, are not efficient and currently make things worse because they are subsidized by OUR taxes.

2. John Holdren, a modern day Luddite. Hey, if we got rid of Solar and stuck everyone on treadmills there would be even more employment!

• ozspeaksup says:

save sh*tloads on medical bills, solve the obesity issues etc etc
ooh gawd..it could give em ideas..

• I’m pretty sure Michelle is working on that treadmill thingy, as I type.

• Holden’s statement allowed me to visualize Conan growing up stronger and stronger as he walks in circles driving a generator.

• David A says:

LOL
However this post goes straight into my “The Poor Suffer” file.

• I don’t recall it ending well for the tyrant who used Conan as a beast of burden.

• Hugh says:

Holdren apparently wants to lower the our productivity, which is ludditish, and darn brain-dead.
Someone please provide Holdren with 18th century standard of living. He does not need more. Okay, that was 1975, 40 years ago, when communists were all around – I guess Soviets paid them money to be stupid if their natural skill were lacking.

• Richard deSousa says:

Actually, the typical Russian during the Soviet Union era supposedly said “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us!” 😉

• nigelf says:

There would but no one except the rich would be able to pay the price per Kwh.

• Hivemind says:

“There would be but no one except the rich would be able to pay the price per Kwh.”
That is Holdren’s plan, actually.

• Steve C says:

I haven’t read that particular book, though I have read enough of Agenda 21 itself to give anyone recurring bad dreams.
However, here in the UK, while we were playing with power cuts in the ’70s, I remember the Monster Raving Loony party (perhaps the most honestly named political party of all time) went into one election with a policy of using prisoners on treadmills to generate power to heat the homes of the elderly. Given that other “raving loony” policies (e.g. votes at 18) are now accepted political orthodoxy, your observation might yet prove unpleasantly predictive …

• higley7 says:

Exactly. Greeen jobs are all menial or maintenance. Cleaning solar panels or the blades of wind turbines, yeh, that’s what we all aspire to. Of course, it means we are back to churning butter by hand and using scythes, which surely saves electricity but wastes human lives.

• They called them “energy boards”.

• Duke Silver says:

Well, obviously without power we’ll need more ditchdiggers, welldiggers, etc. I’m looking forward to some of that handsawn lumber.
I can’t wait to see Mr Holdren becoming familiarized with a stump jump plow. And his children with a cultivator.
Ours is a rosy future…..

• MRW says:

80% of the world’s energy in 1800 AD was renewables: windmills and water wheels.
Why don’t we ask Wall Street if it can trust its high-speed trading to solar power.

3. As Tim Worstall is fond of pointing out (at http://www.timworstall.com/ and on Forbes) practically the entire human race, in all of pre- and known history, before the Industrial Revolution, lived like the 1bn currently on or below the absolute poverty level, whilst working all the hours of daylight in the fields.
It is only the wealth brought about by cheap power, free markets, specialisation and the division of labour which allows us the surplus to afford the likes of Holdren, Gore, McKibbern, the UN & the IPCC, who produce nothing useful and instead of adding value to humankind, remove it.
I suggest those of us in the productive industries should cease subsidising these worthless people and organisations.

• The Sage says:

And as Timmy is wont to point out — jobs are a cost, not a benefit. One extra person employed to produce “green” energy is one person not curing cancer, caring for the sick or elderly, composing music or whatever other benefit they might bring the human race. In fact we all want jobs so much that they have to pay us cash money to actually turn up and do them.

• jorgekafkazar says:

It’s not a job if it doesn’t create wealth.
Blibb, the village idiot, was a nuisance with his constant panhandling, so the town council decided to give him a job polishing the brass cannon in the park, paying him enough to keep him fed and clothed and to save a little for emergencies. This worked well. But after three years, Blibb announced that he was going to quit his job. When asked why, he responded, “Wol, I got some money saved up, an’ I’m gonna buy my own cannon.”
Blibb and many like him have been appointed to high positions in the US Government and academia.

• GeneDoc says:

A long time ago, Heinlein said:
“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as “bad luck.”

• Joe Born says:

I left Heinlein’s work behind in adolescence. From time to time I’ve wondered whether I had been old enough to appreciate him fully.
You just provided me one of those times.

• Kevin Kilty says:

I didn’t encounter Heinlein until late adulthood, but I have found he had a pretty good bead on the thinking and behavior of groups. In “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” he had identified the self-dealing and hypocrisy of international organizations like the U.N. quite accurately.

• wacojoe says:

Bingo!

• MCourtney says:

He’s probably nostalgic for a Golden Age in US history when thousands were employed in the cotton-picking industry and they knew their place.
After all, the motive force has to come from somewhere. If you aren’t using fossil fuels you’ll have it go back to slavery.

• Bart says:

Yep. Bad ideas in economics never die.

• Ron H,
Then what’s the alternative? Is there something better?

• There is no “trickle down” theory in economics. It is a straw man fallacy.

4. ConfusedPhoton says:

If you get rid of the industrial society and go back to the medieval society, there will be loads of crippling manual work as well as disease, famine and pestilence.
Whats not to like! What a marvelous man John Holdren is!

• Holdren is also a fan of population reduction…

• Jim Francisco says:

If we adopt his ideas there will be be a population reduction.

• Pauvre Papillon says:

Hey, he may have a point.
Imagine a planet without socialists.
It almost makes one giddy.

• Mike Jonas says:

Jim Fransisco “If we adopt his ideas there will be be a population reduction.“. Actually, explosion not reduction. Poverty breeds.

• MarkW says:

Mike J. It doesn’t matter how many kids get bred, what matters is will there be enough food to feed them.
The answer there is no. Without modern technology there would only be enough food to feed a few hundred million, at most. The rest will die.

• Jtom says:

Hmm. We would start with a medieval society, but given the demands of PETA and other animal rights organizations, no beasts of burden to use. I think we would end up with a stone age society. Wait, they were hunter-gatherers. Hunting would be forbidden. How many vegens can the world support?

5. Vince Causey says:

Well,yes, on one level Holdren is correct – you could create more jobs with less energy consumption. However, it takes little more than a nano second to realise that these jobs would be less productive, and the lower the energy, the less productive they become.
We could certainly get everybody into work, cultivating land behind horse drawn ploughs, and weaving cloth using Arkrwights water powered looms. A few more nano seconds – or even a millisecond – would lead to the insight that a much larger proportion of the work force would be needed to produce primary needs – ie food, mined products, shelter, clothing, basic furniture and utensils. And if you are like, really, really smart, you might then infer that we would all be like, really, really poor.
Maybe Holdren just isn’t that smart.

• I think I understand Holdren. He believes we will eventually reduce world population to 10 % of today’s numbers, and those survivors will live a lower standard of living. He doesn’t explain the full extent of his train of thought.
In the end we will have to replace fossil fuels with something. I’m worried we may lack the technology to make that switch if we don’t get after it (I’m thinking of something like a really low cost fusion reactor).

• In the end we will have to replace fossil fuels with something. I’m worried we may lack the technology to make that switch if we don’t get after it (I’m thinking of something like a really low cost fusion reactor).

With coal, oil, natural gas we have at least hundreds, if not thousands, of years of ‘fossil fuel’ available. And we can always make more from plants, deep-sea hydrates, etc. Of course, if for some silly reason you wanted to avoid ‘carbon’, there’s always uranium and thorium, not only mineable from the earth but extractable from the seas. And that’s just the beginning. Cheaper access to space will make solar-power satellites feasible. If we needed it, there’s methane galore in the farther reaches of Solar System, too.
Cheap, abundant, energy is the sine qua non of civilizational growth, is fully available, and ought to be mankind’s highest priority—after individual freedom, of course.
/Mr Lynn

• Non Nomen says:

Holdren, take us back to the days of rikshaws, porters and servants. And don’t forget that some people are eager to work in the cotton fields!

6. Sly says:

here is a thought, given these figures..
“To evaluate the above quote, consider the difference in productivity between the solar and coal power production industries. Both industries support about 174,000 jobs in the U.S. while coal provides about 150 times more power at this time (about 0.25% to about 39%). Hardly a winning substitution.”
If the people employed in wind and solar were instead put to work on treadmills to produce electricity, would they produce as much as the industry that employs them? With the added benefit of reliability and production at any time: rain, shine, or wind… can someone do the math… (I bet it’s close.)

• DD More says:

Ponder this,
Kilowatthour generated per unit of fuel used:
1,842 kWh per ton of Coal or 0.9 kWh per pound of Coal
127 kWh per Mcf (1,000 cubic feet) of Natural gas
533 kWh per barrel of Petroleum, or 12.7 kWh per gallon
http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=667&t=2
The current record holder for the [manpowered watts/]Hour Record is Ondrej Sosenka and the website BikeCult.com has an estimate of his average wattage during his Hour Record at 430 Watts! If Ondrej’s bike were attached to a bicycle generator and it was super efficient, Ondrej would have been generating enough power to light up 7 60-Watt light bulbs! Since I pay about 10 cents/kWh, if I were to pay Ondrej for the energy he produced over the hour he was pedaling he would have almost earned a whole nickel (430 Watts • 1 hour = 430 Watt-hours = .43 kWh)!
http://www.mapawatt.com/2009/07/19/bicycle-power-how-many-watts-can-you-produce
So a pound of coal will get you 900 watts of power and the world record (2011) of human power 430 watts (your results will be less).
Trains can move a ton of freight nearly 450 miles on a single gallon of fuel. Last time I looked, diesel was priced at \$2.69 / gal. You want to pull 22.5 tons 20 miles if the track is supplied for less than \$3?

• David Chappell says:

The mpw/hr situation is actually worse because there would be no facilities/energy to produce the super-efficient bike and generator in the first place.

• Dawtgtomis says:

How much human power does it take to push the western world over a cliff?

• 1 manpower — if you’re an Obama.

7. Frederick Colbourne says:

Well it is fairly obvious that if you dig a ditch by hand you will need more labour than if you dig it with a backhoe. If a country gets rid of all its backhoes and bulldozers and other construction machinery that industry will soak up a lot of labour — from Mexico and Guatemala and other places where people are desperate for any kind of work.
So Mr Holdren is right. The USA can be put back into the 19th century: all that is needed is to exchange jobs that use energy in the form of petroleum and coal and gas for jobs that use muscle power.
What kind of education system has the US got that a man can become science adviser to the President of the United States and know so little about economics and the economic history of his own country?

• Jon Lonergan says:

That’s why he had the Science Advisor job, not the Economics Advisor one.

• Because he doesn’t know anything about science?

• milwaukeebob says:

There isn’t anyone in the administration that knows (or cares) anything about science. Who needs science when you have politics? – – or a pen and a phone…

• Interestingly my company built whole water and sewerage systems in Africa with almost no mechanical equipment. A month in North America probably = a year on some of those projects. Yet the locals were very happy at 3 to 5 times the going wage and the jobs eventually got done. But then, I have seen nearly the same in our own frozen north (orders of magnitude different but similar). Lack of immediate capital changes how things are done. In some places, it can take a generation to build a family home (cash flow).
However, appropriate third party financing helps (/everyone/) most people.
Would have been fun to see JH carrying dirt out of the foundation of a water treatment plant on crossed sticks with the rest of the ladies so he could see his theory in action. It works but not very efficiently.

8. Bill Illis says:

Why was Holdren even chosen for this position?
Because he was an extreme left-wing/climate change/over-population believer?
I mean that is actually the correct answer but it just makes no sense at all. Why pick a nutball in the first place? Is this really what Obama wanted? An even better question.

• Obama needed to satisfy his core constituency, which happens to be full of leftoid environmentalists. There’s nothing really unusual about it. Bush named a horse show organization type to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Some political appointees are outstandingly incompetent. This applies to Holdren, who’s smart but way too extreme.

• Tom J says:

Satisfying a core constituency or not I think Obama genuinely believes Holdren. All one needs to do is check out Obama’s choice to be his Green Jobs Czar: Van Jones. Van Jones is a ‘truther.’ He signed a letter calling for an investigation into the truth of what happened on 9/11. The letter alleged that the Bush administration was aware of 9/11 before the fact but allowed it to happen so as to have a pretext for war with Iraq. Either the FBI didn’t vet Van Jones or the Obama administration didn’t think it mattered. When they were called out on it they spun it to say Van Jones didn’t know what he was signing. Nonsense; Van Jones is a lawyer – a lawyer knows what he signs. Eventually the Obama administration had to cut him lose. Van Jones pops up these days in Occupy Wall Street protests. Van Jones was one of many people under the radar in the Obama administration but one who was outted. I don’t think they’re there to satisfy constituencies. They have Obama’s ear.

• David Ball says:

I cannot agree that Holdren is smart. His science has had NO predictive value. Yet he holds a position that affects millions of peoples lives. His views are extreme, but more importantly, they are incorrect.

• Tom J is exactly right. And there are a ton of Van Jones types who heavily influence policy, but who remain under the radar.
It’s also distressing that Van Jones remains on the rent seeker roll, collecting taxpayer loot while undermining the country.

• Jim Francisco says:

I believe that a collaspe of our system is exactly what Obama is working towards. Many that want a socialist utopia believe that the destruction of our present system is required to bring about the change. The real trick is to bring about the destruction and make it look like someone else caused it. So far he is doing that very thing very well.

• Yes. Came to that conclusion the other day after reading about new guidelines for L-1 visas, that basically remove any limitations on transferring employees from overseas to work in America. So, insane H1B and l-1 visa caps at the top end, allowing unlimited workers at the low end… I asked myself, does he really want to make sure that NO americans have jobs?
The conclusion I came to is, yes, that’s exactly what he wants. When the previous middle class joins the unemployed underclass, they’ll join the chorus of the government taking care of them forever… however they want to do it.
Convincing big business that Democrats can sell our their citizenry as well as any Republican, or even better, is just a nice bonus for more campaign contributions.

• Phil R says:

No, he’s an Alinskyite Marxist. There’s a madness to his method.

9. Non Nomen says:

Send Holdren into the paddy fields where he can show that his rhethorics is worth its salt. The people there might get terrybly angry when they find out what a fella he really is. Reminds me a little bit of Marie Antoinette: when the people complained they had no bread, it is said that her repy was “Let them eat cake”.
Completety disconnected from reality.

• dccowboy says:

Well technically not. At the time ‘cake’ was a reference not to what we think of as cake (the stuff with frosting & loads of sugar), it was a reference to the hard crust that bakers cut off of the freshly baked bread that came from the expansion of the bread over the tops of the bread molds during the baking process. It was hard, almost impossible to consume so they just cut it off and fed it to the pigs.
Marie was suggesting that the people eat that, which probably infuriated them more than thinking they should eat ‘cake’. It was connected to reality although I don’t know exactly how much cake is produced when baking one loaf of bread, I’d assume not a whole lot.

What’s not to like about a miserable life of servitude for minimal subsistence? (/sarc off)

11. Ivor Ward says:

A healthy well-fed laborer over the course of an 8-hour work shift can sustain an average output of about 75 watts. (Eugene A. Avallone et. al, (ed), Marks’ Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers 11th Edition , Mc-Graw Hill, New York 2007 ISBN 0-07-142867-4 page 9-4) So that would be about 13MW for 174,000 people. It’s no wonder our predecessors had to keep a constant supply of slaves coming in.
I assume Mr Holdren would want to import the entire population of Mexico to do the work. ( Not forgetting that people personally consume a lot of the power they create.) There are about 122.3MM Mexicans. If they were all taken on as Mr Holdren’s slaves he still would not have enough power to keep up the current Washington Bubble life style.

• Non Nomen says:

But don’t they consume more than they can creater? All that foodstuff, housing, well, huts will do, medical care, well, a quack will do, education, well, a primary school will do but anyway…Luxury is bad for exceeding the break-even-point. Except for the wel-to-do, of course.

• Non Nomen says:

Sorry, I suffer from an acute infection of Morbus Grauniad. Typos everywere. everywhere.

• Paul says:

“I assume Mr Holdren would want to import the entire population of Mexico…”
Isn’t that already a plan?

• Wow — healthy well-fed labourer, 75 watts? Just think, if we hooked a couple of these guys up together we could run a tungsten filament bulb. Or maybe a few itsy LEDs. That means, with only a couple of thousand well-fed labourers working 3 shifts we could run at least some of the electrics for Al Gore’s mansion, reduce his carbon footprint a bit(at least while he’s at home). Any volunteers?

• Bernard Lodge says:

That’s 10 healthy well fed laborers to keep a 750 watt microwave running. I’ll need a bigger kitchen!

12. Paul says:

Sly, people don’t produce an lot of power. From Wiki “adults of good average fitness average between 50 and 150 watts for an hour of vigorous exercise. A healthy well-fed laborer over the course of an 8-hour work shift can sustain an average output of about 75 watts”
I’m always amazed at the amount of work I can get out of a gallon of diesel fuel. I have an old Northwest 25 dragline that I call Helga. She can work all day, moving mountains of material for \$20 in fuel. I spend half that on a days food and hydration for me, and she’s doing all of the work.

• They could power the White House showers and solve the unemployment problem in one shot:

• Dave in Canmore says:

I spend quite a bit of time on ATV’s for work and have similar amazement about how just a few litres of gas can haul me and hundreds of pounds of gear around all day over huge distances. It would take me weeks in human power to accomplish what just a couple litres of gas can do! I never take the stuff for granted or fail to marvel at how much labour it saves me.
But I suppose actually working for a living allows me to value progress in a way that do-nothings like Holdren will never appreciate.

• I put 10,000 miles on my motorcycle before somebody stole it. It was a long walk home 😉 It was an inexpensive way for me to travel quickly. Long distances were tiring as the 350cc Honda did not have a fairing (windshield). I traveled to Spokane from Vancouver B.C. once. If I hunched over I could get a maximum speed of about 70 mph
I rode it to Vancouver from my home in Port Coquitlam to get a part for my Porsche that had broken down. My gas cable snapped. It was a cold ride. Very cold. I stopped at a mall in Burnaby to warm up, have some lunch. On the way back the sun was going down, then it got really cold. I barely survived.

• What the, my kph turned into mph.

• Ok, I think I could hit 70 mph, downhill. I haven’t driven a motor vehicle for a few years now, max speeds mean nothing to me as I ride my bicycle most of the time.

• Gamecock says:

Canmore, 2030:
“How far is that ridge over there?”
“’bout two days.”

• Paul,
I’ve often used this example here, explaining the basics to the greenie contingent:
Turn your car’s engine off. Put it in Neutral. Get out, and push your car about twenty miles down the road. Then explain why we should get rid of fossil fuels.
That shows folks what a gallon of gasoline is worth. It is one of the best buys on the planet.
Fossil fuels have made the world immensely better for everyone. They are truly a miracle — and without a doubt, they saved the right whale population.
Anyone who wants to get rid of fossil fuels, or even make them more expensive, has a screw loose. Or they don’t understand basic econ. Or cost/benefit analysis. Or… they are selling out their country.
I can’t think of any other possibilities…

• Dawtgtomis says:

dbstealey, here is another example: I see this power plant
http://www.riverbender.com/ureport/photos/08201308310186400_Portage%20des%20Sioux%20Plant_II.jpg
http://wikimapia.org/1694367/AmerenUE-Sioux-Power-Plant
nearly every day and think about the huge area it supplies with power. Then I look at the smoke (steam) from the 600 foot scrubber
http://www.corriganco.com/projects/ameren-portage-de-sioux-power-plant/
and try to imagine the combined smoke of every one of the customers trying to keep warm without fossil fuels or electricity generated from them. Then I try to imagine how much land would have to be occupied somewhere around here to put up enough solar panels (at nearly 40 deg N.) to replace a gigawatt coal station, which is located in a place where there it has no detectable air quality impact. Then there is the huge wildlife impact of wind and solar, not to mention the bird blenders spoiling these bluffs on the Mississippi river, right across from the plant.
http://static.panoramio.com/photos/large/49566076.jpg

• Dawtgtomis says:

How’d I forget… Bald Eagles live on those windy bluffs.
How’s that for tree huggin’?

• “Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency [by eliminating gold redeemability]. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth. Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become ‘profiteers,’ who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.
“Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”
* * * * *
Dare to be that one man in a million.

• And this doesn’t even speak to the zillions of other uses of petroleum products.

• Oops … this was mean to go under dbstealey’s last comment.

• Dipchip says:

70 years ago my Father was a champion corn husker at 35 bushels per day; that included the cobs and a lot of husk. Today his Great Grandson can pick a 1000 bushels an hour without the cobs or husk and already shelled. 35 bushels is about a ton of corn.

• Jim Francisco says:

Do you think that anyone who wants to go back to those good old days ever husk any corn ? I am guessing that most people like Holdren and Algore have never done any manual labor or anything that has physically benefited other people.

• MarkG says:

The ‘elite’ expect to be the ones telling the slaves what to do while they sit on the porch drinking Mint Juleps. Why would they care about manual work?

• Jtom says:

A theory of mine (which I have yet to see anywhere else, but probably exists) is that if the U.S. Civil War had been delayed just thirty or forty years, the works of John Deere and Cyrus McCormick would have ended slavery without a shot being fired.

• Hivemind says:

“if the U.S. Civil War had been delayed just thirty or forty years, the works of John Deere and Cyrus McCormick would have ended slavery without a shot being fired”
I always thought that the American Civil War arose out of the collision of slavery with the competing technology that was making slavery unnecessary.

• Jim Francisco says:

I have wondered how much less hate would be with us today if those shots had not been fired.

13. Gamecock says:

Ah, yes, remember the great joy of the Black Death? It brought great wealth to Europe. Not by producing more, but by eliminating 1/3 of the owners of the existing assets. Holder sees going back to the neolithic as an advance. “Change you can believe in.™”

• Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 says:

What a fantastic plan — create an exclusive conclave for the ultra-rich where plastic bottles will be banned. Shades of Elysium!
My question is: will the police force be required to use bicycles and non carbon-emitting weapons to respond when an ISIS cell decides to storm the compound?

• joelobryan says:

watch for that Hurricane to erase that paradise at least once every 20-30 years.

• PiperPaul says:

Bonus! More job creation!

14. Steve from Rockwood says:

“consider the difference in productivity between the solar and coal power production industries. Both industries support about 174,000 jobs in the U.S. while coal provides about 150 times more power at this time (about 0.25% to about 39%). Hardly a winning substitution.”
Can’t argue with logic like that. Now if we could only find something less efficient that solar we would have full employment.

• David A says:

Steve, do you have a link to that assertion? ( I am hoping you do.)

• David A says:

I see it is taken from the post, but with no link Thanks for any help finding the actual source and evidence.

• Steve from Rockwood says:

David, that was my attempt at sarcasm.

15. DirkH says:

Human musclepower cannot compete with EBT or earn the mandated minimum wage.
So, after fossil fuels, the progressive’s system must collapse.

16. But he’s absolutely right. Use less energy and bring back slavery. The Roman Empire did pretty well using slave power. What could be wrong with that?

• Richard111 says:

Absolutely. Farmers are going to need a lot of help soon. Quickest way to get extra manpower.

• Why are folk so afraid of pointing out the last time around the cost of labor was reduced by simply not feeding them? Hitler’s concentration camps were work camps as the slogan over the gate at Auschwitz testifies! Working for whom you may ask? For those mega corporations and state projects favored by the “elite”, all for the greater good of the homeland! At root the green agenda is not only scientifically incompetent but totalitarian and genocidal as a necessary result. Just how big a step for those like Ehrlich and his fellow travelers to label humanity “useless consumers” deserving of the “final solution”. Oh wait! They already say so!
Don’t worry, this time around they also will not forget to get the gold teeth as the workers outlive their productive contribution. Recycling don’t you know…

17. dccowboy says:

Seriously, he’s right. Think about it. For instance, if we don’t have energy to power those really huge construction cranes that help us build skyscrapers, then, the construction company would have to hire a few thousand people to work the ropes and pullies to haul those marble slabs and steel beams up 20 stories. Thus, we’d be replacing 1 or two jobs with thousands of jobs.
And that evil Eli Whitney and his cotton gin thingy, he killed millions of jobs. And those idiots that invented the water powered wheat grinders, they killed millions of jobs. If we only had the sense to see that we should get rid of all the machines (the ones that use energy in one form or another), we’d have jobs for everyone.

• Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 says:

Steel? How are you going to make steel without fossil fuels (particularly coal)?

• Tom J says:

We can go back to the Bronze Age. Problem solved.

• Reed Coray says:

Yeah, but think of all the pyramids we could build, if only we could figure out how they were built in the first place. Hey, we could employ 10,000 John Holdrens just figuring out how they were built.

• PiperPaul says:

Yay! Lets start building pyramids!

• dccowboy is right, every advance in technology results in more jobs, not fewer jobs. That may be counterintuitive to the folks who wring their hands over fossil fuels. The same economic illiterates don’t understand Bastiat’s Broken Window Fallacy, which ties in with their mind-set.
If we take their thinking to its logical conclusion, the government could hire workers to dig 10’X10’X10′ holes in parks, then move those holes fifty feet every six weeks. Think of the advance in employment, not to mention productivity!
Oh, wait…
Re: Eli Whitney, it required the use of at least 50 slaves to separate the seeds by hand from a bale of cotton every day. Whitney’s invention required one man to crank the gin, doing the same amount of work in two hours. Yet employment in the South increased — while the demand for importing slaves decreased substantially.
And then there were the ‘firemen’ on trains when I was growing up. Every high school kid wanted that well paid job. Unions demanded that railroads must keep a fireman on each diesel locomotive — even though the job of a fireman was to shovel coal under the boiler. Ignorance of the way technology impacts employment is widespread; another failure of the government education industry — one of the biggest failures of all time.

• Jim Francisco says:

Dbstealey, regarding Eli, I read somewhere that a reduced need for slaves was Eli’s hope. The result was that the cost reduction provided by Eli’s machine allowed a lower price for cotton based products and a greater demand for raw cotton which required more slaves than before. The law of unintended consequences goes way back. The article sounded right to me.

18. I’m not a mathematician, but there must be a simpler way of defining this. Can it be boiled down so my liberal eco-friends can understand it?
Is there another way of stating this without lifting 8000 one hundred pound sacks every hour?

• Simple – the value of dumb manual labor is the price of running an electric motor equal in power to a person. If that is 200 watts, then that is 1/5 of a kilowatt which costs about \$0.15 per hour. So the value of mindless manual labor is around \$0.03 per hour.
We can flip that around and say we will generate electricity by paying people to turn generators at a living wage: \$15/hr for 200 watts or \$60/hr per kilowatt. That gives millions of people living wage jobs and electricity at only \$60/kw-hr. 400 times the current cost.

• Lynn Clark says:

My math says it would be \$75/hour per kilowatt, based on 15/hr for 200 watts, which would make it 500 times the current cost. 😉

• Tsk Tsk says:

Tell them that in order to have their sustainable planet they must now grow all of their own food and make all of their own clothing and walk everywhere (or find someone to carry them). All of it.

19. Dudley Horscroft says:

There is just a tiny problem, New York. With no energy (diesel fuel for buses and electricity for the subway) available you would have to go back to using horses. And remember that New York was expected to drown under the rising tide of horse manure, due to all the animals dragging those horse cars and carriages around.
Was good for the Rhubarb, though.

• Non Nomen says:

A lot of inconvenience for the rikshaw-coolies. Another inconvenient truth.

• Alan McIntire says:

And inconvenient for those in skyscrapers. Imagine walking up all those flights of stairs.

20. David L. says:

He might be right. One backhoe can do the work of 100 men with shovels. Let’s go back to the 19th century when thousands of people, paid terrible wagers for back-breaking work, toiled all day in the hot sun, to lay rail lines, dig canals, dig foundations. Holders can lead the way and grab the first shovel.

• H.R. says:

David L sez –

Let’s go back to the 19th century when thousands of people, paid terrible wagers for back-breaking work, toiled all day in the hot sun, to lay rail lines, dig canals, dig foundations. Holders can lead the way and grab the first shovel.

Oh, no, no, no… our political overlords are far more equal than the rest of us and so need us to shoulder their share of the workload in order to concentrate on the thankless task of planning and organizing our glorious contributions of labor for the betterment of all humankind. I’m sure Mr. Holdren can rightfully expect grateful laborers to form a line in front of him begging for a chance to relieve him of his turn to wield a shovel. Of course the lucky ones will be rewarded with a ham sandwich… if there is any ham.
(Sorry for the cynicism, ya’ll. I’m usually a little more lighthearted in my comments but in this case, I’m calling it as I see it. We already have a political ruling class mentality in D.C. and it’s not getting any better. Now excuse me while I go check in with HRH Michelle to see what I’m allowed to eat for lunch.)

• Gamecock says:

“You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.” – Blondie

• I knew one thing: as soon as anyone said you didn’t need a gun, you’d better take one along that worked.
~ Raymond Chandler

• H.R. says:

@Gamecock and dbstealey
Now that cheered me up, considerably! I think I’ll go check on my – ahem – “security system” and see if there are any gaps that need filled.

21. hunter says:

Holdren and his mentor, Ehrlich have gotten away with spreading a huge amount of bs throughout their careers.

22. ralfellis says:

This is the only difference between us and the Roman Empire.
The Romans employes slaves who were fed with Egyptian and North African grain, because that was the only energy source and motive power available. In great contrast the modern world employs machines, and we feed them oil and coal. As I heard the story, one barrel of oil contains 10,000 man-hours of hard labour.
So the answer is obvious, if we want to reduce oil and coal consumption, we should reintroduce slavery. Why didn’t I think of that – its so obvious, just return to slavery and all our problems are solved…….. /sarc
Ralph

• JLC of Perth says:

ISIS and Boko Haram are doing it already.

23. Jeff says:

Lemme voxsplain what Holdren is saying. When there’s not enough energy, we’ll have to open up the labor camps for the nonbelievers.

• Dean Bruckner says:

You’ve hit the nail on the head. This is exactly what the Marxists in DC are planning.

24. Thank you for your input Tom Scott but you need to read up on marginal utility before you comment on economics.

• ?Explain. I’m trying hard to think what relevance that has.

• Alan Robertson says:

oldfossil, do you have any useful commentary regarding the matter, or did your anonymous jab do it for you?

• Scott Scarborough says:

The arrogance is he thinks he, Holdren, is better able to balance the marginal utility of economic assets better than the free market. Typical communist.

25. I think the general concept is to eventually force all white males into energy generation slavery, this would eliminate sexism, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, pollution, war, hate speech, climate change, drought, malaria, halitosis, hammer toe, NASCAR, science, innovation, sanity etc. This appears to be the goal, they have started by eliminating men from higher education. In the sixties the sexual makeup of universities was about 60-40 men-women, that was outrageous, woman demanded equality, fair enough. Universities scrambled to attract young women to enroll by inventing new areas of studies that are nothing but academic hogwash, eg. Gender awareness studies, if you make it to university age and have to take a course to be aware of your or anyone else’s gender, you have a lot more development to deal with before your education begins. Now the sexual makeup of campuses is 70-30 women-men, and the impression I get is the men are all rapists and need to be eliminated all together. Another example of a group that begins by asking for equality, but the real motivation is revenge.

• Reed Coray says:

Sounds like the movie “The Matrix”–human batteries abound.

26. Langenbahn says:

There may be a method to this madness (Or maybe I’m giving Holdren too much credit) but is true that productivity is increasing, while the labor component in productivity is being intractably reduced. In fact, productivity is increasing because the labor component is being reduced (by, among other things, the advances in robotics and “AI” which are making serious incursions in to white collar jobs as they did with blue collar jobs 30 years ago.) In America (and perhaps elsewhere, for all I know) this has wrought many marvelous Fox Butterfield moments, in news headlines like “Profits increasing though jobs still scarce.” In fact, the profits are increasing because the economic downturn gave companies the opportunity to shed all those unnecessary makey-work jobs by which we as a society redistributed wealth. Perhaps Holdren realizes we are close to a moment in history where most people will not have or need a job and thinks would be a bad thing. A Luddite indeed.

• rgbatduke says:

And one day we will have to confront this. IMO the simplest and most scalable way to do so would be to go first to a four and a half day work week, then to a four day work week, etc, while rescaling salaries and wages and benefits to remain roughly the same as technology continues to reduce the need for humans to do work at all. That is, there will be increasing need to ensure that there are jobs enough to go around that pay a living wage rather than concentrate more and more wealth in fewer and fewer pockets while increasing the unemployment and hence the social network burden.
This is itself probably too simple a solution and would require tweaking, but IMO we are still going to eventually have to deal with the problem. We are rapidly approaching an era where human work will simply be superfluous in many contexts. Within the next three decades, we are likely to reduce the cost of electricity by a factor of 2 to 4 in real dollars whatever Holdren fantasizes and in spite of (perhaps even because of) the best efforts of the warmists and energy companies to artificially inflate the cost of energy. I’ve been following the science news pretty carefully, and I think there is a rather good chance that fusion really truly is just around the corner at last. And then there is still LFTR, which sounds too good to be true, but isn’t, given the solution of just a few engineering/technical hurdles that we KNOW can be solved with a tiny bit of effort. The combined and easily mineable energy content of thorium and deuterium in the accessible part of the Earth’s surface (land and ocean) is enough to power civilization at 10x its current per capita energy consumption (or more) for the indefinite future (millions of years), and then there are the resources of the entire solar system waiting to be exploited after that. We probably won’t be burning coal anyway in thirty years, in other words, and yet energy will cost less than 1/4 of what it costs now in constant dollars.
With that sort of price on energy, sustained, robotic and other technology will gradually create a world where we need to employ only perhaps 10% of the human species in order to enable all of that species to live like royalty. Either we employ everybody 10% of the time, so we all work a half-day a week or so, or we employ 10% full time and everybody else is unemployed, or somewhere in between. Or we invent new definitions of “work” and make the workforce even more of an Army of Oz than it is now (a whole company of generals, colonels, majors, captains and lieutenants all to command a single actual private that does all of the work:-).
But in the sort run, the worst thing in the world is to bump the cost of electricity, artificially, mouthing crap like “it will increase employment”. I just finished reading a lovely article in National Geographic where they bemoaned the fact that Africa lives poised on the edge of starvation much of the time because fertilizer there is so expensive and all of the farms are the usual tiny sustenance farms of a poor culture. And fertilizer — why exactly is it so expensive? Because it is made with electricity — lots of it, to fix nitrogen. And electricity in Africa is a scarce resource. And why is that? Because the coal-generated electricity worldwide is probably a factor of 2-3 more expensive than it would be without the global warming fiasco. Follow the money, and you’ll find that energy companies are among the biggest recipients of the Global Warming bonanza.
rgb

• Non Nomen says:

Matt McGinn had the answer quite a while ago.
Look and listen!

• The gravest problem is not that the total amount of work is shrinking, but that the remaining work becomes ever more demanding. In order to be employed, you have to beat the robot at something, and with ever cleverer robots, an ever greater proportion of the population will find itself without any job prospects at all.

• AJB says:

+10

• It isn’t often I find much to disagree with in rgb’s alwayss well-constructed comments, but this time he surprises us by suggesting that society is going to need a new way of dealing with the flood of cheaper energy and the wealth that it creates.
There would seem to no reason to think that these advances will not quite naturally find a solution. The 4 day week will likely replace the 5 dayweek, just as the five day week replaced the six and seven day week. The entry-cost of living (buying food and services) will fall to undreamt-of levels, and folks can choose whether they want more cash or more leisure. And other folks will employ themselves finding new goods and services to milk the cash and occupy that leisure. It will just happen, as it always has. Though, doubtless the politicos will have a field day vying to convince us that they know how best the goodies can be distributed, it can resolve without coercion/central direction, as it always has previously.
The greater danger I see is that the mindset of our current leaders is to adopt a green-leaning stance that will deter and delay this progress quite unnecessarily. We don’t need to encourage them by suggesting that it is time for them to intervene before new-found wealth corrupts us!

• Jim Francisco says:

Boy rgb, I’m glad you are on our side. Your assessment of future cheap and plentiful energy helps put me at ease for our future generations. I think your concerns for government or some entity to concern themselves with future employment are unnecessary. The concerns of people being replaced by machines have been around for a long time and have been unfounded for a long time. One of the best examples is in farming. Many people were for the most part were happily replaced by machines all without the need for government action. None of the old farmers I know long for the good old days. The entertainment industry (I include sports) has done much to take up the excess labor. Sports in my very minority opinion the biggest waste of time and effort there is. There are plenty more time and effort wasting activities to take up the excess labor.

• Gamecock says:

I totally disagree with rgb. We . . . WE . . . don’t need to do anything. People and the marketplace will deal with all.

• J Martin says:

In many countries the transition to a 3 day working week would likely only occur after mass unemployment and ever growing riots, perhaps some of the Scandinavian countries might handle it better. I suspect the UK would be amongst the worst.

• J Martin says:

In fact France could move to a 4 day week now and still be better off than the UK.
I read in the economist magazine recently that the French produce more in 4 days than the English do in a week.

• Gamecock says:

The government could create a policy where employers will face a great penalty if they give their workers more than 30 hours a week. What’s that, 3 and 3/4 days a week?
They could call it something like . . .
Obamacare.

• My company introduced a 37.5 hour week in the early 70’s. We even tried 35. Never really worked. The busy folks still worked 60+ and the ones that didn’t have to liked the overtime pay. Only period where it sort of worked was the recession in the 80’s.
It could work now or some time in the near future with cultural shifts and 24 hour on line access. Even in the middle of uninhibited parts of the Utah and Nevada deserts there is Internet access 24/7.

• Tsk Tsk says:

Ugh, just so much wrong with this. We don’t need to dictate any changes to the work week, that’s why we need free markets. If I can produce sufficiently in 20 hours to make my employer (possibly me) and me (definitely me) the amount of return to live the lifestyle I want, then that’s what we will negotiate. Now if the employer finds that they can make even more money by running their capital with another worker for the next 20 hours, they’ll contract that out and away we go. If I decide that I want more, then I’ll take those extra 40 hours.
The reality is today we make (per capita GDP) about 6 times what we made in 1938 when the 44 hour work week was first implemented. Why are we still working? The simple answer is that as we get more we want more (to a point). Apparently for most people greed is indeed good. I certainly approve of making all you can through honest, mutual exchanges.
So that leaves us with the far, far off utopia of personal fabers which eliminate most household item needs. Again, these are far, far, far off. There’s a lot of useful and promising stuff coming out of 3D printing land, but we are light years away from The Diamond Age or the rest of Drexler’s snake oil.
And that’s without mentioning all of the other labor that we will still want. By the time we solve those problems there won’t be a need to worry about the unemployed because the capital base will be so large that they will still live comfortably.

• rgb says:
IMO the simplest and most scalable way to do so would be to go first to a four and a half day work week, then to a four day work week, etc, while rescaling salaries and wages and benefits to remain roughly the same as technology continues to reduce the need for humans to do work at all.
I trust that was sarcasm?

27. Holdren’s right. For example, North Korea has zero unemployment, while still using a small amount of energy.

• Dystopian says:

Let them eat grass.

• jorgekafkazar says:

And there’s always the dog food industry.

28. John B says:

Each dollar taken out of energy production and invested in something else… without energy production there would be no ‘something else’.

29. lemiere jacques says:

sure …what about slavery?

• Non Nomen says:

The fetters and chain industry supports it strongly.

• H.R. says:

Aha! That’s who is behind all this, Big Fetters and Chains. And all this time we thought it was Big Oil.

30. ralfellis says:

Talking of Egyptian grain (see above), if you fly over the Nile Delta, you will see that there is a farm (a hovel) every 100 meters or so. Whereas if you fly over Illinois, you will see a farm every ten kilometers or so. And the Egyptians and North African Muslims will still blame American wealth and prosperity on the Great Satan stealing their resources.
On the contrary, the difference is oil vs slavery once more.
The Egyptians are happy to use 5,000 times as many people, to farm the same acreage as are employed on the plains of Illinois. But to make those farms economically viable, the Egyptian workers need to be paid slave-wages. Which they are. And anyone on slave-wages is effectively a slave. In great contrast, Illionois will employ gas-guzzling combine harvesters, that were themselves made by gas-guzzling machines in factories. And so Illinois will employ one farmer to do the work of 5,000 Egyptian slaves, and pay a thousand times the salary.
The choice is obvious. If John Holdren wants to get rid of oil-slavery, he will have to reintroduce human-slavery. But if he wants that, why does he not just stand up and say so?
.
Farming in Egypt. This is what John Holdren wants for the USA. But as long as he does not have to do the work, and his food-bill remains the same.
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_ZedhONwaPjI/TOy8-4KHNoI/AAAAAAAAAKM/_pMeNYqkxAg/s1600/399.JPG
Farming in the USA. The Greens think this is inefficient, because there is only one driver. (Actually, the combine is on GPS autopilot, with auto steering).
http://www.bushywood.com/farming/farming_pictures/combine-harvester-new-holland-cr1090-heavyweight-world-champion.jpg

• Patrick says:

A combine harvester does not “carp” on the land, an animal does, thats the difference!

• Silver ralph says:

Brilliant !! And how many oxen would it take to fertilise a 600 acre field in that fashion? That is why the West uses man-made fertilisers, made from fossil fuels I might add. And extra CO2 in the atmosphere, of course.
If you want 6 billion on the planet you need the food to feed them – and ox-ploughs and a cow-pat every 100m will just lead to famine. Utterly useless, unless that is what John Holdren wants, of course. The Green culling policy, that Holdren will not admit to.

• Patrick says:

Large scale mechanised farming also has it’s problems and can lead to food production and growing problems. The EU is a good example of this, destroying land quality requiring expensive man-made fertilisers creating food mountains and lakes that no-one can sell, consquently, ending up in landfil. It is extimated that, in the UK alone, up to 40% of food grown, which includes fertliser, fuel, energy, transport and labour, is simply wasted. A smaller farm model is vefry much in favor.

31. jamie says:

I don’t know why the government want to push solar so badly….with all the problems associated with. I’ve roughly calculated that if you wanted to power the world by solar panels you’d have to kill all the plant life in something like the state of Colorado. I wonder what the tree huggers would think about that. looks to me that our only real hope is if ITER is a sucess

• I don’t know if your calculation is correct, but it gives food for thought. If building over Colorado could provide sufficient power (at least by day in summer) to service the world, isn’t that surprising, at those poor efficiencies? Just another indication how big the world really is and, once again, how the world is nowhere near as stressed for resources, or space, as most people, if asked, would guess. The big Malthusian lie always finds a welcome in people’s hearts.

• Mike Jonas says:

Make solar panels with holes – then use them like a shadecloth in high-sun areas to help plant growth underneath.

• Conventional energy doesn’t present enough opportunity for graft.

32. John Boles says:

When I visited China 5 years ago…lots of cheap labor, very few power tools, most done by hand, low wages, early retirement, government pension.

• Tim says:

You left out the poverty of those doing labor by hand with very low tech. Which is why so many travel extremely long distances in order to get a better (higher tech-more energy dependent) job.

• Silver ralph says:

You forgot to add “years of hard labour, grinding poverty, a broken body, and a subsistsnce-level pension.”. If you think the Chinese system is so wonderful, why don’t you move there? Ah, yes, I know, because life in a technological, mechanised America is much nicer……

• A friend also visited a Chinese factory, just after the cultural revolution, and reported seeing two people operating a simple, old press. Well, one to operate the press, and one to return the press tool to its first positon, because a spring was missing. My friend offered to send them a 5 cent spring to replace the missing part so that it could be returned to its design production rate, but was roundly condemned by his hosts, who pointed out that this would put the second operator out of a job. Holdren would clearly have been at home.

33. Patrick says:

He should spend some time in, oh I dunno, Ethiopia, to understand what he is implying.

• Yup. That is one of the places I worked… See upthread.

34. rgbatduke says:

Yes, this (Holdren’s remarks) are the dumbest things I’ve heard from the mouth of a public official since the day the secretary of the interior said that there was no need to preserve the natural resources locked up in our national parks and forests because the Rapture was coming any day now and we would no longer need them.
In one sense, he is perfectly correct. If electricity went away, think of how many candlemakers would be employed to replace the light we use in a single evening at home!
Think of how many travelling actors and musicians would be employed to provide the entertainment we take for granted.
Think of how much more food we would have to grow since we could no longer refrigerate food before we ate it or keep our leftovers. Think of how much more land area we would have to clear and plant to grow even the same amount of food we use now without the labor-saving fertilizers made with electricity.
Think of all of the people we could employ raising horses to pull the carts that delivered our milk, and how many more people we could employ to remove the natural byproduct of horse-drawn transportation from our various streets.
Think of how we would cook dinner — no electrical stoves or microwaves, and sadly we use electricity to pump and deliver and meter natural gas, and most modern stoves use electricity to avoid the need for pilot lights. It would be back to cooking over wood or charcoal.
Think of how many people we would have to employ as nurses and doctors as the instrumentation they use to monitor the sick no longer functioned. Think of how much work they’d have when the medicines they rely on (all made using electricity, out of materials mined with electricity, and delivered by means of vehicles that require electricity in many contexts to run) are no longer are available.
Think of all the secretaries we could once again employ when word processing was no longer available.
Think of all of the postal employees we’d need when mail once again meant pieces of paper carried by hand and horse across vast distances.
Think of all the gravediggers we would employ to bury the vast, vast numbers of dead created by the collapse of the social order and civilization itself, with our huge cities unable to be fed by any means whatsoever given the distance between the city and the farm. Even if we built coal burning non-electrical trains (without using electricity at any point to mine or deliver or mill the steel) as fast as we could, we would never be able to do it in time to feed the millions who live in places like downtown Manhattan, isolated from the farmland that feeds them by hundreds of miles.
In fact, I think Holdren should hold up gravedigging as an example of the real growth industry in a world with less electricity.
Some people tend to idealize “civilization” in the era before electricity — praising the Jeffersonian fantasy of the gentleman farmer, or some sort of self-sufficient educated rural population living in balance with the land. They ignore the fact that this was a fantasy even in Jefferson’s time, and that Jefferson’s efforts to create it in his own life relied on enslaving humans instead of electrons. They ignore the fact that life in the 18th and 19th century sucked. They ignore the fact that almost all of our luxuries, all of our necessities, all of the many components of our comfortable lives are directly due to the invention and universal delivery of cheap electricity!
Even the poorest members of our society are wealthier than the richest humans in the world in the 18th century. They enjoy luxuries that simply did not exist — the luxury of foods from all around the world, of superb health care and dentistry, the luxury of light after dark, the luxury of music, books, art, and diverse entertainments available at any instant, the luxury of transportation farther in an hour than humans could travel in three days for less cost (in terms of income) than the food a human would consume in a single meal along that long trek on foot, the luxury of cold beer and hot soup prepared in a clean kitchen at the touch of a few electrical buttons, the incredible luxury of not living at or near the ambient temperature of the environment, the luxury of life free from soot.
Even the personal freedoms they enjoy are largely due to electricity. Rapid communications are a tool, if not an absolute requirement, of personal and political freedom. The Arab Spring movement was mediated by cell phones! Electronic information penetrates the bamboo curtain China still (somewhat pathetically) tries to erect between its citizens and the rest of the world. My physics textbook helps students in India, and China, and South America, and Saudi Arabia, to learn things that they wouldn’t even know existed without the constant flow of electrons and photons carrying the information back and forth across the oceans.
I just wish that idiots who make statements like this with an obviously self-serving political cast to them and that are at such incredible odds with reality would be forced to live the life of “increased employment” they advocate as a result of increased costs for electricity, or better yet, be forced to live a life without the use of any electricity or any goods or services produced with the use of electricity at all, for a year or two. If they survive they can come back and tell us about the virtues of life in the 17th century, using handmade paper, handmade ink, and a printing press where they get to set the type using hand-cast letters, and where they can hand-deliver the resulting document to us, one at a time, on horseback.
rgb
Think of how many people we would be able to employ as gravediggers as

• Erik Magnuson says:

One of my “fondest” memories of Holdren came from 1976. At that time, he was advocating for clean coal over nuclear, claiming that with the right technology, the largest number of deaths from coal would come from people being killed at railroad crossings. The quality of his analysis is reflected by his assuming that no steps could or would be taken to reduce crossing fatalities.
Seems to me that he is an activist who pretends to be a scientist in that he adjusts his analysis to fit his thesis, rather than adjusting his thesis to fit an objective analysis.

• One quibble: how many graves will be needed when amoral starving masses created by the regime start eating the dead?

35. Nothing new here:
“On September 13, 1935 William Aberhart gave a speech to the Canadian Club in Toronto. He recounted an anecdote in which he delivered a version of the saying:
One of the school graduates came to me to pay his respects to the school; he told me he was in charge of helping on one of the Dominion air ports. I said to him, “I suppose you use modern machinery in your air ports?”
“No, sir.”
“Why?”
“Well,” he said, “if we used modern machinery in the establishment of air ports there would be very little need of men to help us to do it, for they would do it so rapidly and easily that there would be no need of man labour. We give them picks and shovels and put them out to do it in the old-fashioned way.”
I smiled and said to him: “It would probably be just as well to give them spoons and forks; it would take them still longer to do it.” It seemed to me so ridiculous; we let modern machinery rust at the road side or air port and make those men bend their backs in order to give them the purchasing power to buy the necessities of life, and hardly that.”
Other variants attributed to Milton Freedman.
Charles G. Battig

36. Michael Maddocks says:

This is true, think about how many jobs there were just in farming before electricity and fossil fuels! Ahh the good old days…

37. Pamela Gray says:

Your post reflects even more on the change in a woman’s life because of cheap, ready, and steady electricity. In times past sans electricity, home life kept a woman working far more hours than men. The labor was physical, often caustic, and usually led to an earlier grave than that of men. It was also the reason education outside the home was a luxury for children, not a mandate. Children were needed to spread the work else a woman was in her grave before child bearing years were over.

• Tom J says:

And lots of them were in their grave from child bearing. Old graveyards in Kentucky will bear that out: A headstone for a young woman with a rock right next to it. The rock marked the resting place for the stillborn infant.

• Pamela Gray says:

Yep. My great-grandfather was left to raise a newborn and older children due to childbirth maternal mortality. His second wife whom he married a year later, much younger than he, went on to bear more children. It was through her, especially her father (originally from Springfield, Illinois) that connected my ancestors with Abraham Lincoln. Our written history in centennial biographies from two states identifies my great-great-grandfather as having a personal as well as political, though on opposite sides, friendship with President Lincoln prior to his presidency. However, the point is that in addition to long working hours in a western pioneer town, his first wife was not able to withstand the combination of daily work and child bearing. While she and earlier children survived birth, her deteriorated physical condition after such a hard life, bore down on her and eventually took her to an early grave.
All this is to say that any woman with an ounce of sense, would never, ever, advocate for a watermelon lifestyle devoid of the advantages of cheap electricity. That women do such things is beyond my comprehension. All I can say is that someone, somewhere in her family, forgot to tell her what it was like in years past and have not made her visit the graves of women who came before her.

• AJB says:
• Pamela you make good points, but the main reason women went to earlier graves than men was giving birth.

38. When Holdren wrote that reducing energy allows capital to be invested in more labor intensive
industries, increasing employment levels, he is probably essentially correct, but only if energy reductions are accomplished thru cost-effective energy conservation. That frees up (mostly) consumer money in
the same way that reduced gas/gsoline prices have in the recent past. More money spread around means more jobs, how many more and what kind depend totally on where the increased consumer spending goes. A lot of it will increase employment in China and elsewhere, something Holdren apparently isn’t aware of. But Holdren’s observations were hardly newsworthy or something everyone didn’t already know.
MY opinion is that the guest blogger is confused as to what Holdren said – he did not say that human labor can replace the physical work that energy can accomplish.

• Tom J says:

Cost effective energy conservation is already employed. Government aims at reduced energy consumption cannot, by their nature, be cost effective because, if it was, it would’ve been done in advance of regulations. For instance, in the factory of the company I worked for sodium vapor lamps were used for low energy lighting; not because they were required, but to reduce costs. A major window manufacturer recycled the sawdust through boilers to heat the plant. A major outboard motor manufacturer had an arrangement with a major brewery to supply them with used beer cans which were recycled into aluminum engine blocks. A junkyard is a recycling facility. None of these actions were imposed on these entities.
Therefore, it seems highly likely that any government scheme to reduce energy consumption will come about through non cost effective regulations or through a deliberately imposed reduction in the supply which, by the laws of the Universe itself, will drive up price. And that will not free up consumer money. Quite the opposite really.

• Sciguy54 says:

The rest of the world would be shocked to know that the average US household consumes about 11,000 KWH per year.
http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=97&t=3
If each household eliminated half of that usage at \$0.11 per KWH, then it would take the savings from 115 households to pay one \$50,000 annual salary plus 40% overhead. There are about 140 million US households so you could free up the equivalent of 1.2 million such salaries. But if you consider labor content as 25% of the goods you buy, then its only about 300,000 jobs. Except you would eliminate many jobs in the energy industry and increase the cost per KWH due to reduced productivity of the generation and distribution system. If cost per KWH doubled, as our president wished, then there would be zero dollars freed. If the cost went up 50%, then only about 150,000 jobs could be funded, less the jobs lost in the energy sector and less the increased costs reflected in all other sectors. So maybe as few as zero (or less) new jobs could be funded if costs per KWH increase by 50% and consumption was halved. And we have not discussed the cost for each household associated with halving its use of electricity.
Using less energy is a great idea, if done in a cost-effective way, but the idea that doing so will create an avalanche of productive jobs is a mirage.

• Gamecock says:

Don’t forget, the utilities will raise the rates to cover their lost revenue. You are not going to win.

• Tom J says:

Occasionally I ask someone what the state with the highest per capita energy consumption is. Nobody can answer it. It’s not an old industrial state. Nor is it Nevada with the gleaming lights of Las Vegas. The state with the highest per capita energy consumption is Alaska. Could that possibly have anything to do with the weather. The U.S. has some of the harshest weather in the world: extreme summer heat throughout much of the continent; extreme winter cold throughout about 1/3rd of it. Could that alone have something to do with the electrical consumption? Let’s cut the U.S. a little break here.

39. Scott Scarborough says:

I calculated my Horse-Power output on the back exercise machine at the Gym. It’s the one I’m best at. I can put out about 1/4 horse-power for about a minute (it would be 1/2 horse-power but half of the cycle is letting the weight back down – that doesn’t count). It takes me 10 minutes to recover from that exercise.

40. A kilowatt is a unit of power, energy expended over time, kW = 3,412 Btu/h.
A kilowatt hour is an energy unit, 3,412 Btu to be precise.
For example, 500 megawatts is a power plant’s capacity, aka horsepower. Operating that power plant at that capacity for one hour generates 500,000 kWh or 1,706 E6 Btu of energy.
Your utility bill has a demand change for capacity, \$/kW, whether you use it or not.
The utility bill has an energy charge, \$/kWh, for the energy that you actually used.
The general public & MSM don’t know the difference.

41. Taphonomic says:

John Holdren and his buddy, Paul Ehrlich, never get tired of being wrong and never get held accountable, either.

• Alan Robertson says:

Both Holdren and Ehrlich were young and stupid when they made most of their famous remarks. They are much older, now.

• Alan Robertson says:

Dang. Forgot my sarc tag.

• Taphonomic says:

In many cases, with age comes wisdom. However, they may be older but they are no less stupid.

• Alan Robertson says:

You see, Taphonomic? I didn’t really need the sarc tag, after all. You obviously got it.

42. Nothing really new here:
“On September 13, 1935 William Aberhart gave a speech to the Canadian Club in Toronto. He recounted an anecdote in which he delivered a version of the saying: 4
One of the school graduates came to me to pay his respects to the school; he told me he was in charge of helping on one of the Dominion air ports. I said to him, “I suppose you use modern machinery in your air ports?”
“No, sir.”
“Why?”
“Well,” he said, “if we used modern machinery in the establishment of air ports there would be very little need of men to help us to do it, for they would do it so rapidly and easily that there would be no need of man labour. We give them picks and shovels and put them out to do it in the old-fashioned way.”
I smiled and said to him: “It would probably be just as well to give them spoons and forks; it would take them still longer to do it.” It seemed to me so ridiculous; we let modern machinery rust at the road side or air port and make those men bend their backs in order to give them the purchasing power to buy the necessities of life, and hardly that.”
Other variants attributed to Milton Freedman.
Charles G. Battig

43. Tim says:

Holdren fits Obama’s mindset and unfortunately the mindset of way to may liberally educated.They are the ivory tower people. They live in a (model) reality, not the reality based on facts, which is why they fall for the most idiotic ideas.

44. We’re so stupid in Oz that this is policy too. “Green jobs” – already employing more in infrasound generators than mining coal. (And for 1/100 the result.)

45. Catcracking says:

It seems like the Administration is listening to Holdren and following his advice for the the plan submitted to the UN to dramatically reduce our CO2 emissions. Since an alternative fuel is not viable in the next 10 years, the backup is to dramatically change our economy.

46. AlexS says:

Wouldn’t be more simple an executive order by Obama administration stating that every one is only allowed to work with one arm instead of two?

• Alx says:

I am sure Obama would absolutely be on board claiming current models project immediate doubling of employment. He would probably leave out the part where real world results would be massive unemployment because consumers couldn’t afford the subsequent doubling of the cost of production.

47. Juan Slayton says:

rgbatduke: Yes, this (Holdren’s remarks) are the dumbest things I’ve heard from the mouth of a public official since the day the secretary of the interior said that there was no need to preserve the natural resources locked up in our national parks and forests because the Rapture was coming any day now and we would no longer need them.
You have remarkable ears, Dr. Brown, since you can hear things that were never said.
I never said it. Never believed it. Never even thought it. I know no Christian who believes or preaches such error. The Bible commands conservation — that we as Christians be careful stewards of the land and resources entrusted to us by the Creator.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/20/AR2005052001333.html

• Alx says:

Christians believe whatever they want to believe whenever they want to and so that is why there are 40,000 denominations and God the absolute eternal entity evolved over time; note the grand character arc of God from the old to the new statement. Fortunately every single denomination can be certain they have the correct belief since no evidence beyond faith is required to support said belief. Same for the Muslims, Hindus, Jews, etc.

• Mike M says:

Belief in God and religious dogma are two VERY different things but you cannot to point anything fundamentally bad about either one. (excepting one form of the latter that preaches killing non-members ).

• Juan Slayton says:

Hi Alx.
Be glad to discuss theology with you on an appropriate forum. But that’s not my purpose here, which is to point out that James Watts probably never said the things that were attributed to him. But of course people other than Christians can also believe whatever they want to…

48. Bruce Cobb says:

Put another way, let’s make those 100-pound sacks 50’s instead, since most people would struggle with lifting 100s, so 16,000 sacks = \$25 worth of labor, or \$.0015625 per sack. Let’s say someone could manage to lift one 1 meter every 10 seconds, or 360 per hour. That would mean a “wage” of about 56 cents an hour.
Whoooeee.

49. Many people fail to understand the basic benefits of capitalism and technology. The benefits come from making people’s jobs obsolete. They do not come from artificially providing employment. That is communism and it is definitely not good.
By making a job obsolete through technology, labour is freed up to go and create something new, thus adding to society’s total wealth.
The challenge comes inbetween a worker being made redundant and finding something new to do. This is where The Right get it wrong. Welfare is a reduction in pay because a machine has taken the place of a person. It is both moral and beneficial for society to compensate a person in this situation with welfare without placing any obligations on the person receiving it. Work is a privilege in a functioning capitalist society. Not a right. Not an obligation.
The replacement of machines making energy via fossil fuels with renewable ones requiring greater labour is a step backwards not forwards.

50. joelobryan says:

Holdren is an Economists nightmare. His reasoning is that of a Luddite.
There is a famou story from Milton Friedman, the champion of the anti-Keynesians.

Milton recalled traveling to an Asian country in the 1960s and visiting a worksite where a new canal was being built. He was shocked to see that, instead of modern tractors and earth movers, the workers had shovels. He asked why there were so few machines. The government bureaucrat explained: “You don’t understand. This is a jobs program.” To which Milton replied: “Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal.If it’s jobs you want, then you should give these workers spoons, not shovels.”

Every reasonably intelligent economist understands that the only way salaries increase is with productivity increases. And then the only way to increase number of jobs is to grow the economy. Growing the economy means more energy expenditure at reasonable costs.

51. Kirkc says:

Folks are forgetting the cost of food for “human power” . To extract a hard days work from a human source costs 23\$/ day to max them out. This can be replaced by 9 cents worth of electricity. humans are only 15% efficient at doing physical work and use very expensive fuel in the process.

52. TRM says:

The problem is that they redefine things in such a silly way. Costa Rica recently went 100%, 24×7 on renewable energy for 75 days straight. Thing is they count hydro (78%) as renewable. Before you say “well DUH” check out how many states don’t allow hydro to be counted as renewable.
There in lies the problem. The Agenda 21 crowd redefines and moves the goalposts every time to get their pet energy sources into the picture no matter how costly or inefficient.
If you want to see wind done right check out otherpower.com and see how folks who are off the grid do it. Not a bunch of theoretical types sitting in an ivory tower.
I love their explanation “not because we are trying to make some sort of political or environmental statement, but because these are the only options available. And we refuse to move to town”.

53. PiperPaul says:

I was wondering what 0.3 of a Mexican was.

• GregS says:

Slightly less than a third of Juan?

54. johann wundersamer says:

finally – when I read
‘Finally, less energy can
mean more employment’
the finally decision is between slavery and industrialization.
full stop. Hans

• Mike M says:

Well, up until Skynet becomes “self aware”..

55. Holdren’s comment is a variant of the “broken window” economy: repairing post-riot damage increases the GDP of the city.
Holdren’s comment also turns the African village in which women walk miles each day for firewood and water into an economic success story: full employment.
The communist in him approves of this. In Cuba, a man might have a job looking after 3 goats. He is thus fully employed, has a “respectable” job, and shares in the economic benefit of the community. All is good.

56. TheLastDemocrat says:

Efficiency leads to changes in the labor force. Lamplighters go unemployed until they transition to a new line of work. Someone somewhere is always figuring out how to make something more efficient. And so is leading to unemployment as those efficiencies are realized.
Not all workers displaced by the inexorable march of economic progress find alternate employment quickly.
Thus it is an economic reality that “the poor will always be among you.”
This is doubly true when we consider that some people simply will not sustain the proper effort required to earn money, and some will be disabled from gainful employment.
This is yet another truth from the Bible. Bible critics should account for the range of truths that become evident as we learn these lessons in different ways, such as by the advent of economic studies.

57. Gary Pearse says:

Yeah, but I guess JH is right if you replaced coal with wind, you would multiply employment by 150! Maybe we could all be employed just walking a treadmill to generate electricity for our masters.

• Mike M says:

“walking a treadmill to generate electricity” Like in hospitals to keep the lights, HVAC and elevators working in case John Holdren ever needs to visit one.

• Alx says:

Treadmills could work, exercise is good for your health as well. It’s a win-win.

58. Mike M says:

Holdren is essentially correct in the broad scope. Turn off ALL the electricity and ALL the machines currently providing consumer goods at the lowest possible price to the masses and there will indeed be more employment because we will all have start making everything by hand again. One machine producing 100 pairs of sneakers a minute will be replaced by 100 people together making 20 pairs of sneakers per hour and charging a 10X higher price for them. And then there will be horses and oxen being whipped to plow farm fields again when Holdren shuts off FF for tractors and combines which will cause starvation because yields will drop to 1/5 what they were. But then starvation will ultimately LOWER the unemployment rate and save the planet – just as Holdren says it will! Save the planet for whom exactly I haven’t figured out…

• Jim Francisco says:

My dad said that the horses ate one third of the crop they could produce. He never did have any use for horses. I don’t know how the horse feed figures in your 1/5 drop but relying on horses will result in a lot of horse dudu in the streets. Why don’t we see the horse dudu in the western movies?

• “relying on horses will result in a lot of horse dudu in the streets.”
Why would you expect there to be streets?

59. Like most of the ignorants who get themselves elevated to power, Holden is uneducated in most areas that he spouts off about. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes.

“It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.”
~ Murray N. Rothbard

• Alx says:

But wait that’s how one gets elected; have a loud and vociferous opinion on any subject while remaining in a state of ignorance.” I think that is how you are supposed to vote as well.

• In so far as broad-scope economics is, or should be, just common sense, I regard Murray N Rothbard as just plain wrong.

• Common sense is not very common in this modern era. Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in one lesson” which was written to dispel most of the common fallacies of economics went on for an entire book. Those who understand economics and the boneheaded ideas of most Americans would never question Rothbard’s quote.
Heck, there are still those who think that socialism is workable despite the evidence of the 20th century!

• Mark, I think we are agreeing from different directions!

• Mike Jonas says:

markstoval : “Common sense is not very common in this modern era.“. That’s why I’m an advocate for basic education to be four Rs not three. Reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic and Reasoning.

60. Alx says:

Let’s get rid of computers too while we are at it.
That would immediately require about 50,000 new trainers, who would train 1 million new tax specialists in how to decipher byzantine tax code and complete and file tax returns manually.
Federal government itself would need to hire about 1 billion new clerks to manage the regulations that a much smaller number now do with the help of computers.

• Well, Alx – at least that would necessitate going back to small government. Today it might just be too easy to create innumerable, and perhaps illogic, conflicting or outright stupid, laws, rules and regulations. Or rather, the temptation to do so may be too hard to overcome.

61. All one needs to do to understand Holdren is to internalize that Humans are a cancer to the Earth.

62. Mark Luhman says:

The Parity of slavery strikes again. Holdren and his Democrats buddies think they a chosen ones and the rest of us are peons, worst yet slaves. After all the Democrats have always believed they are the elite and can have the good life on the backs the peons or their slaves. They really hate anyone or anything that will change that, after all they are the chosen ones, don’t you peons know this.

63. Ivor Ward says:

If you do not employ young men of 17 to 25 you either have to fight wars or face violent revolution. unemployment and poverty create unrest. Idle hands…and all that.
Your best hope would be to develop A.I. as a weapon to kill them or take the Soylent Green route. Fun times.

• “you either have to fight wars or face violent revolution.”
Well, at least that is likely to happen when you (sooner or later have to) cut off welfare.

• It’s easy to take care of young men. China will have to use the traditional method when that restless and unhappy group realizes there are not nearly enough marriage-age women for them.

64. Makes perfect sense. Do you have any idea how many employees it takes to pull a plow?

65. logos_wrench says:

The stupidity of this administration is confirmed daily.

66. Steve Oregon says:

John Holdren and friends wish they had more power over people and their lives in order to impose more of what they declare is for their own good.

67. Trygve Eklund says:

Just re-read Henry Hazlitt “Economics in one lesson”. You can create jobs by replacing machines with manual labor – i.g. by pulling freight trains by manpower.

68. Kon Dealer says:

“Employment”- along the lines of that in North Korea. Holdren is a dangerous idiot.

69. Onyabike says:

Yup, shoes will definitely be a limiting factor in treadmill energy production. The rest, not so much….
[Note: ‘shoes’ s/b ‘shine’. Typo fixed at request of commenter. ~mod.]

70. Holdren is a dangerous ideologue.
The fundamental exchange mechanism of civilization is barter, aka, trade of goods and/or services. Money is a human invention that makes barter or trade more convenient.
Society consists of parasites and hosts. The hosts engage in barter facilitated by fiat money. The parasites extract from the economy, consuming part of that which the hosts produce.
Natural economics (independent of the convenience of fiat money) mandates that the only increase in prosperity for a society results from increase in productivity. Readily available energy tremendously increases productivity. Cost of a product or service includes the cost of energy. The earth does not charge.

71. Gunga Din says:

Make reducing cheap energy sound desirable.
Make reducing the number of those consuming energy sound desirable.
Hide from their minions the fact that the adverse consequences includes them and their children.
OH! What a web they weave!

72. MikeH says:

Here is John Holdren, and others, on their view of energy and the public:
“Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.” —Dr. Paul Ehrlich, Anne Ehrlich, and Dr. John Holdren, Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment, 1970, p. 323
So the American public are idiotic children (he’s obviously a parent), and we’re going to kill people if we have cheap, abundant energy. I believe studies have proven that societies advance and life expediencies increase with easy access to abundant energy.
When someone is in an active conversation, they may state something in a way that could be misinterpreted, or they just didn’t say it in they way they meant. BUT, when you actually write a book, what you put in it, you have time to develop your thoughts and refine your message, what you truly think of the subject. This man is dangerous, he’ll say whatever needs to said at the time, to get his objective. This man is no friend to free people.

73. rogercaiazza says:

Here is a mystery.
“To evaluate the above quote, consider the difference in productivity between the solar and coal power production industries. Both industries support about 174,000 jobs in the U.S. while coal provides about 150 times more power at this time (about 0.25% to about 39%). Hardly a winning substitution.”
According to the solar foundation (http://www.seia.org/research-resources/solar-industry-data) “there are now nearly 174,000 solar workers in the US”
How can the number of jobs be the same between 1975 and today unless Holdren was referring to something other than direct employment.

74. Leo Smith says:

any fool can create a job.
It takes a lot more to create wealth…

75. Pamela Gray says:

Here’s an experiment. Remove all women from political office and gather them together along with all the wives of male office holders, turn off their electricity in exchange for wood and plumbing in exchange for a bucket at home (don’t bother installing solar or wind cuz ain’t enough horsepower), take their cars away, remove most of the niceties of kitchens, bathrooms, and closets, plow up the manicured lawn and plant veggies, then give them an apron, and make them work every day before the sun comes up till after the chillin are put to bed and the candles burn too low to continue to work.
In one year’s time, we will rid ourselves of this idiocy in Washington and in every state capital.

76. Mike Maguire says:

C’mon now. He said this 4 decades ago. Let’s give the guy a break and judge him more on what he has stated recently………as in just over a year ago, when extreme cold hit the Midwest and Eastern US and this was added to the growing list of things caused by global warming.
Seriously, his position is that greenhouse gas warming will increase extreme cold like the US has been seeing recently. This is not a misrepresentation of his view or attempt to mislead. He even created a special educational video straight from the White House that stated:
“A growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues,” Holdren asserts. Watch it:
http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/01/john-holdren-video-polar-vortex
The most incredible thing is that his video, a blatant damage control attempt to spin a speculative story to explain the embarrassing lack of warming from global warming was applauded by the brain washed faction of recipients of the propaganda. They got the hoped for science authority to reassure them that the contradicting reality that they seemed to be experiencing(cold and snow) did not really mean what they feared the most…………………that the dangerous global warming/climate change ideological agenda was not rooted in authenticity.
Cognitive bias, when powerful enough will cause you to believe anything that lines up with your belief system or religion.
Over the past 10 years, I have not found a better example of this than the John Holdren “global warming will cause increasing frequency of extreme cold” video.

77. No, Ron. Read what was written, instead of jumjping to conclusions. A “screw loose” was only one of several possibilities. The least problematic one, in fact.

78. MarkW says:

This is the same kind of thinking that declares that if we get rid of power equipment and make people build houses with just power tools we can make employment sky rocket.
And from just that standpoint, they would probably be right. But the problem is that each of those workers would be dirt poor, because their productivity would have been reduced to nearly nothing.
It is productivity that allows us to be wealthy, not lots of available work.

79. John Robertson says:

The root premise here is totally flawed – the original article (1975!) states a 150 times increase, when in fact it is 15,500 percent difference in energy output. A hundred fold error in very basic high school math where you compare the results of two numbers.
With that basic an error how could one consider anything else the author states as valid?
Is Mr. Holdren still adhering to that nonsense? I don’t follow US politics enough to know…(I’m in Canada, and we have our own problems).

80. The Reply system is currently broken ???

81. Mike from the Carson Valley on the cold side of the Sierra says:

“I can’t think of any other possibilities…” Sounds much like the CO2 supposition.

82. simple-touriste says:

Don’t read the “out of context” quote, people, read the whole thing. I think it’s worse.
A very confusing article with several vaguely related ideas brought together:
– rapid energy growth (how much is too much?)
– buying the metaphoric “hole in the ground” at a high price (hello Uramin!)
– pressure on natural environment (like burning wood?)
– health effects of energy use (like burning wood?)
I think it’s obvious that desperate people can do desperate things, and desperate search for energy is not a good thing. When people destroy the natural environment in search of energy, that isn’t good.
Of course the answer to that is not reduced energy use, but enough reliable energy production to satisfy people’s needs.
The environmental impact of energy use depends on types of energy uses and energy sources, not just total number of barrels of oil or kWh of electricity. You can use more energy but less polluting energy.
I think all the science advisor was trying to say:
1) Energy use doesn’t bring happiness. Increase of energy use shouldn’t be the goal of human life.
2) Energy efficiency doesn’t bring unhappiness. Optimisation of energy use shouldn’t be avoided(*).

(*) It remains to seen how many people in the US are actively avoiding energy efficiency.
And he could have just said that. Of course such obvious statements would have left the audience unmoved.
I would like to add:
3) American-style overcool buildings in makes people sick. And the overcool trend is spreading in France too, and I hate that!
Also, Holdren compares the US with European countries, including Switzerland. Switzerland is a small country with very high salaries (compared to many countries in Europe) and a very specialised high-end industry and also financial services. (Banking is just a part of what makes Switzerland a rich country, but it’s still a significant part.)
I don’t think a very large country could get nearly as economically specialised as Switzerland.

83. LarryFine says:

These people are obsessed with controlling everyone else, and they imagine that they know how.
Of course, real life is full of unintended consequences and strewn with victims of their failed schemes.
I’ve witnessed third world bureaucratic industries first hand, and it ain’t pretty. For example, if you want a schedules for the trains or buses in a city, you won’t find them at bus or train stations. No. You’re forced to travel across town to a different government building, where you’re told to take a seat and wait your turn, while one worker out of half a dozen idle workers helps one customer read the schedule pamphlets that can only be obtained here.
But at least they employ many more people than a free market approach would have.

84. The scary thing is that this man is an advisor to anyone about anything.

I think Holdren really meant: “Finally, less energy can mean more manual labor.”

[excerpt]
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
“The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
– H.L. Mencken

87. johann wundersamer says:

Maybe Schwarzenegger was right. In california.
Conan, the barbarian.
‘do not muzzle the ox while it is treading.’
and right also for his ancestory in Steiermark.
Times, they ar’a changing. Oxens and barbarians are of diminuishing quantity in Styria.
Times, they ar’a changing. Hans

• johann wundersamer says:

happy easter 2015.
Hans.

88. David Cage says:

I did a similar exercise and worked out that if every penny spent on renewable energy had been spent on energy efficiency it would have actually saved money over generating more energy. One simple one was miniature heat pumps that used triple glazed windows with the heat cooling the outer panes and warming the inner ones. For some reason the subjective improvement was far greater than the degrees warmth would have suggested/

A few observations (we formally published most of these conclusions in 2002 – we’ve known this for a long time):
1. CO2 is the basis for all carbon-based life on Earth – and Earth’s atmosphere and oceans are clearly CO2-deficient.
2. Based on the evidence, Earth’s climate is insensitive to increased atmospheric CO2 – there is no global warming crisis.
3. Recent global warming was natural and ~cyclical – the next phase following the ~20 year pause will be global cooling, starting by about 2020 or sooner.
3. Temperature, among other factors, drives atmospheric CO2 much more than CO2 drives temperature. The rate of change dCO2/dt varies ~contemporaneously with temperature and atmospheric CO2 LAGS temperature at all measured time scales (published in 2008).
4. Cheap, abundant, reliable energy is the lifeblood of modern society.
5. Green energy schemes (scams) are responsible for driving up energy costs and increasing winter mortality rates.
I suggest that most of the above statements are true, to a high degree of confidence.
All of the above statements are blasphemy to warmist fanatics.
It is truly remarkable how the warmists could get it so wrong.
Regards, Allan
(Petroleum Engineer / Earth Scientist)
______________________________________________
Hypothesis:
1. The next act of this farce will be characterized by global cooling starting by about 2020 or sooner, cooling that may be mild or severe. Global cooling will demonstrate that climate sensitivity to increasing atmospheric CO2 is so small as to be insignificant. The scientific credibility of the warmist gang will be shattered and some may face lawsuits and/or go to jail.
2. The scientific community will gradually accept the fact that CO2 lags temperature at all measured time scales, and that temperature (among other factors) drives atmospheric CO2 much more than CO2 drives temperature.
3. The foolish green energy schemes to “stop global warming” will be shelved and dismantled, but not before they contribute to a significant increase in Excess Winter Mortality, especially in Europe and to a lesser extent in North America, where energy costs are much lower (thanks to shale fracking).
4. The warmist thugs will still be bleating about a warmer world, wilder weather, etc., all caused by the sins of mankind, but nobody will listen.
Regards to all, Allan

90. Dave says:

Famed economist Milton Freeman visited India and saw men with shovels digging a ditch near a railroad. He commented the job would be faster and cheaper if they used a back hoe. His host told Freeman that this was a jobs program. To which Freeman replied, if it’s a jobs program you could employ many more if the men used spoons.
This is the mentality behind Holdren’s green jobs comment.

Global warming alarmism has never been about the science. Science has been corrupted to fit a political agenda.
The following treatise explains the rationale supporting global warming alarmism – and it’s not about the environment either.
TODAY is the 24th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Wall was opened on November 9, 1989.
Five months earlier, in July 1989 I had travelled through the Wall via Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin
I was with colleagues on a business trip. It was not a fun trip , but it was highly educational. East Berlin and East Germany were everything Ronald Reagan said they were – repressive, backward, and evil – families were spying on each other and ratting to the Stasi, the dreaded East German Secret Police. We left a day earlier than planned – none of us could stand the place any longer.
The reason I raise this point is that Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, made particular mention of the fall of the Berlin Wall in this essay written in 1994 – see paragraph 2 below.
Keep in mind that I am not saying this, rather I am quoting Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace – but I tend to accept his analysis.
For more evidence, read http://www.green-agenda.com/
Regards, Allan
http://www.ecosense.me/index.php/key-environmental-issues/10-key-environmental-issues/208-key-environmental-issues-4
[excerpt]
The Rise of Eco-Extremism
Two profound events triggered the split between those advocating a pragmatic or “liberal” approach to ecology and the new “zero-tolerance” attitude of the extremists. The first event, mentioned previously, was the widespread adoption of the environmental agenda by the mainstream of business and government. This left environmentalists with the choice of either being drawn into collaboration with their former “enemies” or of taking ever more extreme positions. Many environmentalists chose the latter route. They rejected the concept of “sustainable development” and took a strong “anti-development” stance.
Surprisingly enough the second event that caused the environmental movement to veer to the left was the fall of the Berlin Wall. Suddenly the international peace movement had a lot less to do. Pro-Soviet groups in the West were discredited. Many of their members moved into the environmental movement bringing with them their eco-Marxism and pro-Sandinista sentiments.
These factors have contributed to a new variant of the environmental movement that is so extreme that many people, including myself, believe its agenda is a greater threat to the global environment than that posed by mainstream society. Some of the features of eco-extremism are:
• It is anti-human. The human species is characterized as a “cancer” on the face of the earth.
The extremists perpetuate the belief that all human activity is negative whereas the rest of nature is good. This results in alienation from nature and subverts the most important lesson of ecology; that we are all part of nature and interdependent with it. This aspect of environmental extremism leads to disdain and disrespect for fellow humans and the belief that it would be “good” if a disease such as AIDS were to wipe out most of the population.
• It is anti-technology and anti-science. Eco-extremists dream of returning to some kind of technologically primitive society. Horse-logging is the only kind of forestry they can fully support. All large machines are seen as inherently destructive and “unnatural’. The Sierra Club’s recent book, “Clearcut: the Tragedy of Industrial Forestry”, is an excellent example of this perspective. “Western industrial society” is rejected in its entirety as is nearly every known forestry system including shelterwood, seed tree and small group selection. The word “Nature” is capitalized every time it is used and we are encouraged to “find our place” in the world through “shamanic journeying” and “swaying with the trees”. Science is invoked only as a means of justifying the adoption of beliefs that have no basis in science to begin with.
• It is anti-organization. Environmental extremists tend to expect the whole world to adopt anarchism as the model for individual behavior. This is expressed in their dislike of national governments, multinational corporations, and large institutions of all kinds. It would seem that this critique applies to all organizations except the environmental movement itself. Corporations are criticized for taking profits made in one country and investing them in other countries, this being proof that they have no “allegiance” to local communities. Where is the international environmental movements allegiance to local communities? How much of the money raised in the name of aboriginal peoples has been distributed to them? How much is dedicated to helping loggers thrown out of work by environmental campaigns? How much to research silvicultural systems that are environmentally and economically superior?
• It is anti-trade. Eco-extremists are not only opposed to “free trade” but to international trade in general. This is based on the belief that each “bioregion” should be self-sufficient in all its material needs. If it’s too cold to grow bananas – – too bad. Certainly anyone who studies ecology comes to realize the importance of natural geographic units such as watersheds, islands, and estuaries. As foolish as it is to ignore ecosystems it is absurd to put fences around them as if they were independent of their neighbours. In its extreme version, bioregionalism is just another form of ultra-nationalism and gives rise to the same excesses of intolerance and xenophobia.
• It is anti-free enterprise. Despite the fact that communism and state socialism has failed, eco-extremists are basically anti-business. They dislike “competition” and are definitely opposed to profits. Anyone engaging in private business, particularly if they are successful, is characterized as greedy and lacking in morality. The extremists do not seem to find it necessary to put forward an alternative system of organization that would prove efficient at meeting the material needs of society. They are content to set themselves up as the critics of international free enterprise while offering nothing but idealistic platitudes in its place.
• It is anti-democratic. This is perhaps the most dangerous aspect of radical environmentalism. The very foundation of our society, liberal representative democracy, is rejected as being too “human-centered”. In the name of “speaking for the trees and other species” we are faced with a movement that would usher in an era of eco-fascism. The “planetary police” would “answer to no one but Mother Earth herself”.
• It is basically anti-civilization. In its essence, eco-extremism rejects virtually everything about modern life. We are told that nothing short of returning to primitive tribal society can save the earth from ecological collapse. No more cities, no more airplanes, no more polyester suits. It is a naive vision of a return to the Garden of Eden.
**************

91. mikewaite says:

Don’t the Amish or Pennsylvania Dutch live the life style , without modern power sources , that Holdren is proposing?
I suppose, by definition, no one from that community is represented on this blog to tell us how feasible it would be for the whole of rural North America, but presumably there are academic studies of the economics and social well being of such communities?

• Gary Pearse says:

You don’t need Amish to tell you how feasible. When I was a kid, I went with a friend’s family to visit one of his uncles on a farm near Moosomin, Saskatchewan. We ate dinner by coal oil lamps and took a lamp each to our bedrooms. It was fun as a kid but it was an obvious burden to a fellow making his living on a prairie farm. My father’s family grew up in a prairie sod house near Neepawa, Manitoba – homestead land free from the government in the 1880s. They had American neighbors who had gone to Texas for the last of the give-away land there but were a few days too late. A Canadian government official had a set up down there in Texas at the time to attract homesteaders to the Canadian plains and a fair number took the offer. The first winter was enough for some and with time, farms ended up paying a decent income. The first thing they did when they could was build a big house and heat with coal and latched onto electricity when the lines came through.

92. Carbonicus says:

We could widen/deepen the Panama Canal with tens of thousands more workers with spoons if counting numbers of workers is the objective.
John Holdren is to science what Stephen Hawking is to Olympic sprinting.

93. Robert of Ottawa says:

Replace all tractors with peasants. Voila – full employment.
Replace all Mercedes at climate conferences with Sedan chairs and voila – full employment.

94. Mervyn says:

John Holdren … White House Science Advisor. It explains everything about Obama’s stance on catastrophic man-made global warming which is not actually happening. It’s a recipe for very bad policymaking!

95. Peter Haug says:

I find it interesting that you cherry-picked a quotation out of context from a New York Times Op-ed piece 40 years ago, the year after OPEC turned off the spigot in a world far different from the one we live in now.

• simple-touriste says:

Hug?
Care to explain how the article is anything but dumb?
Please explain how the historical context makes any difference.

96. indefatigablefrog says:

The coal industry could be regulated to increase labour intensity and employment.
We should regulate that coal can be extracted and transported using no tool bigger than a spoon.
Obviously the entire enterprise will then need to be supported via public subsidies.
When we are done, the economics of the coal industry would look quite similar to those of off-shore wind.
5x the retail price and 10x the jobs, per unit of energy delivered.
Hurrah…Medieval warming, plus Medieval technology.
And then all we need, is to start burning deniers, for crimes against the great truth.

97. Tom Scott says:

I would like to thank Anthony for publishing my work here on WUWT, and would like to thank readers for their comments which were almost all positive, and universally helpful. Based on the feedback and a re-read, I do have some updates.
First, the quote from John Holdren should have only included one paragraph. The following paragraph on proportional productivity is mine and should have been outside the quotation box. The jobs estimates are for 2014.
Secondly, there is the estimate for the work done, the 8000 – 100 pound sacks. This should have reflected a reduction of 25% to 6000 sacks. But wait, its even worse than you thought, for this quantity of work is only equivalent to one KWH! So the value of lifting that much material is only about 11-15 cents in the US. To earn a median household wage, one would need to do 300+ times this amount of work each hour. Impossible. By several orders of magnitude.
Of course, all human endeavor cannot be valued by tonnage. But the ability to handle huge jobs with the twist of a knob frees us to pursue activities which require heart and intellect instead of brawn.