The Value of Petroleum Fuels

Guest essay by Andy May

It is difficult to compare 1840 to 2015, so much of what we have today didn’t exist then.  But, they had to move people and goods from place to place as we do now.  They had farms then as we do now. They used wagons pulled by horses, mules or oxen.  We use cars and airplanes. They used muscle power to farm, we use tractors, combines, grain carts, and trucks powered by petroleum fuels. In 1840 crude oil and natural gas production and use were rare. Coal was used in manufacturing, but steam engines were still in their infancy. So the world in 1840 was fossil fuel free for the most part. Biofuels, that is burning wood and dung, were common. Windmills would not appear until 1854. Hydropower was not in common use until after 1849. Solar power had not been invented yet.

The cost of gasoline can be seen on the sign at any gas station, but what is its value?  Using gasoline or diesel saves us time and manual labor. It also saves air, water and waste pollution. Let us not forget that the automobile was lauded as a great environmental improvement after the “Great Horse Manure Crisis” of 1894. Nothing like having horse manure up to your knees to help you appreciate gasoline!

How much manual labor is replaced when we use gasoline? In other words what is the value of gasoline? In large part our standard of living is determined by the difference between what we pay for petroleum fuels and coal and their value in time and labor. I’ll try and compute that value by comparing a 1,812 mile trip, along the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City in 1840 with a trip today. I’ll also compute the value of diesel by comparing a 10 acre grain harvest in 1840 to a harvest today.

In 1840 to make the 1,812 mile trip, most people used Prairie Schooner wagons pulled by six oxen.  Oxen were cheaper than horses or mules and could survive on lower quality grass.  The total cost of an equipped Prairie Schooner with Oxen was around $1,000 in 1840 money, the equivalent of $23,373 today.  The normal time to make the trip was 4.5 months or 137 days.  Fuel for the Oxen was free.

Today we have two choices for the trip.  We could drive a car for $1,052 using the IRS business car reimbursement of $0.575 or fly a family of four for $1016.  The driving time would be two days.  Fuel would be about 72 gallons at $144.  Using these figures and considering the 135 extra days in 1840 at today’s minimum wage of $7.25, the value of the gasoline is $411 per gallon for the driving case. A family of four flying in a Boeing 757 will use 92 gallons of jet fuel according to wikipedia, so the value per gallon of the jet fuel is $329. But, the trip is much quicker and easier than driving.


Figure 1: The trip today


Figure 2: The trip in 1840

But, traveling isn’t the only thing that has improved since 1840 due to the invention of gasoline and the internal combustion engine.  Farming is much more efficient.  In 1840 nearly everyone was employed in the agricultural industry or supported it in some fashion.  Now only a small portion of our population is engaged in farming.  According to the USDA farm workers are only 1% of US workers.

In order to harvest 10 acres of grain in 1840, it took 130 men working all day.  The average wage in 2015 for farm workers in the US is $12.27, this is a total cost of $12,761 in 2015 dollars to harvest 10 acres in one day.  In 2015 40 skilled farm workers can harvest 450 acres in one day.  Farms are larger today and much more efficient, so we need to scale down to 10 acres to do a valid comparison. On a large modern farm, the cost of the men required, a combine, grain cart and truck to harvest 10 acres sums to $540. The total diesel and lubricant required comes to 24 gallons. This results in a value of $509 per gallon of diesel. So, generally we are paying about $2 per gallon for fuels that are worth over 100 times that, a pretty good deal. The details of the calculations described in this post can be found, along with more references, here.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
December 26, 2015 2:29 pm

Plus, you probably won’t die from dysentery!

Reply to  cirby
December 27, 2015 3:11 am

I c wut u did thar!

December 26, 2015 2:30 pm

This is such a profound analysis; I wish everybody would read it, particularly those who denigrate fossil fuels and dismiss them as “yesterday’s” energy source. I always marvel at the amount of energy “compressed” into a gallon of innocent-looking liquid that can propel a 1.5 ton vehicle 35 miles (and that’s without capturing 50% of the energy that’s lost through the radiator)!
I was born in 1933, so I can look back at my early childhood and remember that most families did NOT have an automobile. You walked, cycled or rode the tram whenever you had to move from A to B. Heating and cooking was generally done using a wood or coal fired stove. No automatic temperature control in those days, and certainly no air conditioning.
I think those who are 55 years old or younger (and that will include most climate scientists) don’t have a clue about how lucky we really are to be blessed with cheap, abundant energy in the form of fossil fuels.
Ironically, our biggest problem is that we exercise too little and we eat too much. What era in mankind’s past ever had to face that problem?

Reply to  Trebla
December 26, 2015 4:37 pm

Actually, Otto cycle ICEs are about 25-6 percent efficent unless using Atkinson cycle gasoline. Drive train efficiency is about 12-15% due to rolling friction and braking losses. So it is more like 75% lost through exhaust plus radiator (mostly exhaust, which is why external combustion Stirling engines do not scale).
Hybrids can use Atkinson cycle ICEs because their 15% power loss to gain energy efficiency is made up through battery electric power boost. Plus, most braking losses can be recaptured by the electric machine and put back into the battery for an additional 7% improvement. Toyota Priusis exhibit A.
Plus, turbocharging can extract some of any ICE cycle’s ‘lost’ exhaust heat energy and ‘recycle’ it for better net fuel efficiency in either ICE type. Ford ‘Ecoboost’ engines are exhibit A nowadays. Then there are DCT ‘automatic’ transmissions ( really computer controlled dual shaft clutched manuals with all odd gears on one shaft and all even gears on the other, hence dual clutched transmissions), which in both cars picks up another 6 % by eliminating hydrolic coupling drag. Plus enabling engine off at stop with ‘automatic’ transmissions that depending on city driving picks up yet another 5-6% fuel economy. The engineering devil is always in the details. I am a big fan of sophisticated hydrid cars with their fuel savings. Ours is ‘Kermy’, a reference to our 2007 Ford hybrid Escape’s advertising. A small AWD SUV with 32 city, 28 highway, still going strong.

Reply to  ristvan
December 26, 2015 5:51 pm

Your Kermy gets better mileage in the city than on the open highway?

Reply to  ristvan
December 26, 2015 8:15 pm

That’s pretty bad highway mileage. I would expect 35 to 40 MPG on the highway. I always got that in my mid-sized cars. Although I will concede that I always drive a manual (stick shift in US parlance) – only amateurs drive autos.

Reply to  ristvan
December 26, 2015 9:36 pm

Big difference between mid-sized car and small SUV.
If our government were competent, they’d be subsidizing a larger hybrid consumer fleet instead of windmills and ethanol.
I’d love to get my hands on something like a Volvo V60 diesel PHEV one of these days. More torque than a 6.2 F-250 at 50+ MPG.

Brian H
Reply to  ristvan
December 26, 2015 11:49 pm

What’s a hydrid?

Reply to  ristvan
December 27, 2015 3:45 am

++excellent! The last time I flew, according to my slide rule (which need not be switched off in flight) I calculated that it would have required 70,000 horses or 350,000 galley slaves at max exertion to get my fully loaded Airbus in the air. Needless to say this made the Sardine section in which I was packed seem a lot less crowded. Not only did John D. Rockefeller’s original product, get us airborne but it saved the Whales! Within a decade of its introduction as a superior lamp oil under the brand Standard Oil, the Whaling Industry in Nantucket and Sag Harbour collapsed as kerosene replaced Whale oil in the Nation’s lamps.

Keith Willshaw
Reply to  ristvan
December 27, 2015 3:37 pm

The Prius is not particularly efficient in Highway use. Modern turbocharged diesels do rather better. Similarly the 1.6 litre diesel engine fitted to my Ford BMax actually gives better mpg than the eco boost petrol version. I test drove the 1.0 litre ecoboost engine version and the vibrations through the pedals were really rather unpleasant.
1.0 litre ecoboost engine Claimed mpg – 57,7 achieved mpg by real users 40.6
1.6 TDCi Claimed mpg 70.6 mpg – achieved mpg 54.8 mpg
40.6 mpg for a small petrol engine car really is not terribly impressive. The vehicle the BMax replaced was the Ford Fusion which achieved 40.2 mpg with its conventional 1.4 litre 4 cylinder engine. The new ecoboost engines are very small for the power achieved especially if tuned for performance but in service aren’t much better. They seem to have been tuned to offer best economy in the standard EU test regime rather than real driving. The difference between real owner reported economy and that claimed has become very large.
2008 1.4 litre Ford Fiesta Claimed 48.7–49.5 mpg achieved 41.3 mpg
2013 1.0 ecoboost Ford Fiesta Claimed 65.7 mpg achieved 45.4 mpg
As for the DCT auto boxes they have a rather poor reputation for reliability and are VERY expensive to fix. A new clutch assembly is extremely expensive and is often not covered by the manufacturers extended warranty on the grounds that they are wearable parts, They are also around 15% less efficient than a standard manual shift.
1.0 litre ecoboost engine Claimed mpg – 57,7 achieved mpg by real users 40.6
1.6 TDCi Claimed mpg – 70.6 mpg , achieved mpg 54.8 mpg
The performance difference between the petrol and diesel versions is minimal (the petrol enine is 1 mph faster and 0-60 is achieved 0.7 seconds quicker)

Reply to  Trebla
December 27, 2015 6:11 am

The post here is limited to the United States. Where fossil fuels are having there biggest benefit for the money spent is among the world’s poorest. Indoor air pollution caused by dung or charcoal fires is second only to contaminated drinking water as an environmental health hazard. Simply cooking and heating with kerosene in these primitive circumstances saves countless lives, and it consumes in ratio to the total, a trivial amount of oil.

December 26, 2015 2:32 pm

‘In 1840 to make the 1,812 mile trip, most people used Prairie Schooner wagons pulled by six oxen.’
A common misconception. The prairie schooner was for cargo. People walked.

Reply to  Gamecock
December 26, 2015 3:02 pm

Very true, there was no suspension. Much more comfortable to walk the entire 1,812 miles.

Reply to  Andy May
December 26, 2015 3:16 pm

In that case, an additional 180,000 food calories per person was also required to make the trip.

Reply to  Andy May
December 26, 2015 9:49 pm

So a family of four would need at about two buffalo worth of calories just to walk.

Reply to  Andy May
December 27, 2015 7:34 pm

Now that was a tough breed, to make that trek.

December 26, 2015 3:11 pm

Reblogged this on Sierra Foothill Commentary and commented:
Another insightful analysis by Andy May. Useful information for discussions with the innumerate lefties in your life, who do not understand energy math nor attempt to try. This may help get the point across.

Reply to  Russ Steele
December 29, 2015 7:56 am

re: lefties.
I think it’s best to call them leftists. I’ve been a leftie (left hander) all my life and I assure you that I understand energy math quite well.

Reply to  daved46
December 29, 2015 9:42 am

Good point David. I will try to remember the difference.

December 26, 2015 3:11 pm

The CO2 crisis is just a load of Horse Manure!
And Todays CO2 Alarmists are New-Age Crystal Power versions of yesterdays Luddites.
Ha ha

James Francisco
December 26, 2015 3:15 pm

My father was born in 1925. He was a farmer until he was 17 and joined the Marine Corps. He used only horses. He said that it took about 1/3 of the crops they produced to feed those horses all year long. Does anyone who wants us all to go back to the good old days think that we could afford to loose 1/3 of our food production to the horses?

Reply to  James Francisco
December 26, 2015 3:50 pm

The Lenin Stalin who-dun it Capitalizm

James the Elder
Reply to  James Francisco
December 26, 2015 6:09 pm

Today it is called ethanol.

Reply to  James Francisco
December 27, 2015 10:27 am

Scott’s failure at the south pole was in large part due to the energy required to haul hay for the horses.

Reply to  ferdberple
December 27, 2015 10:32 am

Amundsen in contrast used docs which became the fuel for the men and remaining dogs.

Climate Heretic
Reply to  ferdberple
December 28, 2015 11:30 am

‘used docs’, I’m impressed beyond belief. Microsoft’s product being used for fuel, for the remaining men and dogs. Impressive.
Climate Heretic

Reply to  ferdberple
December 28, 2015 11:51 am

Doctor Lundsen, please report to the cook for physical evaluation and future assignment to either the mess tent or dog pen.

December 26, 2015 3:16 pm

Traveling by air will minimize the risk of dysentery but obesity is a problem. Let us look at and analyze the climate change debate from the perspective of human nature especially Schopenhauer’s philosophy. The evil of fossil fuel is preached and promoted by men and women who are the most dependent on it. Fossil fuel is never an evil to those who are entirely dependent on renewable energy such cow dung, firewood — the societies of the noble savages or the backward societies depending on one’s perspective. On the other hand, those who are now entirely dependent on renewable energy aspire for a life style dependent on fossil fuel such as coal and oil. When the developed countries promotes renewable energy and decarbonization in the UNFCCC COPs, the demand for funding from developing countries could be translated ” give us the funds so we will have the lifestyle dependent on fossil fuel like what you have now, then we will be dissatisfied with fossil fuel and join in your decarbonization initiative”.

Mike the Morlock
December 26, 2015 3:20 pm
December 26, 2015 3:28 pm

Another very simple way to look at it:
A fit person can do about 1kwh of work per day. A horse can do about 5-7 kWh of work per day. These are based on simple energy conversion. Therefore, we can buy a person day of labor today for less than 20 cents and a horse day of labor for about 1 dollar. The use of fossil and nuclear energy is an incredible bargain by any reasonable metric.
And electricity has much more utility. No amount of unconverted human labor can keep milk cold.

Reply to  dougbadgero
December 26, 2015 8:51 pm

Doug, for my sins I made a similar point in a comment in the Guardian’s environmental pages a few months ago. I claimed that I had gone off grid and was using a 1kW human powered generator for my electricity needs. I was employing four professional cyclist to power a dynamo (It has been reported that Bradley Wiggins in a hill climb can work at a rate of 500W for 30 minutes, so for my calculations I halved that rate). I said that I was paying them at the generous domestic feed-in tariff rate, ten times the wholesale rate of electricity, so they would each earn about 15 cents an hour, only ‘slightly’ less than the UK’s minimum wage of $10 an hour. I ended my comment saying that through my generous actions I had been able to put my pit-ponies out to pasture, free my slaves and let my kids go to school.
In general the Guardian readership don’t realise that my fantasy is no less fantastic than their preferred ‘green solutions’ to electricity production.

Joe Zeise
Reply to  dougbadgero
December 27, 2015 8:03 am

doug… One could keep milk cold by cutting blocks of ice in the winter and storing them in a cold storage facility packed in straw. The ice man could deliver a block of ice for your ICE BOX in the summer to help chill your milk. Remember those days?

Reply to  dougbadgero
December 27, 2015 9:18 am

You store dairy by converting it into cheese.

David Chappell
Reply to  AndyJ
December 28, 2015 6:26 am

It makes the morning coffee taste rather odd though.

December 26, 2015 3:36 pm

yes but, if you have a field 450 acres of maize that doesn’t leave much room for anything else like the little green frogs like to live in the grass or the skylarks like to nest there in the field.

Reply to  zemlik
December 26, 2015 3:56 pm

I have a well-kept garden with an artificial pond stocked with salamander larvae and pollywogs which hatch to serve as my little insecticide workers. — and birds? I can do without them because they constantly beat me to harvesting the food.

Gunga Din
Reply to  noaaprogrammer
December 26, 2015 4:12 pm

Maybe just put a few pictures of her to act as scarecrow? (“She” has lots of practice at scaring.)–vVUZaBgGYPW7qFy4Gp3n7K3T0&height=261

Reply to  noaaprogrammer
December 26, 2015 4:13 pm

I do hate herons myself.

Reply to  zemlik
December 26, 2015 4:46 pm

You’ve not spent much time in a cornfield. My retriever finds an inexhaustible supply of critters to track and chase.

The Original Mike M
December 26, 2015 3:41 pm

Another regularly overlooked benefit of using fossil fuel is that it eliminates the very impetus for slavery, of both people and animals.
As for the animals, these so called spoiled rotten “green” people trying to eliminate fossil fuel use have no idea of how badly they were treated only a little over 100 years ago before we had fuel powered trucks from refined crude oil and refrigeration from coal generated electricity.
Horses had to haul ice into the cities to keep the everyone’s food from spoiling. The hotter it was in the summer – the more ice they had to haul. Horses died on the street doing that but the drivers couldn’t stop to arrange to have the carcasses removed, no, the ice was melting and had to be delivered first so the dead horse would have to wait for the drivers to come back and retrieve them later – if they had any energy left themselves. Don’t forget that they had to tote the ice up many flights of steps because, not only was there no refrigeration – there were no elevators either. On top of that it was even hotter inside the building in the afternoon.
A dead horses left in the middle of a stinking city street on a hot summer day was common occurrence back then. Is THAT what these greenies want us to return to?
Their ignorance is simply astounding.

Reply to  The Original Mike M
December 26, 2015 6:23 pm

Their brains are so washed they have none left.

Reply to  The Original Mike M
December 26, 2015 8:18 pm

Spoiled green. I like that.

Reply to  The Original Mike M
December 27, 2015 9:21 am

They expect a world full of bicycles and electric cars powered by windmills and solar panels. When you point out the industrial problems with that, they always scream about how some new technology is just waiting to solve it all.
The eternal optimist doesn’t adapt well to realities.

Reply to  AndyJ
December 27, 2015 7:57 pm

“The eternal optimist doesn’t adapt well to realities.”
“A pessimist is a person who has lived with an optimist.”

December 26, 2015 3:50 pm

you are saying something like the burning of fossil fuels is a good thing because it makes it possible for there to be more people ?

Reply to  zemlik
December 26, 2015 5:38 pm

Advanced, energy rich countries tend to have much lower birthrates.
In fact, several have a potential problem with ageing populations and not enough children being born.

Reply to  Felflames
December 26, 2015 6:16 pm

the inexorable rise in human population is what is fucking up the planet pal, to pretend otherwise is just daft.

Reply to  Felflames
December 26, 2015 7:19 pm

Zemlik, you should get counselling … seems like ignorant people of your ilk are the problem.

Reply to  Felflames
December 26, 2015 7:38 pm

Oh please, now it’s my fault ?

Reply to  Felflames
December 26, 2015 7:51 pm

Did you ever have an original idea in your entire life ? because I have one every hour on average.
do you think things just magically happen so that people can have more babies ?
That the whole point of existence is that there should be more little human brains ?

Reply to  zemlik
December 28, 2015 8:22 pm

zemlik says:
Did you ever have an original idea in your entire life ? because I have one every hour on average.
Really? Please post the 24 original ideas you’ve had in the past day.

Eric H
Reply to  Felflames
December 26, 2015 8:07 pm

So Zemlik….since you are obviously “anti-human” ( we are “fuking up the place” after all..), will you be so kind as to off yourself and any family you have? If not, shut the hell up and go back under your bridge…the adults are talking.
By the way, if you truly have “an original idea every hour”, WTF are you doing on this forum wasting your time when you should be pursuing the next original idea you have and save us all from our wretched state?

Reply to  Felflames
December 26, 2015 8:14 pm

@Eric H
thank you for your concern

Eric H
Reply to  Felflames
December 26, 2015 8:33 pm

Zemlik, I would suggest sticking with your Hydrology studies… Technological advances and their effect on human populations does not seem to be your strong point.

Reply to  Felflames
December 26, 2015 8:41 pm

@ Eric H
people are saying that the earth is a 3 dimensional sphere

Reply to  Felflames
December 27, 2015 10:44 am

Zemlik: Lazy? Yeah maybe. I feed my horses with a large diesel tractor if that’s what you mean. I cut and split wood to heat my house. I work my horses pretty much every day in the winter when I am not skiing. I raise my own trout. I remember a farm that didn’t have running water or electricity and riding a team pulling a stone boat to fill barrels with water from a spring. I reckon you are young enough that you don’t know what a stone boat is. My father was born in 1917 so you can make a guess at how old these old bones are if you aren’t too lazy.😉😉

Reply to  Felflames
December 28, 2015 12:25 pm

Losing your train of thought, then jumping around in your own mind to try back track to where you started, then giving up and going off in another distracted direction doesn’t count as an “original thought”.
Just because something is legal doesn’t mean you should do it; you do this all day long?

Reply to  Felflames
December 28, 2015 1:01 pm

The planet isn’t [snip]ed up, and only idiots who hate people believe so.

Reply to  Felflames
December 28, 2015 1:02 pm

zemlik, if you have ever had an original thought, you have failed to demonstrate it to others.
All you can do is constantly whine that there are too many people, despite this myth having been disproven over and over again.

Reply to  zemlik
December 26, 2015 8:14 pm

So “zemlik”. Did you pick your screen name to read backwards like it does on purpose?? Given your comments, it seems odd for a troll not to be more self aware. Sorry if that is rude but no more rude than your comments. My forefathers farmed with horses. I don’t want to go back there. Many third world countries plant and harvest by hand so a large agrarian population is a requirement. You need to stand up and smell the roses.

Reply to  Wayne Delbeke
December 26, 2015 8:25 pm

“My forefathers farmed with horses”
An interesting observation, when my great grandmother went shopping, she would first get out her shopping basket. Often hand held, but sometimes with wheels. Then grocers started providing paper bags to hold the shopping. Later, they replaced them with plastic bags which cost less and used less materials to make.
In Canberra, the watermelon party brought in a no plastic shopping bags law. With a stroke of a pen, they have taken us back four generations to the times of my great grandmother.

Reply to  Wayne Delbeke
December 26, 2015 8:28 pm

why do you not want to go back to farming with horses? are you perhaps a little bit lazy ?

Reply to  Wayne Delbeke
December 27, 2015 3:01 am

You belong in the same box as [Sea Shepherd founder] Paul Watson and other assorted eco fascists.
A few years ago after Watson held forth with crap like yours on another blog, I suggested he lead by example and offered him the use of my .375 Mag. Watson didn’t pick up on my offer but is now behind bars for a long time -still it’s seriously sad to see he spawned cretins like your ilk.

Leonard Lane
Reply to  zemlik
December 26, 2015 10:13 pm

Zemlik. Whenever I hear someone talking about to many people on the earth, and population reduction. I say YOU FIRST. Or, Lead by Example.

The Original Mike M
Reply to  Leonard Lane
December 27, 2015 7:01 pm

Zemlick – You couldn’t be more wrong and you never acknowledged the answer above by Felflames that wealth is what stabilizes population. If not for an outrageously too high democrat immigration policy, the USA’s population would soon be going negative just like it already has in other rich countries like Japan.
“Macroeconomic research bears out this picture. Fertility starts to drop at an annual income per person of $1,000-2,000 and falls until it hits the replacement level at an income per head of $4,000-10,000 a year (see chart 2). This roughly tracks the passage from poverty to middle-income status and from an agrarian society to a modern one. ”
Your so called “green” policies are destroying the opportunities for poor countries to use their own natural resources and dig their way out of poverty the way we already did over the last ~150 years. Why is it that you don’t get that?

Reply to  Leonard Lane
December 28, 2015 11:26 am

yes well, I recognize my own value.
you probably recognize yours but you have yet to prove it. 🙂

Reply to  zemlik
December 28, 2015 5:56 am

Hello, zemlik.
People who are (or feel) wealthy tend to have fewer children. Thanks to oil, the whole world is wealthier today than it was 50 years ago, even in poor countries. (Note that while there is no known limit to wealth, poverty does have a lowest bound.)
World population is stabilizing. The world population of children has already peaked.
Would you rather celebrate that, hey! we’re avoiding a population crisis after all! or go on fretting about “too many” people? Your reply will say whether you are genuinely interested in solutions, or merely fond of having something to rail about.

Reply to  zemlik
December 28, 2015 1:00 pm

Once again, the person who claims to like people, is dismayed at the thought of there being more people.
Since more people equals more brains trying to solve life’s problems, more people is a good thing.

Mike the Morlock
December 26, 2015 3:54 pm

We did manage without electricity, but we had to be very inventive.
In 1979 while I was an apprentice at a tool shop that subcontracted for Avco lycoming of stratford ct we retro fitted a 1890s Bullard VTL. It was brought into the shop, still setup to run off of overhead pulleys. Yes it had been running off of a water wheel. We rebuilt it, drilling mountings for a electric motor. I later got to run it, making rings over 6ft diameter. The parts were for Pratt&Whitney Jet engines. Think about it. The craftsmanship in the construction of that old VTL able to hold modern tolerances.
Using fossil fuels is just one more step in humanities never ending effort to “make a better mouse trap”

Reply to  Mike the Morlock
December 27, 2015 8:16 pm

Ya just can’t beat solid cast iron castings for solidity. Machine the bearing surfaces accurately enough and the final machine will accomplish incredibly accurate tolerances.
Plus those multi ton cast iron machines didn’t shake with someone hammering nearby.

The Original Mike M
Reply to  Mike the Morlock
December 28, 2015 7:11 am

And let’s not forget how much cheaper steel became thanks to visionaries like Andrew Carnegie. Yes, he and others became very rich but their accumulated wealth was a drop in the bucket compared to the net wealth gained by the population at large who could then afford to buy the very things that used to be affordable only to the very rich.
Without iron, coal and crude in the ground to be mined – NONE OF IT would have happened and we would all still be very poor.
“Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community.” – Andrew Carnegie
And what he didn’t mention was that, other than slavery, capitalism is the ONLY economic system able to generate such a surplus.

A. G. Reid
December 26, 2015 3:58 pm

The automobile has been reckoned as the greatest advance in 20th century medicine.
Not only did it allow the doctor to get to the patient but it eliminated flies and disease from the streets.
I’m old enough to remember the “roller skate & bicycle slalom” as I dodged around sometime steaming mounds of manure from horse-drawn milk, bread & city garbage wagons. This, as recent as the 1940s in Toronto.
Enterprising homeowners sometimes picked up a few piles for their rosebushes- but for the most part the piles remained for a week or two – until city workers came around with shovels and (you guessed it) a horse drawn wagon !!!

Reply to  A. G. Reid
December 26, 2015 8:14 pm

Antibiotics! Which sadly are becoming useless.

The Original Mike M
Reply to  A. G. Reid
December 28, 2015 7:29 am

A great uncle of mine told me that most everybody was grateful for the introduction of electric street cars in Pittsburgh in part because of how they reduced the stench of horse manure and flies in the summertime.

Gunga Din
December 26, 2015 4:07 pm

In 1840 there were a lot less people. Those people used the best technology available to support themselves. They didn’t know of anything better.
In 2015 we have a lot more people. The people of today still use the best technology available to support themselves. We don’t know of anything better.
Some would have us return to 1840 technology even though we know better.
Why? To return us to 1840 population levels? Again, why?

Reply to  Gunga Din
December 26, 2015 4:46 pm

+ much

December 26, 2015 4:11 pm

When this land around here was first settled the size of the farm was 160 acres, as it was surveyed in sections and broken down into four quarters. Today, the size of the average farm is a section and a half, or six quarters, which is almost a thousand acres. Something that would be next to impossible without fossil fuels, and modern machinery, plus and modern transportation system to handle and move it to market.

Reply to  Rob
December 26, 2015 5:04 pm

You are not from our part. Where my Wisonsin farm is, the original (hilly) grants were all in quarter quarter sections of 40 acres. Of course, you could ‘buy’ more than one homestead. We have been reassembling since. Part of my farmhouse is still the old log cabin (since enclosed inside and out) built around 1880 by homesteading 40 acre Skandinavian pioneers. I have a circa 1890 tintype of them out front the oak log cabin they built from scratch by hand. Skandinavin because of the ‘dovetail’ hewn log fits made with just a broad axe and adz. Shingled with cedar split with a froe. All three tools from the era in my son’s farm bedroom.
And, when there, we still heat with firewood. Difference is, now cut with chain saws, drug in by diesel tractors. But still using logging chains and drag cinches and turned with peaveys. Feeds a double walled firebox with an electric blower pushing the hot air into the newish high efficiency propane furnace plenum that warms when we are not there to feed the firebox.
Translation, even with pioneer firewood we would be in modern trouble without electricity and gas/ diesel.

Samuel C. Cogar
Reply to  ristvan
December 27, 2015 5:19 am

…. grants were all in quarter quarter sections of 40 acres.

Yup, ……. “Forty acres and a mule”

Reply to  ristvan
December 27, 2015 5:48 am

No, I’m not from those parts. I’m live in Alberta. Most of the west including Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta were settle between 1880 and 1930 by land grant. All three provinces were surveyed in the township system of sections for that purpose. With 36 sections equaling a township of six miles square. My grandparents on my dads side homesteaded in Saskatchewan around 1900.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  ristvan
December 28, 2015 1:46 am

And a $15 modern electric heater in the outhouse.

December 26, 2015 4:16 pm

I had a client involved in rail roads. Like many, I thought that rail roads were a thing of the past. But moving freight by rail is incredibly efficient.

Reply to  jmarshs
December 27, 2015 1:11 pm

J Marsh [Any relation to the incomparable Rodney (One of my boyhood heroes)? – OK, Off thread]
Absolutely – if you have land.
If some of the western Chinese-located industries are to import to Europe – they’ll do it by rail; they are a thousand miles from the sea to the east.
The littoral industries, however, will continue to use shipping; big box boats have carried over 18,500 twenty-foot equivalent boxes in one sailing.
See, for example,

Gloateus Maximus
December 26, 2015 4:30 pm

Sorry, but I find it hard to credit 130 people to harvest 10 acres. I’m old enough to remember large harvest crews, using towed combines, so have some idea or reaping and threshing.
The standard in early 19th century Britain was that a good man would be able to mow an acre a day; a fine performer an acre and a half. Yields then were of course lower than now, with taller stalks and smaller heads. So ten men to reap ten acres in a day. Add in those who bind and gather the sheaves, tossing them onto a wagon, and, if different, those who thresh, separating the grain from the chaff. Then bagging the threshed grain. I just don’t see a need for 130 people in this operation.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Gloateus Maximus
December 26, 2015 4:56 pm

With increased mechanisation, and the move of most English people from rural to urban areas, harvest became a less important marker in the events of the year. Hutton documents how the number of people directly involved in harvesting decreased: ‘…to harvest and thresh a six-quarter wheat crop at 10 acres a day required 130 men in the 1840s, thirty-three in the 1870s when the horse-drawn mechanical reaper was introduced, and three in the 1940s when combine harvesters had come into use’. [1996:346] For most people today in England, their only link will be with harvest festivals held in their local church (if they are churchgoers).

That’s from the article he linked to under “130 men”. Note that refers to harvesting without horse-drawn mechanical reapers.
With respects, neither of us are old enough to remember that.

Reply to  Gunga Din
December 26, 2015 5:15 pm

As little time ago as 1985 I worked on an eight acre Cherry orchard ( I know vastly different from a hay field) but it took more than one day to harvest the crop, even for allowing time out for weather/ further ripening of the cherries it took in work days probably around 8 total days.
With 55 pickers 3 foreman and 25 people sorting the fruit. Since then with mechanical sorting and improvements of transporting the fruit it is down to three. I also have to add that the other 356 days there was always something going on from pruning, irrigation, mowing grass, putting in bees to spraying etc etc etc. with 2 guys permanently employed

Gloateus Maximus
Reply to  Gunga Din
December 26, 2015 6:41 pm

Truly, I’m not. But I referenced men with scythes, not mechanical reapers, which appeared in the 1840s.
For that matter, scythes don’t take a lot of strength and can be swung by women, with shorter handles. Threshing and sewing up the bags was also probably largely women’s work.
This guy lacks a cradle on his scythe, which was an important invention in increasing productivity:

Reply to  Gloateus Maximus
December 26, 2015 6:37 pm

“a good man would be able to mow an acre a day; a fine performer an acre and a half. Yields then were of course lower than now, with taller stalks and smaller heads. So ten men to reap ten acres in a day…”
Sound like the Arithmetic questions we got at school. If you pay each man one shilling and seven pence a day, how much will it cost you to harvest forty eight and a quarter acres?

Reply to  RoHa
December 26, 2015 8:22 pm

Longer scythe grain blades were used and cut more than the shorter scythe “brush” blades used for cutting weeds.

Reply to  RoHa
December 29, 2015 1:44 pm

If it takes ten men a half hour to move a stone ten feet, how long would it take one man to do so?

Reply to  Gloateus Maximus
December 26, 2015 6:47 pm

@ Gloateus Maximus
I think that an acre could be ploughed in one day in Saxon times Originally, an acre was understood as a selion of land sized at forty perches (660 ft, or 1 furlong) long and four perches (66 ft) wide; this may have also been understood as an approximation of the amount of land a yoke of oxen could plough in one day.

Gloateus Maximus
Reply to  Douglas
December 28, 2015 3:18 am

Yup, that’s where the acre comes from. On large enough fields, Anglo-Saxons might use two yoke of oxen. Large plough horses are a little faster than oxen, but this couple used two ponies:

Gloateus Maximus
Reply to  Douglas
December 28, 2015 3:21 am

My grandparents and great-grandparents farmed with mules and horses. Large mules teams pulled the early 20th century combines.comment image

Pamela Gray
Reply to  Gloateus Maximus
December 27, 2015 10:18 am

My sis and I used those long handled things to mow the back area around the garden. The ground was too bumpy to use the lawn mower, and the grass was too tough for the small motor and blade. To this day, standing under 5 ft tall, I don’t know how I managed to cut a thing.

Reply to  Pamela Gray
December 27, 2015 1:17 pm

If the blade is sharp enough . . .
If so minded, do (re?)read Terry Pratchett’s ‘Reaper Man’, where one of the characters sharpens his blade to be able to cut moon-beams with just a twist of a wrist.

Reply to  Gloateus Maximus
December 27, 2015 8:57 pm

In a way, I’m inclined to agree with you, with some caveats.
Back in the early seventies, I convinced my Father to allow me to plant an acre of wheat. It was a rainy spring, so I cheated and used the tractor, but pulled a regular single blade plow.
Disced the field too with the tractor. sowed the wheat by hand. Watched the wheat grow all summer and I did some work with a hoe to clean up edges. Came midsummer and my Dad told me he wanted half the acre back; so I plowed half the wheat under and prepared the half acre for planting.
Late summer and the wheat was ripening. I got out the ancient scythe and sharpened the blade and I started cutting wheat.
It took me a little while to work out slicing the wheat so it all fell in one direction. Cut wheat for a few yards and resharpen the scythe; there are pocket carborundum sharpening stones that look somewhat like a gray cigar that you keep in a back pocket.
Hot summer days cutting wheat either before or after work, it took me two days of odd hours to cut all the wheat and relay the cut wheat for drying. Two days later a summer thunderstorm threatened the wheat and I rushed home to work like a maniac in getting the wheat under cover in the barn.
Threshing the wheat wasn’t hard. Sifting the wheat to remove chaff was a simply horrible task. Hot humid summer days in SE Pennsylvania, using a basket and throwing the wheat and chaff into the air…
Only in Pennsylvania, late summer days have very little wind unless there is a storm present. Throw the wheat and chaff into the air and wheat and chaff come down; well, the chaff tends to spread out a bit so the hot sweaty nut throwing the stuff into the air is getting covered in chaff.
It is not pleasant.
All for a few measly bushels of wheat and chaff.
I don’t plan to go back to the ‘good old days’ of dreadfully hard work without trying very hard to stay modern!
Oh yeah, crows, squirrels, rabbits and groundhogs love fresh sprouted wheat. Deer love the wheat just a little taller. Rabbits, groundhogs and muskrats keep eating the wheat till the stalk starts to dry. Deer love the seed heads while they’re still soft and milky. Nothing like checking the wheat only to see a section suddenly without seed heads. The only critters I tried to kill were the crows, though I did trap muskrats for their fur in the winter; seemed fair enough.

Bruce Ploetz
December 26, 2015 4:31 pm

The other cost the Green Revolution fanatics fail to consider is the cost in human lives. If we really rolled back civilization to the 1840s millions would die. Without fossil fuels we could not clothe or feed the existing population. Without plastic products for food storage, and cheap energy to process food and water, diseases that were eradicated or reduced would flare to life again.
They dream of the simple agrarian life, local produce, local industry. It worked when the population was a small fraction of those alive today, but with the current population it simply cannot be done. And they have no idea of what it would really be like, they have forgotten the joys of the chamber pot, hand water pump, and wood stove.

Reply to  Bruce Ploetz
December 26, 2015 4:56 pm

That is their primary goal.. Less humans…A.K.A. Agenda 21

Reply to  Marcus
December 27, 2015 1:27 pm

You are completely correct.
Their globe would be populated with hundreds, at most, of millions.
Better than eighty-five per cent of those alive today would need to die with no descendent.
We will all die – even our watermelon conspirators.
But – they – alone – want offspring to carry water, hew wood, clean chamber pots (and think dysentery . . . .!).
And they condemn elitism!
Auto, a bit wound-up by the unconscionable hypocrisy . . . .

Reply to  Bruce Ploetz
December 27, 2015 9:37 am

I think they want the exact same lives they have now but have no thought about how it happens. Many are urban twits who whine about “climate change” while tapping on their cell phones at the local hipster coffeehouse. They would never have to experience the horror of living near a wind turbine. They would never even consider having to grow their own food.
I always find it so irritating that the AGW crowd sit in their fossil feul built and heated homes and pound out their hatred of fossil feuls over the fossil fuel powered and maintained Internet on their fossil feul made computers.
I know many here are not as pessimistic about Peak Oil as I am, but if it is true, those hipster twits who demand we remove coal and petroleum from our lives will be the ones whining the loudest to bring it back when its gone.

Reply to  AndyJ
December 28, 2015 8:02 am

The 20 – 30 hipster group is driving this movement. They will soon be joined by the brainwashed 10 – 20s.
It’s a powerful voting block.
I see only 2 things that change this trend :
1. Painful realities
2. Painful realities

Reply to  AndyJ
December 29, 2015 1:51 pm

One of my favorite news photos were of the greenies in Seattle out in the Sound protesting the Shell drilling rig that was moored nearby. Paddling away in their petrochemical kayaks and paddling with their petrochemical paddles. Typical.

Reply to  Bruce Ploetz
December 29, 2015 1:47 pm

I would like to roll it back to1840 and give us back the Republic of Texas.

December 26, 2015 4:41 pm

The immense benefit over cost of fossil fuels very easily justifies a transfer of the taxation burden from income and sales to fossil fuels. Trebles (?) the consumer price, encourages thoughtful consumption, keeps the green/climate lobby happy, and should make no material difference to the cost benefit.

Reply to  Terry
December 26, 2015 5:00 pm

W.T.F. ????

Gunga Din
Reply to  Marcus
December 26, 2015 5:16 pm

I think (hope) he forgot the benefit of adding a “/sarc” tag.

Reply to  Marcus
December 27, 2015 1:32 pm

Marcus, Gunga old soul – I think this Terry has forgotten those not quite as well-off as him.
Even phased in over a decade – an eleven per cent increase a year – trebling will harm the OECD poor [who generally have meaningful votes], hugely.

December 26, 2015 4:59 pm

Though I don’t disagree that fossil fuels made all of this possible, a great deal of value that should be attributed to other things like development of better materials, increased machining capabilities, etc… are completely ignored by this analysis.
The fact is, the value derived from fossil fuels can be achieved through the use of other fuels and technology. I think its also important to note that farm equipment that can be run on 100% bio-diesel is a reality today. I have also read about 100% commercial scale electric farm equipment (though that was done by converting traditional diesel equipment to electric.) Which in turn means that in addition to bio-fuels, hydro, nuclear, etc… are possible substitutes in today’s world.
For the record, I’m not anti-fossil fuels. I believe they are still the most economical alternative for most of the jobs they are employed to do. I just think this article ascribes greater value to them than what they truly have in today’s world.

Curious George
Reply to  Luke
December 26, 2015 5:18 pm

Out of 127 people not needed to harvest 10 acres nowadays, some are employed in research and development, some in manufacturing, some in services, and some are green activists.

Reply to  Curious George
December 26, 2015 5:43 pm

This is an important point. Fossil fuels have freed humans to engage their minds rather than their bodies to make a living.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Luke
December 26, 2015 5:36 pm

They may have a place in the world today when they can “stand on their own”.
But, for the most part, they are taking plants that are food for people and animals and other plants away from them all to make fuel to replace past plants and things that have already been made into fuel without depriving the present of fuel and/or fertilizer and/or the “pre-bio-fuel’s” part in the food chain.
In other words,:
Why burn what is useful for life as it to replace what is useful for life only if it is burned?

Gunga Din
Reply to  Gunga Din
December 26, 2015 6:41 pm

“Why burn what is useful for life as it to replace what is useful for life only if it is burned?”
Allow me to rephrase that.
“Why burn what is useful as it is for life today to replace what is useful for life today only if it is burned?”
Sorry. I was making rather merry on Christmas.
(I’ve no excuse for the rest of the year. 😎

Reply to  Gunga Din
December 27, 2015 1:35 pm

Gunga old soul – me too!
Plus litres!

Reply to  Luke
December 26, 2015 5:36 pm

Luke, see comment above. I operate a modern dairy farm, just about the 25th percentile in Wisconsin for cows and acres. You know not whereof you speak. The new high efficiency ‘walk around’ milking parlor has mandatory diesel genset backup. So did the older, lower efficiency stall parlor we replaced. Our no till contours are enabled by 200 HP tractors and GMO glyphosate resistant corn and soy. Even the wood burning firebox for the 1880 part of my farmhouse depends on electricity to keep the modern (circa 1950’s) plumbing from freezing.
The real world is far less simple than you might imagine. And can be far more brutal absent fossil fuels than any person from the developed world can imgine.

Reply to  ristvan
December 26, 2015 7:33 pm

I think my point was missed. I don’t deny the utility of fossil fuels or that they are the most economic alternative, in fact I specifically stated that they were. My main point was that this article places more value on the petroleum based fuels than what they should currently be accorded. I stand by this statement.
Full disclosure, I am a financial analyst with a chemical engineering degree who has made his living for the last 8 years performing economic and financial analyses for a Fortune 500 serving the petroleum refining industry. Whenever I want make a value assessment of this nature, I would be doing the comparison against its next best alternative (NBA). At this point, I would point out that both the 200hp tractor and the backup gensets you mention have biodiesel powered alternatives and would likely be a legitimate choice when doing an NBA analysis. Not sure what your point about the glycophosphate resistant corn and soy was, other than you maybe assuming I would be anti-GMO (I’m not.)
Finally, I recognize the world is not a simple place, which is why I reject the overly-simplistic analysis above. Yes, petroleum based fuels enabled a significant portion of it, but there have been and continue to be alternatives to them. Ignoring that and attributing 100% of the value to them is where this analysis falls down.

Curious George
Reply to  ristvan
December 26, 2015 8:07 pm

Luke, can a biodiesel powered machinery produce more biodiesel than what it consumes?

Reply to  ristvan
December 26, 2015 10:10 pm

Luke, if you are an analyst then you’re not a very good one.
An average house in the west uses 30kWh a day or 108 MJ which is around 3kg of biodiesel oil at 100% efficiency, but engines are only 35% efficient so your consumption to power your western house is 10kg (10.8lt) or around 3 US gallons a day / 4000 lt per annum . Trials of commercial rapeseed, one of the most productive oil crops yield 100 US Gal per Ac or 240Gal (880lt) per ha per annum so from that you need 4000/880 = 4.45 Ha of rapeseed under cultivation to power the average house.
Now lets power the worlds 7.5 billion people on a lifestyle equivalent basis (30kWh a day). That’s 2.5 Billion households (at 2.9 per household) requiring rapeseed plantations of 4.45 Ha each or 11.5 Billion Ha of rapeseed – all good huh?
Total world land suitable for cropping
4.4 Billion Ha
And that’s only domestic consumption, industrial consumption is FIVE TIMES THAT, then there is AUTOMOTIVE CONSUMPTION.
Sometimes I think computer analysts need to do at least some engineering, computer analysts that don’t understand engineering is what got us into this mess!

Reply to  ristvan
December 27, 2015 10:23 am

Ristvan, the same people that demand we use food for bio-fuels are the same ones that complain about people starving…because of lack of said food ! Weird…..

Reply to  Luke
December 26, 2015 9:35 pm

“Luke- other fuels” – like magic, “the force”, and LENR!

Brian H
Reply to  Luke
December 27, 2015 12:04 am

The hidden cost of fossil fuels to grow “biofuels” blows your analysis. To smithereenies.

Samuel C. Cogar
Reply to  Luke
December 27, 2015 6:52 am

Luke said:

I believe they are still the most economical alternative for most of the jobs they are employed to do.
I just think this article ascribes greater value to them than what they truly have in today’s world.

Luke, explain yourself. Just why is it that “you think” ….. that what “you believe” ……. is totally wrong?
HA, with most people ……. their “thinking” is compatible with their “believing”.

David Chappell
Reply to  Luke
December 28, 2015 6:55 am

“… farm equipment that can be run on 100% bio-diesel is a reality today.”
Think about the logic of that. Grow crops to convert to bio-fuel to run the equipment to grow the crops to convert to bio-fuel to run the equipment to grow the crops to convert to bio-fuel ad infinitum.

Stu Miller
December 26, 2015 6:01 pm

Curious, you forgot the government bureaucrats who keep the whole process from being more efficient.

Curious George
Reply to  Stu Miller
December 26, 2015 6:08 pm

Public servants. Under “services”. Consider them complementary to financial services.

Reply to  Stu Miller
December 26, 2015 7:55 pm

Susan Rice, National Security Advisor, and her husband have large investments in Canadian energy/oil companies.

Reply to  Barbara
December 29, 2015 1:58 pm

Well that is good news. At least two bureaucrats with common sense!

Paul Milenkovic
Reply to  Barbara
December 31, 2015 9:59 am

I am so sorry for them. Unless they “sold short”, they have lost a great deal on their investments with the recent collapse in oil prices.

December 26, 2015 6:38 pm

“Windmills would not appear until 1854.”
What nonsense is this? Your own link shows that windmills are a very ancient technology.

Reply to  RoHa
December 26, 2015 7:03 pm

@ RoHa
Yes you are right – this below from Wiki – but never mind I think he was making a more specific point in regard to American history.
Heron’s wind-powered organ, the earliest machine powered by wind.
Sailboats and sailing ships have been using wind power for at least 5,500 years, and architects have used wind-driven natural ventilation in buildings since similarly ancient times. The use of wind to provide mechanical power came somewhat later in antiquity.
The Babylonian emperor Hammurabi planned to use wind power for his ambitious irrigation project in the 17th century BC.
The windwheel of the Greek engineer Heron of Alexandria in the 1st century AD is the earliest known instance of using a wind-driven wheel to power a machine. Another early example of a wind-driven wheel was the prayer wheel, which has been used in ancient India, Tibet, and China since the 4th century.

Reply to  Douglas
December 27, 2015 5:44 am

If he meant in America, he should have said so.

Reply to  RoHa
December 26, 2015 8:06 pm

The farm wind mills we tend to think of had steel framework to support the blades. Most farms at that time would have had dug wells which didn’t have a lot of water in them.
Windmills work for deep driven wells and not dug wells.

Reply to  Barbara
December 27, 2015 2:35 am

When I hear “wind mill” I personally tend to think of flour mills like
A well known landmark in my father’s day, bang in the centre of our biggest city. Such “Windmills abounded in England from the twelfth century onwards” . Their use for milling flour is why they were called wind*mills*. I certainly would not think of wind*pumps*
The important thing about wind-powered flour mills was that milling flour was a process that could be stopped and started without spoiling the product. They were also major technology for their day with economic consequences that were not wholly benign.

Reply to  Barbara
December 27, 2015 11:05 am

Barbara. A lot of windmills are used around where olive to pump pond water to a stock tank so riparian areas can be fenced off so livestock doesn’t damage it. And haven ridden a horse from Missouri to California, I can say with certainty a lot of wind mills pump shallow water to a stock tank. Some have float valves to stop the water when the tank is full, some have ingenious mechanical devices to shut off the windmill when the tank is full, and others are manual engage/disengage.

Reply to  RoHa
December 27, 2015 2:43 pm

I think the references show the reasoning and the logic of the dates I showed clearly. I refer you to the links.

Reply to  Andy May
December 27, 2015 7:24 pm

Yeah well the link to your reference page is not working, so maybe you could try to be a bit more responsive, and/or provide the references here.

Reply to  RoHa
December 27, 2015 6:53 pm
Will Nelson
December 26, 2015 7:10 pm

By 1840’s standards a gallon of gas is a liquid miracle.

Will Nelson
Reply to  Will Nelson
December 26, 2015 7:13 pm

There should be a national gasoline/diesel holiday to celebrate this commodity.

Reply to  Will Nelson
December 31, 2015 11:39 am

Agree, Please help the Administration to be informed of this reality

December 26, 2015 7:16 pm

That should have been written better it appears.
Wikipedia is frequently wrong but at this hour what else!
“Orleans [Massachusetts]
Jonathan Young windmill: smock
The Jonathan Young windmill was returned to Orleans ownership in 1983, after having first been built in the town about 1720. She was moved to Hyannisport in 1897, then given by the Groves family to the Orleans Historical Society in 1983, who then donated it to the town of Orleans. The final move brought it back to Town Cove Park, where it now stands.”

December 26, 2015 7:33 pm

Even better, in the future, you will be able to redirect sensory input to your brain from a mechanical surrogate you. This surrogate can be replaced by any in the world, which gives you the ability to teleport instantly to almost any place you want to go. Just build the surrogates, the network, and your interface to the network. Your travel cost is then almost zero. Energy cost drops to near zero. Risk of dysentery and vehicle transport disaster goes to near zero. You may still need your caloric input, unless you choose to discard much of your body. No doubt many people will prefer to stay in their immortal and ageless bodies. Any image of themselves can be inserted into the data stream to replace “reality”. After say, age 75, you could become body-minimal. Your life could be lived entirely from a support pod in the virtual world.
A live human walking on a city street might see plain mechanical devices moving around. They might even be very much non-anthropomorphic, just sensory devices mounted on a framework. Perhaps more like head on a stalk with branches going to branched manipulators with mounted tactile sensors. The Stream in the Cloud would map a visual-quality CG image of yourself into your Stream and the Stream of every other telepresence having you in their visual field. All things “known” to the Cloud will be represented to the user as a random selection from a set of premeasured feelings, smells, tastes, looks, and sounds, unless the real object data are being fed through the Stream.
Eventually, as the number of live humans on the street drops to near zero, the surrogates might do away with vocalizaiton altogether. People still walking around will need Stream receivers to hear people and some sort of VR goggles to see who they are talking to. And thus, we see how not physically moving the people, but moving their sensory input devices is much cheaper. They could easily survive going on trip under the ocean to the top of Everest with little risk and little special equipment. You might have to schedule a Jump to a new Stream a long time in advance for popular Stream locations. You won’t be able to put 10 billion Streams in the same place at the same time.
Just how we transmit a few terabytes per second of information from 10 billion surrogates anywhere in the world to 10 billion pods I can’t say. How we provide the neural interface, I can’t say. People living in 1840 might have imagined a steam-powered personal vehicle traveling like a wagon without oxen over the prairie. Cities might have been envisioned having some too. And one day, a flying De Lorean might be powered by Mr. Fusion. Or, people living in 1965 might have seen a world where people would have communicators they could flip open with no wires, data stored in a solid material, the ability to talk to and listen to a computer having a female voice, and large detailed images shown on a flat-screen device with no projector.
And even better, surrogates may be how one day we will be able to actually “live” on the Moon, out in the open, in cities constructed by robots just for those who want to live in telepresence. You’d get used to the 2 second delay in speaking with people. If you want to eliminate that delay, Your pod might be taken to the Moon or Mars.
We will really have made it when our consciousness can be put into a solid state device and we can pick any mechanical method of transporting it we want. We could still jump from device to device. At that point we will be immortal, we could live anywhere, and go anywhere. We will all be much smarter than any corporeal humans. There will be no crime. Perhaps sadly, the ancient human race will probably be reduced to a few million relic corporeals. Maybe some preserves could be set aside for them.
What is “good” is decided by the people who live at the time decisions are made. Except, Nature does have veto power. Every so often, humans are reminded of that fact.
This “surrogate” idea already exists in movie form as I recall. Aha! Sure enough, there was the movie “Surrogates” in 2009, but I never saw it. Hey! Maybe I’ll watch that tonight.
Happy New Year!

Reply to  Hoser
December 27, 2015 2:42 am

Think I’ll pass on your ‘brave new world’, Hoser, but thanks for the offer and Happy New Year to you too.

Curious George
Reply to  Hoser
December 27, 2015 5:09 pm

My surrogate will go skiing and leave chores to me.

December 26, 2015 7:42 pm

The whole point in denying us the use of fossil fuels is to kill capitalism.

The Original Mike M
Reply to  Gerard
December 29, 2015 3:40 am

“The whole point in denying us the use of fossil fuels is to kill capitalism.”
Which is a fool’s errand because capitalism is not restrained by anything but government. Read William Bradford’s entries for how Plimoth Plantation was saved in 1623 when they replaced the communist model with a capitalist model. People produce the most when they can keep ALL of the fruits of their labor. Capitalism produces a surplus, state enforced communism produces poverty.

December 26, 2015 8:16 pm

After the Model T, it took some 60 years until you could drive a car across the continent like that. Wonder how long it will take to do that via electric and cheaper? Maybe even without steering most of the way?
It won’t take 60 years, that’s for sure.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  trafamadore
December 28, 2015 5:45 am

Comparing apples to rutabagas again, traffy? It is highly unlikely that electric cars will be able to compete economically with gasoline-powered, particularly since you carbonophobes seem so anxious to cause electric rates to skyrocket.

Reply to  trafamadore
December 28, 2015 7:50 am

After 50 years, what have they got?

The Original Mike M
Reply to  trafamadore
December 29, 2015 3:53 am

Including the manufacture of concrete and asphalt, let’s see anyone build modern highways using ONLY solar and wind power.
And Obama lied, (what’s new…), government didn’t create roads for cars – private entrepreneurs first built them as toll roads, (ditto airports). It took government 60 years to catch up to the reality of their worth to society. And BTW, national security was the main purpose of building our interstate roadway system after WW2 exposed the vulnerability of rail transport.

December 26, 2015 9:54 pm

Joanne Nova has a great thread up today, which is relevant to this topic:
Where is the due diligence on 600 billion dollars invested in “decarbonisation”?

John F. Hultquist
December 26, 2015 10:46 pm

Very interesting. Thanks.
Farming was labor intensive and the history of mechinization is interesting.
There are “old iron” groups that try to save the historic machines.
Below is one method younger and/or city folks might not know about.
For awhile seeds were planted after wires were strung acorss a field and the wire would “trip” the seed-planter at each crossing.

December 27, 2015 12:01 am

Andy May,
Thank you for the interesting take on the value of petroleum fuels.

Adam Gallon
December 27, 2015 2:12 am

One could also get there in winter, without having to eat anybody else!

Bill Illis
December 27, 2015 3:06 am

Let’s remember what fossil fuels replaced.
Whale oil.
GreenPeace wouldn’t have even existed because all the whales would be gone.
I think of the value of gasoline as $1 of gas will move your car and you, 10 kms. How much work would it take to push you and your car to the end of the road in this picture? Two days of hard physical labor. Would you pay $1, made in 5 minutes at your job, for which you are trained and specialized in, to avoid those 2 days of hard labor.
That is the value of fossil fuels.

The Original Mike M
Reply to  Bill Illis
December 28, 2015 4:27 am

“That is the value of fossil fuels.” That value easily being the highest when they fuel free market capitalism.

December 27, 2015 3:16 am

Thank you Andy for this article.
I have worked in the energy industry for much of my career.
When challenged on this question by green fanatics, I explain that that fossil fuels keep their families from freezing and starving to death.
Cheap abundant reliable energy is the lifeblood of society – it IS that simple.
A few facts:
Wind Power is what warmists typically embrace – trillions of dollars have been squandered on worthless grid-connected wind power schemes that require life-of-project subsidies and drive up energy costs.
Some background on grid-connected wind power schemes:
The Capacity Factor of wind power is typically a bit over 20%, but that is NOT the relevant factor.
The real truth is told by the Substitution Capacity, which is dropping to as low as 4% in Germany – that is the amount of conventional generation that can be permanently retired when wind power is installed into the grid.
The E.ON Netz Wind Report 2005 is an informative document:
(apparently no longer available from E.ON Netz website).
Figure 6 says Wind Power is too intermittent (and needs almost 100% spinning backup);
Figure 7 says it just gets worse and worse the more Wind Power you add to the grid (see Substitution Capacity dropping from 8% to 4%).
Same story applies to grid-connected Solar Power (both in the absence of a “Super-Battery”).
This was all obvious to us decades ago – we published similar conclusions in 2002.
Trillions of dollars have been wasted globally on green energy that is not green and produces little useful energy.
Regards to all, Allan

Reply to  Allan MacRae
December 27, 2015 11:08 am

Thanks for the insights and analysis. Substitution capacity of 4%? Why in the world are these wind-turbine monstrosities being built?
Wind-power is madness. Fetish; pure religious fetish. There will come a day in our future when we look up at long-abandoned wind turbines; rusting relics, and wonder what madness could have possessed people to erect such useless, wasteful things.

Reply to  gregole
December 27, 2015 1:53 pm

Greg O
At least the Easter Island head didn’t chop endangered raptors.
And have some aesthetic value . . . .

December 27, 2015 6:17 am

Is there a formula to determine the “environmental cost of capital”? It’s always struck me that a portion of the substities directed at renewables are dollars that were created burning fossil fuels… right? So when taxes generated by say, a coal power plant or a long distance freight company, are used to subsidize solar panels, why aren’t the emissions counted?

Paul Milenkovic
Reply to  John Macgowan
December 31, 2015 10:07 am

There is a formula — it takes the form of the market prices for the various capital, labor, and fuel inputs. You can figure is something costs more, more resources in some form were used to produce it.
The LEED building certification is an attempt to take into account those indirect environmental impacts without reverting to figuring out what things cost. You get LEED points for using wood, but not the wrong kind of wood, and on and on.
There are energy savings to be accomplished simply by cost cutting — more efficient light bulbs and examples. Concentrate on what saves money rather than what has social signaling of environmental virtue.

Pat Paulsen
December 27, 2015 6:52 am

Obama wanted to shrink the American economy. He has done so and continues his war with an EPA proxy, to bypass Congress, it seems. Ironically, if gas prices stay down for a longer term, this could actually stimulate the economy. Cheaper deliveries for companies. The delivery trade is now growing as expenses go down and customers do more online shopping. The long term prediction is low oil prices until about 2020. If the economy fires on all cylinders for the first time in a long, long time, then this could actually be a boon to the voters. The next POTUS has his/her work cut out – undoing a lot of harmful edicts from on-high.

Pat Paulsen
December 27, 2015 6:53 am

I thought of another caveat. With low oil prices some companies might be able to jack up the price of gasoline by shutting down refineries – when they don’t have to do so for refurbishing purposes, IMO.

December 27, 2015 8:51 am

Just a quibble , but to date use of water power to the invention of the turbine in 1849 is disingenuous . I lived in the “Flour City” , Rochester NY for several years and to quote,_New_York

On November 8, 1803, Col. Nathaniel Rochester (1752–1831), Maj. Charles Carroll, and Col. William Fitzhugh, Jr. (1761–1839), all of Hagerstown, Maryland, purchased a 100-acre (ca. 40 ha) tract from the state in Western New York along the Genesee River. They chose the site because its three cataracts on the Genesee offered great potential for water power.

Today the slots in the cliff of the old mills are an attraction with restaurants and museums in some of the old buildings . You can see the transition from water wheels to turbines placed deep in the cuts in the cliff which was surely a great increase in efficiency , but far from the beginning of the use of water power .

Claude Harvey
December 27, 2015 10:06 am

These calculations are fatally flawed. One must apply “green math” in order to arrive at a proper conclusion. When we apply a “natural multiplier” to the equation (“natural” is 1,000 times better than “unnatural”), we find that 500 times more expensive “then” divided by 1,000 times “more natural then” yields a “better now than then “factor of 0.5. Therefore, we were twice as efficient and well off in 1840 as we are today (and now we don’t even find weevils in our morning biscuits).

December 27, 2015 10:29 am

As a retired Iron Worker, I have to wonder….How long would it take to put up a 20 story high rise using ” Green Energy ” ?

Reply to  Marcus
December 27, 2015 2:05 pm

Yurts are the thing.
20-storey – sorry, it pales into insignificance compared to the anti-obesity benefits of the yurt.
These include: –
1 carrying water, to drink, cook, bathe, irrigate . . . .
2 chopping down trees
2 A planting trees for the children
3 chopping up trees
4 transporting chopped up trees
5 waving drying airs across chopped-up trees
6 carrying tree ash to where it may best be used to encourage tree growth.
6 A carrying chamber pots to where cleaning water is available..
Ah NB: unless seeking to study dysentery, this needs to be well downstream of the source for # 1 above; and hope nobody lives upstream.
7 In col weather, consider shivering in a yurt.
Auto – I passed a yurt hire place west of London today. Even in a very mild (weather) December holiday, it didn’t look busy [From the Car – maybe they’re maxed out . . . .].

Reply to  Auto
December 27, 2015 2:15 pm

Auto, I’m not too sure about 6A….When your standing on a six inch beam, in the middle of a Canadian winter, 200 feet above the ground, you don’t really wait for the chamber pot…You just ummmm….go !! LOL

Reply to  Auto
December 27, 2015 2:18 pm

P.S. How high can you build a Yurt ????

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Marcus
December 28, 2015 8:05 am

No one could afford the steel made from “green energy”.

December 27, 2015 2:10 pm

In col Weather =
In cooooool weather . . .
Do see above response to Gunga Din

December 28, 2015 4:48 am

Shame on you! You equivocated dollar costs with the value of clean air. You’re a typical climate denier.
Air is far more valuable than money. Didn’t you know that? That’s why undeveloped countries want to get huge monetary payouts to….oh, wait a minute….

December 28, 2015 5:21 am

Very good post. On minor quibble is “Windmills would not appear until 1854”. The reference explains the most important application of windmills at the subsistence level has been mechanical water pumping using relatively small systems with rotor diameters of one to several meters. That system was perfected in 1854. My point is that wind mills were used to grind grain in locations where there wasn’t available water for many years before that. There still are 11 such wind mills on Long Island in New York (

Reply to  rogercaiazza
December 28, 2015 7:57 am


That system was perfected in 1854. My point is that wind mills were used to grind grain in locations where there wasn’t available water for many years before that. There still are 11 such wind mills on Long Island in New York

And, worldwide, in EVERY building, factory, village, town,city and industry …. As soon as ANYTHING else became available OTHER THAN wind power, that replacement system was immediately used. Yes, windmills were used first. But, water was used where it could be over wind at EVERY stream where the flow flowed and a dam could be built. Then coal + fire + water vapor, then coal + fire + steam + vacuums, then higher pressure steam, then belt, then electricity, kerosene, gasoline, diesel. Nuclear, perhaps fusion in the future.
The ONLY use worldwide where wind has replaced more efficient, more effective, less costly and more reliable systems is where it has been mandated by politicians and extremists. NEVER by engineers, owners, operators, users, customers and the economy.

December 28, 2015 7:11 am

Don’t forget the about 4% death rate on the Oregon Trail compared to the hazards or road/air travel today.

December 28, 2015 10:24 am

Thanks for the excellent posting. It is astounding how ignorant the MSM and are politicians are of the contribution fossil fuels , steel, railroads, etc have made to our lifestyle today.
The history channel documentary below is an eye opener and should be mandatory viewing in our schools rather than the progressive brainwashing they receive today.
As one who has spent a career in the energy business, I was impressed how Rockefeller brought kerosene to the masses so they could have cheap light after the sun set. When the other famous men of history brought electricity to the country via coal to further improve our lifestyle replacing kerosene, Rockefeller “invented” gasoline which had a dramatic impact on transportation and our lifestyle without horse dung all over the streets.
It is a sad pity that the greenies fail to to realize how these developments have helped, mostly the common worker!! They know nothing about history and the benefits of fossil fuel for travel and keeping warm. It is pathetic. If they want to go back in time living w/o fossil fuels, let them go first in their ignorance, let us alone we do not believe their lies.
Interesting those pushing this, have the largest and most costly to the taxpayers carbon footprint of all especially the President of the USA.. Lead by example.
Below is the real history of man getting out of pollution and poverty.
“John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and J.P. Morgan rose from obscurity and in the process built modern America. Their names hang on street signs, are etched into buildings and are a part of the fabric of history. These men created the American Dream and were the engine of capitalism as they transformed everything they touched in building the oil, rail, steel, shipping, automobile and finance industries. Their paths crossed repeatedly as they elected presidents, set economic policies and influenced major events of the 50 most formative years this country has ever known. From the Civil War to the Great Depression and World War I, they led the way.
Using state of the art computer generated imagery that incorporates 12 million historical negatives, many made available for the first time by the Library of Congress, this series will bring back to life the world they knew and the one they created. The event series will show how these men took a failed experiment in democracy and created the greatest superpower the world has ever seen. We see how their historic achievements came to create the America of today.”

December 29, 2015 12:11 pm

Oil is not going away anytime soon in the US of A … Uncle Buffett invested 40B (his largest bet evah) back a few year ago in rails and shipping oil was the vig kicker.
Nice huh ?
Fool the people about CAGW.
Waste a bunch of money on sun/wind.
Kill a pipeline that puts millions of people at greater risk by pushing shipment to rail.
If I was a cartoonist, I’d draw a feeding trough with winners munching away and coal chained to the fence.
It’s so ….. I can’t quite think of the word ….

December 29, 2015 12:15 pm

The left (grudgingly) will admit that horse waste was a problem:
but barely…

December 30, 2015 1:31 pm

People fall into two camps either they strive to control the physical world
or they strive to control other people.
We are all capable of doing either. Most I think are predisposed to the former.
Ironically, abundant, reliable, affordable power has to an extent relieved many
of us from the necessity of striving to control the real world.
So what is left to feel a sense of accomplishment or self worth.
Vanity all is Vanity! Hmm I’m sure I’ve heard that before.

%d bloggers like this: