Meeting the terawatt challenge

Robert Bryce’s latest book lays out a powerful case for treating electricity as a human right

Duggan Flanakin

In his latest seminal book, A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations, Austin, Texas-based energy analyst and futurist Robert Bryce declares that “electricity has become a human right.”

It’s not an “endowed by our Creator” human right, nor one enunciated by a constitution or UN charter. It’s not akin to freedom of religion or speech. It’s not some entitlement we get for free. But it is definitely a fundamental right of access to this all-empowering energy source; a right for all human lives to be improved and blessed the way ours have been; a right to never be denied access to sufficient, reliable, affordable electricity, on a phony claim that letting you have it would hurt the environment or climate.

Try to imagine your home, school, healthcare, business, community or world – your life – without this amazing energy source, and you will wholeheartedly agree with Bryce.

In chapter 16, Bryce speaks of “the Terawatt Challenge.” It’s a term coined by the late Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley, who posited that, if we can provide sufficient electricity to all peoples of the world, we can largely eliminate the massive problems of poverty, polluted environments, unsafe water and food insecurity. Bryce solemnly notes that our world is still far from that goal. But we can get there.

Bryce traces the history of harnessed electricity, from Benjamin Franklin through Tesla, Edison and Westinghouse – to the much less well known but equally important Frank Julian Sprague, who developed electric elevator motors (enabling skyscrapers) and the nation’s first electric rail system. He illustrates how Franklin Roosevelt brought affordable electricity to rural America and oversaw construction of massive dams that provided cheap electricity to every corner of America. It was FDR, Bryce notes, who in 1932 proclaimed that “Electricity is no longer a luxury; it is a definite necessity.”

Bryce then hits us with the horrific reality that roughly 3.3 billion people (45% of humanity!) still live today in places where annual per capita electricity consumption is less than 1,000 kilowatt-hours per year (kWh/yr) – about what his home refrigerator uses. These people barely survive in Unplugged countries.

Another 2.7 billion people (37%) scrape by in Low-Watt countries. Only 19% of all people on Planet Earth live in “High-Watt” nations (more than 4,000 kWh/yr) – the bottom threshold, says Dr. Alan Pasternak, the key dividing line below which countries cannot improve their Human Development Index.

A major barrier, therefore, to electricity sufficiency for the Unplugged – and even the Low-Watt – nations is the lack of societal integrity, capital investment and affordable energy. Yet, to ensure that all humanity can reach its full potential – to liberate women from endless drudgery, enabling them to develop their innate skills and talents – requires that the human right to electricity be recognized and made reality.

How do we reach this lofty but essential goal? An essential component of societal integrity is that governments enforce the rule of law. The freest and wealthiest countries are those where factions share political and economic power. In the poorest countries elites organize society for their own benefit at the expense of the vast mass of people. Capital – and energy – are much easier to obtain in a free society.

To illustrate the magnitude of the gap between Unplugged and High-Watt nations, Bryce chronicles the meteoric rise of the Giant Five – Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft – each of which consumes more electricity each year than many entire countries. Financial services, from Visa to Bitcoin, also have giant electricity appetites, as does the marijuana industry.

These businesses all know from experience the cost that electricity blackouts impose on them – and their customers. Both weather and sabotage threaten the integrity of the electric grid, but the greater threat is the folly of those who believe that wind and solar alone can provide sufficient electric energy for a high-tech society, let alone the world’s billions.

Bryce chronicles how four factors – cost, storage, scale, and land use – prevent renewables from taking over our energy and power systems. Electricity prices are soaring in countries like Germany, which panicked after Fukushima and began shuttering its nuclear power plants. A third of German businesses, including automotive, see high electricity costs as threats to their viability, Bryce notes.

Rising electricity costs following enactment of Ontario’s Green Energy Act led to political defeat for the Liberal Party and the rescission of 758 renewable energy contracts. Even in California, civil rights leaders have filed a lawsuit, decrying how the state’s climate policies discriminate against minority and low-income consumers; it is now working its way through the legal system.

Bryce’s reporting suggests that the elitists who are pushing renewable energy – like despots in broken (Low-Watt or Unplugged) countries – ignore the poor and middle class and treat rural areas as if they were uninhabited or just irrelevant, as they pursue unattainable goals that heavily burden taxpayers while threatening electricity reliability.

Meeting California’s 80% renewable mandate, for example, will require massive increases in costly electric storage because of seasonal variation in wind and solar electricity generation.  Green energy growth today cannot even keep up with the annual increase in global electricity demand, let alone replace all conventional power. But the final nail in the renewables coffin is land use.

Bryce cites multiple studies showing that an all-wind grid would mean turbine farms would cover a tenth of the nation’s total land. Frustrated by the indifference of urban elites to the real-world impacts on human health and wildlife, rural counties are fighting wind farms with renewed vengeance. Giant solar arrays also present a choice between vanishing ecosystems and “clean” energy that is actually highly polluting. Mining for metals and minerals to build wind and solar systems would also be monumental.

Despite opposition by environmentalists, developing nations are rapidly turning to nuclear as a fuel for the future. But, Bryce notes, it takes national commitments akin to the New Deal to provide both the political stability and financial backing to construct and operate large nuclear power plants economically.  High-Watt countries have imposed exorbitant permitting and regulatory costs on themselves and poor countries; together with antinuclear zeal, this greatly limits the prospects for nuclear energy.

Thanks to fracking, natural gas has become abundant and cheap. It must be a major part of the world’s electricity generation future. Yet governments in High-Watt countries are already banning fracking, blocking new pipelines, and even demanding that citizens mothball their gas-burning appliances.

Despite all the attacks on affordable, reliable fuels, Bryce is optimistic about the world’s ability and willingness to meet the Terawatt Challenge and provide electricity to a hungry world, without wrecking the biosphere. Indeed, in little over a century, a fifth of the world has gone from no electricity to High-Watt usage and another three-eighths is somewhat electrified – and their environments are better for it.

The humanist response to the Terawatt Challenge, Bryce asserts, is to empower the billions who are living in the dark to come into the bright light of modernity, progress, and better, longer, healthier lives. This will require societal integrity, massive infusions of capital, and the right choices of fuels. Bryce admits that electrifying the world will take time. But it can – and must – be done.

Government regulation of these entities has become increasingly bloated and corrupt, Bryce notes. We must significantly change our standards for both fossil fuel and nuclear power plants, to acknowledge technological improvements, the falsity of many environmentalist claims, and the fact that not having  more of those power plants imposes enormous costs on lands, wildlife, human health and human rights.

Duggan Flanakin is director of policy research for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow ( and author of many articles on energy, climate change and environmentalism.

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Phil Rae
April 29, 2020 10:23 pm

Brilliant! Robert has a long history of fighting the good fight on energy. His articles over many years in the Energy Tribune were always an inspiration to me and I look forward to getting my hand in this latest book.

Jim G
Reply to  Phil Rae
April 30, 2020 3:54 pm

The labor of others is never the “right” of another.

CA has been trying to socialize the grid.
In off peak months our business is paying over $.18/kwh.
Summers are even worse with threats of financial punishment if we use too much at the wrong

Energy storage for off peak hours.
What a joke.
Install twice the size of plant that you need plus the cost of a storage system because the power isn’t available for 1/2 the day.

Time to go back to basic economics.

Phil Rae
April 29, 2020 10:24 pm

…..hands on his latest book!

April 29, 2020 10:37 pm

An excellent book I am sure, but I think that a minor correction is required:
“… Robert Bryce declares that “affordable, reliable electricity has become a human right.””.
Electricity that is unaffordable and/or unreliable is of no use to people, especially to those in ‘unplugged’ and ‘low-watt’ countries.
Otherwise the CAGW crowd will claim that their expensive, unreliable ‘renewable ‘ electricity is the answer, which I am sure the author will want to avoid.

Flight Level
April 29, 2020 10:43 pm

Back in 1920, Lenine considered electrification as a means to combat capitalism by the rapid and durable industrialization it allows (quote) :

“Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country. Otherwise the country will remain a small-peasant country, and we must clearly realize that.”

The entire speech is here:

Reply to  Flight Level
May 6, 2020 10:53 am

Yes, once he said electricity is a right, he lost my support.

Somebody has to pay for it, and it ought to be the final user. If your government overlords won’t let you make your own low cost electricity, then throw the bastards out. Once you have a society where the ruling class stops ruling the people into perpetual poverty, and the people accept as natural that they have to pay for what they want, then the money will pour into that jurisdiction.

As regulation and disrespect for people and their money grow, people and money flee. California is a perfect example. Productive Americans are leaving the state while fewer non-productive (or lesser productive) non-Americans are immigrating. On balance, California is dying from 1000 cuts as people and money leave.

April 29, 2020 10:52 pm

“It’s not an “endowed by our Creator” human right, nor one enunciated by a constitution or UN charter. It’s not akin to freedom of religion or speech. It’s not some entitlement we get for free. But it is definitely a fundamental right of access to this all-empowering energy source; a right for all human lives to be improved and blessed the way ours have been; a right to never be denied access to sufficient, reliable, affordable electricity, on a phony claim that letting you have it would hurt the environment or climate.”

And that’s the problem right there. It is not akin to anything like a right but modern westerners are so petrified at the prospect of reducing our consumption we can’t bear to even imagine life with less of it. Private motoring, air travel and a global supply-chain fall into same category. How can we justify the profligate use? Declare it a “right”. That means we don’t have to change our behaviour and as an added bonus we get to accuse “environmentalists” (I suppose he means climate science) – of monstrously wanting to deprive the poor in developing countries of our lifestyle. Win/win

“Phoney claim” is eerily parallel with Trump’s dismissal of CV19. Didn’t that go well.

Reply to  Loydo
April 30, 2020 9:21 am

It is not akin to anything like a right but modern westerners are so petrified at the prospect of reducing our consumption we can’t bear to even imagine life with less of it.

Speak for yourself.

Reply to  beng135
April 30, 2020 9:38 am

As a morally superior being, Loydo feels compelled to not only speak for everyone, but to also make sure that nobody has thoughts that she disapproves of.

Reply to  Loydo
April 30, 2020 9:37 am

Once again, the socialist reveals that his true goal is to make sure that everyone else have less stuff.

Regardless of whether people are scared of having less stuff, why should anyone need to have less stuff?
There’s plenty of stuff out there. Every year we make more stuff using less stuff.

Only those who have no ability to improve their lot in life get upset when others do.

paul courtney
Reply to  Loydo
April 30, 2020 1:05 pm

Lloydo: eerily, huh? Did Trump misspell “phony” when he said it? So every use of the word “phony” is now scary to you, because it reminds you of something you imagine Trump said? ‘Cause I think the word he used was, in your spelling, “hohx”. But don’t worry, we got your point.

Reply to  Loydo
April 30, 2020 3:02 pm

The lie, here, is that is if something is not a specific, enumerated “right” then we must justify it to the authorities – moral or secular.

The truth, is that the basic Right of Liberty, means that I can do, make, acquire or produce anything I damned well LIKE, as long as it does not obviously impinge upon the basic “endowed by our creator” Rights of others.

I certainly don’t have to justify it to self-appointed moral arbiters like Loydo.

On the contrary, the presumption of innocence requires him to prove that I am transgressing. It is up to him to prove that I need to be limited. Half-asses accusation, wild theories and logically-challenged pseudoscience is Not. Good. Enough.

Those following Loydo’s theory – that our superiors can decide for us what we “need” and should be allowed to have, (and at what price) have killed over 100 million people in the last century, and kept many more in abject poverty and slavery. If there is any greater denial of human Rights and welfare in modern history, it is not immediately obvious.

Reply to  PeterW
May 1, 2020 12:45 am

“The lie, here, is that is if something is not a specific, enumerated “right” then we must justify it to the authorities – moral or secular.”

Human rights and obligations need no justification but electricity is not a right.

Aaron Edwards
April 29, 2020 11:08 pm

Wasn’t sure where the article was going to go since I had never heard of Robert Bryce. As with many brilliant people their ideas seem obvious…after they have created them. Before that seminal moment we all seem to plod along repeating the same thoughts not really making much headway. I’m sure an AOC or Bernie ‘Bro would twist the notion of access to electrical power as a fundamental “human right” to include the Socialist adder that it also should be free of charge just like higher education and universal State paycheck. But a closer read of Bryce’s true point would enrage them since he also eviscerates the idea that the use of petroleum to create that ubiquitous cheap energy must be made illegal. Even Michael Moore has finally realized that “alternative renewable energy” is a rich man’s wet dream. Bryce’s idea that access to inexpensive energy is a human right gives those of us who understand the physics a powerful new bludgeon to beat some sense into the Green New Dealers and the reveal the futility of their utopian fantasies. Thank you Mr. Bryce!

Carl Friis-Hansen
April 29, 2020 11:49 pm

ISBN 978-1610397490
I am ordering the book on CD, which is by far the cheapest for delivery to Sweden.
Seems there is a lot of useful knowledge to acquire from this book.

I grew up in Scandinavia, living in places where electricity from stable grid was normality, and in places where we had to produce our own electricity from oil and store it on Ni-Fe battery banks with nominal 110V DC converted to 220V AC for farm equipment, freezer and TV. I am so pleased that this expensive, unreliable era is now a distant memory.

Therefore I certainly understand the necessity for cheap, reliable grid electricity as the very foundation for prosperity, but I am still a novice regarding the wider aspects around the world, which is what I hope this book will help me understand and explain on to others.

Barnes Moore
Reply to  Carl Friis-Hansen
April 30, 2020 6:37 am

Given your comment re: wanting to understand wider aspects around the world, another book you might find interesting is “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” by Alex Epstein. He is publishing an updated version later this year, but the original is well worth the read.

Chris Hanley
April 30, 2020 12:12 am

It is about time that the energy debate was re-framed as the author does.
Civilization and economic growth was based on the progress from subsistence to the production of surpluses.
Renewables dependent on the elements, inclusive of necessary storage, produce barely three to four times the energy used in their overall life-cycle, a fraction of the comparable energy return from fossil fuels and nuclear, by far the most efficient energy source:
It is not only the immediate energy cost increases caused by the move to renewables for instance as seen in Germany, but also the long-term damage to living standards that will only gradually become apparent.

April 30, 2020 12:19 am

A good book. Energy is my expertise. I guess I’ve known these facts since ~forever.


From 1994 to 1996 I managed the first stages of a project in central Asia. The climate there was not unlike many Canadian cities – freezing cold in winter and hot in summer.

Half-day electric power outages, lack of heat and lack of hot water were normal throughout the winter, in our city of several hundred thousand people. Our local employees lived under these conditions, and still managed to show up for work on time, clean and ready to work – how they managed I really don’t know.

I doubt that they, and people like them who lack reliable energy, will be celebrating Earth Hour. This foolish affectation will only be celebrated by those for whom 100% available-on-demand electricity, heat and hot water is taken for granted.

Most of these green imbeciles are so ignorant they think electricity comes from a plug in the wall – they have no idea what it takes to produce reliable energy in our modern world, and how difficult life is for those who have to live without it.

Sermon / off.

Regards, Allan


A few observations:
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. Temperature, among other factors, drives atmospheric CO2 much more than CO2 drives temperature. Atmospheric CO2 LAGS temperature at all measured time scales.
5. Green energy schemes (scams) are responsible for driving up energy costs and increasing winter mortality rates.

I suggest that all of the above statements are true, to a high degree of confidence.

All of the above statements are utter blasphemy to warmist fanatics.

It is truly remarkable how the warmists could get it so wrong.


“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”
– Albert Einstein

Christian L.
April 30, 2020 12:36 am

“Bryce then hits us with the horrific reality that roughly 3.3 billion people (45% of humanity!) still live today in places where annual per capita electricity consumption is less than 1,000 kilowatt-hours per year (kWh/yr) – about what his home refrigerator uses.”

In our family of three in Germany, we have a per capita use of electricity of roughly 950 kwh and live very comfortably. I’d suggest he get a more efficient and perhaps a smaller refridgerator.

And yes I know, I’m neglecting the use of energy at my workplace. Still, having lived in America for a couple of month, I got the feeling that in many areas, American energy consumption is so excessive that it could be curtailed quite a bit without plunging anyone into poverty

Reply to  Christian L.
April 30, 2020 9:42 am

German homes are much smaller on average than US ones. Beyond that Germany is far enough north that air conditioning is rarely required.

Small refrigerators are ok if you go shopping everyday.

Reply to  Christian L.
April 30, 2020 9:43 am

No Thanks

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Christian L.
April 30, 2020 11:12 am

The term “excessive [consumption]” is a moral judgement. You seem to believe that there is some point beyond which it is “wrong” to use more. If I had to guess, I’d say you use your own level to decide what is acceptable; any more than that is bad. In my view, people can use however much of anything they wish, as long as they obtained it legally. That’s not to say that I would do the same thing if I had their resources, but it’s really none of my business what they do. I’m not at all envious nor upset about the talents that others have nor the choices they have made in their lives. I have my hands full with my own life.

April 30, 2020 12:55 am

Anyone who truly wants to help the people of the impoverished parts of the World should look to the likes of coal, diesel and gas. So-called ‘renewables’ are, at best, a niche market for developed nations.

April 30, 2020 1:03 am

“…to ensure that all humanity can reach its full potential – to liberate women from endless drudgery, enabling them to develop their innate skills and talents – requires that the human right to electricity be recognized and made reality…”
Why ruin a perfectly rational statement with politically correct posturing to appease feminists? Surely to allow all humanity to reach its potential, all people deserve liberation from endless drudgery.

Reply to  Erny72
April 30, 2020 9:45 am

Agree. Men are at least as much liberated from manual labor.

April 30, 2020 1:22 am

Fusion power is always 30 years away but my bet is we will have it this time within 30 years or less. Probability of fusion power is another unknown that needs to be added to cost equation of renewables. Would be a great economic loss to spend all this money on wind and solar only to have fusion show up.

Carl Friis-Hansen
Reply to  Stevek
April 30, 2020 2:02 am

Stevek, you may be right or wrong regarding fusion.
I believe it is more important to focus on what works, what we already have and what we know for a fact. Fossil fuel works, is effective and has proven it’s worth. Fossil fuel has been utilized and developed to create articles and power, to the extend where there is no immediate substitute.

Throughout the next 100 years, we may find rational substitutes for some of the fossil fuel usage – But bio-fuel, wind and solar are menaces to the environment and economy.

As the author states, nuclear is very viable, but capital cost and fear is great. So let’s first see if a more scalable, modular and less capital intensive solution can be marketed, before any rush for the dream of fusion.

So many people think it is easy to make changes – it is not.

I have been advising instrumentation and electronics for the cement industry. Any ever so small change I suggested, could take years to implement. Drawings and schematics have to be changed, instruction manuals corrected or rewritten, new financial calculations, spare part arsenal extended, etc.
Changes made overnight by politicians is a huge problem for the industry we all depend on.

Reply to  Carl Friis-Hansen
April 30, 2020 2:23 am

Carl I agree with you. Politicians forcing these “green” energies are putting their economies at a huge disadvantage to countries that use cheaper and more reliable fossil fuels. And these “green” energies damage the environment. I firmly believe the true goal of this renewable movement is to hurt industry. Also many leeches show up to try to take advantage of governments spending money, and they push these inferior renewables to get more government money. This is why they are trying to get fossil fuels banned as they know renewables cannot compete with fossil fuels.

Reply to  Carl Friis-Hansen
April 30, 2020 10:11 am

Agree. Highly advanced, breeder-based fission can produce power & additional fuel for centuries.

April 30, 2020 1:36 am

Translation of “Universal Right”: Massive wealth redistribution.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
April 30, 2020 1:39 am

This is an excellent idea and perhaps should be extended to give an updated Charter of Human rights: the point about affordability is also very important.

The Right to Affordable and Secure Electricity
” ” Heating
” ” Food and Water
” ” Healthcare
” ” Travel
” ” Education
” ” Housing

Nothing said about who provides these services, merely that access to them should be an essential of life in the modern world. It does not necessarily follow that we need follow a centralised state model to achieve any particular one of these.

Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
April 30, 2020 5:52 am

This is a remarkably stupid idea, and perpetuates the foolishness that anything that is “nice to have” should be provided to you as a “human right”. The silly wish list created by the UN, and incorporated in most Constitutions for newly-liberated countries as a greatly expanded “Bill of Rights”, was generated precisely to impower the “centralized state” to redistribute wealth “to each according to need” — with the “needs” of those doing the “distributing” to be satisfied first, of course.

Eustace Cranch
Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
April 30, 2020 7:02 am

Responding to MC of EA-

NO. A thousand times NO. True human rights don’t force other people to pay for them. I don’t have the “right” to reach into another person’s pocket to pay for my material needs, and neither does anyone else.

Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
April 30, 2020 3:11 pm

A “Right” is the ability to do something FOR YOURSELF WITHOUT RESTRICTION.

It does NOT mean forcing someone else do or provide something for you. That denies them, their right to Liberty and enjoyment of the fruit of their own labours.

April 30, 2020 1:56 am

Electricity and running water liberated women. link

The result is that women flooded the workforce. In 1900, five percent of married women had jobs. In 1980, that number jumped to 51 percent.

It’s possible to live without electricity and running water. My grandparents didn’t have it until they were adults. A man could arrive at work clean and fed as long as he had a wife. The alternative was being single and living in a boarding house. Most men and women preferred marriage.

There are many things you ‘can’ do if you have the energy (the elbow grease kind). You’re stuck with a 24 hour day though. The Foxfire Books documented what it takes to exist in Appalachia without running water and electricity.

If your local greenie insists that we don’t need reliable electricity and water, you can educate her about what that entails. She’s a liberated gal. She wouldn’t put up with that lifestyle for five minutes.

What happened to all the back-to-the-land hippie communes? I leave that to you as an exercise.

Abolition Man
Reply to  commieBob
April 30, 2020 4:24 am

I think they have died out due to lack of elbow grease! Didn’t the Bern-ster get thrown out of one for not pulling his share of the load? Seems like he’s still slacking off!
There was a rather humorous article about some hippies stuck in Costa Rica due to the ChiCom 19 virus panic and shutdown where they were running out of food and water and might have to work to survive! If they are stuck long enough for the drugs to completely wear off they might become Libertatians or even, horrors, conservatives!
Most examples of bad capitalism seem to be some sort of cronyism or other government interference. That should put them more into the Fascist column as state control is part of the definition. Free markets are great as long as you control looters and pillagers, with churchs and NGO’s to care for the poor. When the state becomes the looter, liberty and wealth are not long for this world!

Reply to  commieBob
May 3, 2020 10:38 am

Ahh…hippies….communists of the communal kind when their pot was free at music festivals….socialist and glad for their constitutional rights when growing illegal pot on their communes…..turned conservative when their pot plants were stolen a few times….

April 30, 2020 2:10 am

Best would be to all have our preferred experience: normal users connect to the normal grid, while green users connect only to green sources / or get power cuts when sun/ wind don’t supply. Both should pay for their own wishes only, and no government subsidies for any club / source.

April 30, 2020 2:21 am

There can be no such thing as a “right to electricity.” A right is something intrinsic to a human being by its very nature. It is not something ‘granted’ or ‘given’ by an authority … an authority’s only justification for existence is a charter to rectify violations of an individual’s life, liberty, and property.

The promethean engine of providing energy is capitalism. Capitalism can only succeed where the above principle is championed.

Let the unplugged world learn that, let them get out of the way, and capitalists will provide.

Reply to  windlord-sun
April 30, 2020 3:06 am

Let the unplugged world learn that, let them get out of the way, and capitalists will provide.

Maybe not in most cases. The book Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism points out that not all versions of capitalism work for the benefit of the economy at large. I haven’t read it yet but the argument rings true.

Reply to  commieBob
April 30, 2020 7:58 am

Capitalism’s justification ought not be “to work for the benefit of the economy at large,” nor any other collectivist motive. Capitalism’s purpose is to create profit for the owners of the capital.

As John Stuart Mill and Adam Smith observed, and grudgingly admitted, capitalism also benefits the citizens of the world better than any other system. That is a paltry defense of it, actually sardonically putrid.

Reply to  windlord-sun
April 30, 2020 9:52 am

Under capitalism, people co-operate with one another in order to create products that others are willing to buy.
Under socialism, the government tells people who they are going to work with and what they are going to make, regardless of whether anyone actually wants to buy it.

Reply to  commieBob
April 30, 2020 9:50 am

I’ve never seen an argument that actual capitalism doesn’t benefit society, that stands up to analysis.
The vast majority of the time they start with a definition of capitalism that isn’t capitalism.
The rest of the time they are upset because capitalism actually requires people to work for what they want.
Does capitalism provide for those who are unable to work? No. That’s the job of the family.

Reply to  MarkW
April 30, 2020 10:57 am

I agree with your comments, Mark.

Add: even if you get them focused on actual real capitalism, they’ll come up with “externalities,” which 1) can be corrected by more capitalism; and 2) are no excuse for outlawing freedom/capitalism.

As for “unable?” Yes, family and voluntary helping from non-coerced caring organizations. I throw on this argument: “Are you sure you want the caring of the unable financed by confiscatory taxation and administered by the post office?”

Meanwhile, back to electricity: If people doubt that the supplying of this life-giving energy by capitalists is under attack, just observe how much time, effort, PR, and money the energy-generating industries are forced to expend to convince “consumers” NOT to buy more and more of their product.

Reply to  commieBob
April 30, 2020 9:50 am

PS: Most of the time “bad capitalism” is actually crony capitalism, which is just another name for socialism.

April 30, 2020 3:32 am

We can get electrical power from Earth orbit.
But we need to lower the cost of electrical power in space.
Factors which could lower electrical power in space.
Mining water on the Moon.
Mars settlements.

Mining water on the lunar poles of Moon, requires that there be mineable water at lunar poles- we need to explore the lunar poles to determine if and where there is mineable water.
As rough guide, lunar water must cost about $500 per kg when mining 1000 tons of water per year.
A company that get ramp up to mining 1000 tons of water, would be worth billions of dollars- because it’s a growth company, or in decades, one expect it the mine 100,000 tons of water per year, and lunar water price being lot less than $500 per kg.
And it mining lunar water, one is making oxygen, which you would convert to liquid oxygen which one component of rocket fuel. The other component can liquid hydrogen, or liquid methane. With liquid hydrogen you use 6 kg of LOX per 1 kg of LH2. Anyhow the LOX has to be about $1000 per kg and the liquid Hydrogen can be $4000 to $8000 per kg. But since you use mostly LOX, the price of LOX largely effect the cost of 1 kg of rocket fuel. Or on Earth, LOX is cheap, and therefore rocket fuel is cheap- if using LOX as the oxidizer.

Now, like the Moon, to have Mars settlements, one needs Mars exploration. And one important factor is finding cheap water. One mars settlement could need billions of tons of water, and when needed that much water, the price of mars water, should be about $1 per Kg. $1 per kg is very expensive water compared to price of water on Earth, but some pay that much for certain types of bottled water- but tap water is much cheaper.
Btw, whenever one mining lunar water at about 1 million tonnes per year on the Moon, lunar water will likewise be close to $1 per kg, and thought there could billions of tons of water which could mined on the Moon. And there are thought to be tens of trillion of tons of water which could extracted on Mars.

Whenever lunar water is about $1 per kg, electrical power in space, will be cheap. That could take many decades, but at that point one could make Space Power Satellite in Earth orbit. But it’s possible, that since electrical could be expensive on Mars, that one first makes SPS for Mars orbit. And Martians might pay $1 per kw hour, and Earthling could regard that as far too expensive. Or from the Moon, there not much different in shipping cost between Earth orbit, and Mars orbit.
And lunar poles are very good place to harvest solar energy. The moon is also good place to have nuclear powerplants {nuclear waste is non problem on Moon, nor even a nuclear meltdown, much of a problem}.

Reply to  gbaikie
April 30, 2020 7:06 am

Hopefully the mars colonists will find a way to make money. Until then our reason for going there is to get there ahead of our enemies.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  pochas94
April 30, 2020 9:20 am

I see Elon Musk thinks he is being ordered around by fascists (his local governor) and is complaining loudly.

Maybe Musk should move to Mars and then he can be in charge.

Reply to  pochas94
May 1, 2020 1:40 am

“Hopefully the mars colonists will find a way to make money. Until then our reason for going there is to get there ahead of our enemies.”

Well if you can find and extract cheap Mars water, you sell Mars real estate- the Mars real estate which has access to to cheap Mars water.
Or similar to buying a lot which has “city water” rather than land you needed to dig a well and pump it yourself.
And if you provide grid electrical power, and sewer services, that it even better.
But a think lake property on Mars, would be more attractive just piped water.
Or real estate is location, location, location, and living on or by a lake seems like a good location.
And bigger lake, is better than small pond.

Reply to  gbaikie
April 30, 2020 9:55 am

I’m pretty sure they have already discovered water on the moon.
They can also mine aluminum and use it to manufacture most of the structural components for the satellite on the moon. The solar panels can also be manufactured on the moon, or if micro-gravity becomes important for that, the silicates can be mined on the moon, launched into lunar orbit where solar energy can be used to convert them to solar cells.

Reply to  MarkW
May 1, 2020 1:09 am

“I’m pretty sure they have already discovered water on the moon.”
They discovered there could be more water in the lunar polar region back in 1998
And send the Lunar Prospector a year later which mapped the lunar poles which gave some
clue of where there might be water within top meter of surface. And send other orbiting spacecraft, and impacted the surface and measured the plume from the impact.
And it seems to me that it’s quite certain there is more water at lunar polar region as compared other regions of the Moon.
But it seems you need more specific information to determine if and where there is mineable lunar water.
If there is mineable lunar water, you might need area area about the size of football field.
And you would want to know if the mineable water is near or on the lunar surface or is it 1 meter below the surface. Let’s say there a spot with 20% of volume of lunar material being water ice and it was within 1 foot of surface. And seems pretty good. But a few miles away there was 30% of volume of lunar material being water ice, then could want mine to the 30%, than than then 20%.
So, if you were to mine lunar water, you want to have a fairly good idea of where there were better places to mine lunar water.
Now there other factors related to where one should mine lunar water, and they might be more important than the difference of 10% concentration of water.
But if say Bill Gate wanted to spend money mining lunar water, the first thing he could do, is explore the lunar surface and find a better place to mine lunar water.
But it’s unlikely any billionaire would do this, but if lunar surface was already explored, then maybe some billionaire would do this. And it seems most potential investors, would expect NASA to do this exploration, as it’s NASA job to do exploration of space. Or NASA being paid about 20 billion dollars per year to do this stuff. And apparently in 2024, NASA will do this. {hopefully}
If NASA merely goes to one spot and finds ” 20% of volume of lunar material being water ice”, then someone like Bill Gate might spend the money to do additional exploration with hope find something with “30% or more of volume of lunar material being water ice”, because at at least if fails, the fall back position is to mine the ” 20% of volume of lunar material being water ice” which NASA found, could be mineable {if there apparently wasn’t better place to mine lunar water cheaper}.

Gregory Woods
April 30, 2020 4:01 am

This fellow Bryce seems to be confused about what a ‘right’ is. Humans have many wants, including food and shelter. Individual rights should not be confused with human wants….

Alasdair Fairbairn
Reply to  Gregory Woods
April 30, 2020 5:51 am

I knew a bloke who reckoned that the only ‘human Right’ was six feet of earth.

Reply to  Gregory Woods
April 30, 2020 11:18 am

Thank you Gregory Woods. Calling something a right (but not a RIGHT right) may be useful for making one’s point, but it diminishes the conception of what a right actually is. It’s like calling people you don’t like, “Nazis,” or calling all sex, “rape.” The inflation of terms should be roundly discouraged.

Abolition Man
April 30, 2020 4:01 am

A fascinating twist of words that some might use to unscrupulously beat Gang Green over the head with! LOL! LOL! While I would never call them racist and xenophobic for depriving the Third World of cheap and abundant electricity; oh wait, yes, I would!
I can’t quite bring myself to call electricity a right. Allan MacRae’s observation is more apropos;
4. Cheap, abundant, reliable energy is the lifeblood of modern society! Brilliant!
Windlord-sun is entirely correct; capitalism will provide; as it always does. The Green Blob is merely the latest iteration of thirst for political power wrapping itself in a rather flimsy garment of caring for others; think Stacy Abrams in Frederick’s of Hollywood! Ouch! That really hurt! Sorry about that!
The 19th Century brought us Socialism, the 20th gave us Communism! Any REAL education system would have thrown these outdated and ineffective philosophies onto the garbage heap of history by now! That is why I consider them religious cults now; the adherents and true believers are immune from facts and reality due to their FAITH! That wasn’t REAL Communism; we’ll get it right THIS time!
As many have said; Socialism spends the wealth that Capitalism has created! Communism not only spends and wastes the wealth, it also ends the liberty that must be intrinsic in a free market system! We should be encouraging Third World nations to develope inexpensive and reliable electricity and energy in any way possible; coal and natural gas for power plants, petroleum or ethanol for transportation. Right now the racist roots of Europe are showing rather brightly through their Green dye job! Human freedom is at stake!

April 30, 2020 4:14 am

Did we learn nothing about lifting up people who would be our enemies? China????!!!!! We don’t want to make sure everyone has electricity. We need to be selective. If we empower certain nations, we will have to fight them later! Don’t be so thick.

Abolition Man
Reply to  jim2
April 30, 2020 4:47 am

We, hopefully, are learning that lesson now; it’s just a LOT more expensive than necessary! We should only help nations that advocate human liberty; Communism is just scientific slavery as Solzhenitsyn and others have shown.
Churchill’s original vision for the U.N. was that only Western-style democracies would be members; Roosevelt persuaded him to include his pal, Uncle Joe. Now we have an organization where many or most members are countries with limited rights for their citizens, especially women! Throw it out!
I would propose a two-tiered system for any replacement with the Security Council inner circle limited to nations with high literacy rates and freedom for all citizens! Trade with totalitarian systems should be limited and carefully watched to ensure their rulers are not the sole beneficiaries. We could be lifting whole nations out of poverty in Africa if we stopped wasting money on this Green nonsense and stopped throwing money at kleptocrats! Of course, we should probably start with our own Congress!

Reply to  Abolition Man
April 30, 2020 10:11 am

You have to be very cautious in how you define “freedom”.
Most of us define it as an absence of being controlled by others.
A lot of people on the left define freedom as absence of want.
For example, they would define free health care as freedom.
Remember Roosevelt’s 4 freedoms.

Freedom of speech
Freedom of worship
Freedom from want
Freedom from fear

Reply to  jim2
April 30, 2020 10:06 am

You talk as if we were talking about going over there and providing these things ourselves.
For most countries, all they need is for the Western do-gooders to just get out of the way.

Joel Heinrich
April 30, 2020 4:30 am

“Bryce then hits us with the horrific reality that roughly 3.3 billion people (45% of humanity!) still live today in places where annual per capita electricity consumption is less than 1,000 kilowatt-hours per year (kWh/yr) – about what his home refrigerator uses. These people barely survive in Unplugged countries.

Another 2.7 billion people (37%) scrape by in Low-Watt countries. Only 19% of all people on Planet Earth live in “High-Watt” nations (more than 4,000 kWh/yr) – the bottom threshold, says Dr. Alan Pasternak, the key dividing line below which countries cannot improve their Human Development Index.”

This is f*cking stupid. The average electricity consumption of a 2 person houshold in Germany is 2800 kWh per year. If you need 4000 kWh/yr then you are a moron.

Carl Friis-Hansen
Reply to  Joel Heinrich
April 30, 2020 5:07 am

Joel, 4000kWh is about an average of 500W and remember this average include many people who use electricity for heating and hot water. I am actually surprised the good Germans manage to do with only 2.8MWh per year. Last I looked in CIA Fact Book, we in the north used something like 1kW on average or 9MWh per year, but granted that was 10 years ago where electricity was less expensive.

Coach Springer
Reply to  Joel Heinrich
April 30, 2020 6:04 am

Tempting, but … How about no? It won’t be the lever you think it is, for starters. For seconds, what about my right to natural gas and gasoline? For thirds, what about my rights to all goods and services? For fourths, who’s going to be the guarantor? Joe Biden, Michael Mann and Kofi Annan? Hell no.

Reply to  Joel Heinrich
April 30, 2020 10:13 am

Ah yes, another socialist who believes that everyone in the world should be forced to live as German’s are forced live.
German’s have much smaller homes and live far enough that few need air conditioning.
Beyond that, the 4000/yr number includes electricity used by offices, factories, stores, etc. It isn’t just what you use at home.
So the moron here is Joel, not those who don’t live as he wants us to.

April 30, 2020 4:35 am

I pay little attention to any “energy expert” who fails to acknowledge the obvious : that molten salt small modular nuclear reactors are the future of energy. We could have prototype up and running in a year if the nuclear regulatory folks proceeded with any speed. The very physics of a molten salt reactor
eliminates a large portion of the safety analysis these regulators spend most of their time considering.

Jeff Id
April 30, 2020 6:29 am

Sounds like another expert who cares nothing about capitalism. Best thing we could do is get out of the way.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
April 30, 2020 6:51 am

I dislike the pollution of the word “right”. In it’s original meaning a “right” is something that is inherently yours, was never granted by government authority and which government authority cannot take away or infringe. An example is the right to speak freely without risk of arrest or prosecution. You can say whatever you like, but nobody is required to listen or provide you a platform. Many people lack this right today.

Modern usage has morphed so that a “right” is something that a government guarantees to you, without any merit or effort on your part. The progressive push is to bundle more and more goodies under the label of “basic human right”. The problem is these kinds of “rights” generate a corresponding “duty” on someone else’s part to provide them to you. Would so many people be in favor of “free universal health care” if it was instead labeled “compulsory uncompensated work for doctors and nurses?”.

So calling electricity a “right” pushes us down a path of wrong thinking.

Electricity is an enabler of higher civilization. It’s not that we have a “right” to it, but we should want it for the benefits it provides and set aside resources to make it available and reliable.

Other technological enablers:

+ Written language.

+ Numeracy (mathematical literacy).

+ Transportation. Every civilization of note has invested in roads, bridges, canals, ships, etc. In the ancient world the Romans are the best example, reaching a level not matched for over 1,000 years. The modern world has added rail and air travel to the mix, each requiring specialized infrastructure.

+ Communication. Prior to telegraphy communication and transportation used the same infrastructure, since either a person or a written artifact had to physically get from one communicant to the other (watchfires, smoke signals and heliographs being limited exceptions). Even with telegraphs, the wiring was strung along existing road/rail lines. Broadcast medium and later satellites got away from that strict dependence and communication required its own specialized infrastructure.

+ Water/sewer. Urban civilization is impossible without moving in potable water and taking out waste.

People should understand how each of these enablers is essential to maintaining modern industrial civilization and be willing to devote the resources required to provide them. And modern industrial civilization in turn enables us to generate the surplus wealth to pay for these essentials without having to sacrifice others.

There is a path out of national poverty and electricity is most certainly part of it, but it is not the first or most important step. Having a government and social structure that supports private property, commercial contracts and access to markets for goods and services is much more fundamental. So are a common language and available if not widespread literacy and numeracy.

The 3.5 billion people currently lacking even minimal electricity also have the “basic human right” to not be ruled by autocratic and incompetent kleptrocracies, but building terawatts of new power won’t fix that. And providing electric infrastructure to societies which can’t support or won’t allow the level of economic activity necessary to pay for its maintenance only guarantees it will fall into disrepair and collapse.

I know electricity is essential to the kind of life I wish to continue to live. But let’s not promote it as a sufficient solution to problems which require much more fundamental remedies. And trying to oppose renewable energy mandates because they will stop the world’s poorest from getting electricity is a weak argument at best. It’s part of the rhetorical contortions we go through in the belief that whatever we oppose must be called “racist” to get anyone’s attention.

We should oppose renewable energy mandates because they are unnecessary, wasteful and impractical. And the resources thus wasted will delay or deny us achieving some new technological enabler which in turn will advance industrial civilization. Our generation should bequeath to the next more capabilities and options than we were given. It’s for the children.

Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
April 30, 2020 10:20 am

I know you weren’t intending to make an exhaustive list, but how can anyone leave out signal flags, semaphores and signal lights which were and to a limited extent still used by war ships.
There are also various finger gestures.

David Joyce
Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
April 30, 2020 1:18 pm

Well said! It needs also to be resisted when the UN charter is put on the same footing as the Declaration of Independence.

UN Universal Delcaration of Human Rights, Article 25 includes:
“(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

The UN Charter Declaration of Human Rights is not some simple document that we should all agree to.

April 30, 2020 8:53 am

To paraphrase Mnuchin, “First study economics, then lecture us on universal rights.”

Jeff Id
Reply to  pochas94
May 1, 2020 6:29 am


April 30, 2020 10:03 am

Perhaps this ‘right’ should be better phrased in that we all gave the right to pursue affordable electricity, like the USA Constitution allows the right to purse “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. None of these are guaranteed to magically appear…you have to pursue it. It should be priced affordably, which is part of the total debate about a lot of renewables, as the worst of these (solar and wind) tend to be increasing the price past affordability for many.

If it were some inalienable right like the freedom to breath, then the homeless would all get electric blankets and plug into my outdoor block heater outlet. Actually if I were homeless, an electric blanket and perhaps an electric vest, socks and gloves would be my prized possessions, just to make that cardboard mattress a little more comfortable. And a 50 foot extension cord.

April 30, 2020 11:35 am

If electricity is a necessity for life, are the Amish zombies?

David Joyce
April 30, 2020 1:10 pm

Tired of this ****** meme where everything is now a “right” . It’s time to end it, not join it. The only inalienable rights we have can be exercised without anyone else’s labor. If you say we have a ‘right’ to clothing, housing, food, medicine, TV, or whatever, then you are saying that we have a ‘right’ to someone else’s labor. There is a name for someone whose labor you have the ‘right’ to – a slave. The fact that we have muddled this relationship through the great money laundering of government coercion doesn’t change this fact. Government guaranteed rights are enforced by the threat of deadly force. If that includes your labor for someone else’s ‘right’ then you are, at least a little bit, a slave.

Reply to  David Joyce
April 30, 2020 3:30 pm

David is correct.

The implication of Liberty is that you have the Right to enjoy the fruit of your own labour. Forced labour without reward is at least partial slavery.

RS Weir
April 30, 2020 5:07 pm

True rights cost others nothing; anything with a cost imposed on others is not a right, it is, however, theft.

May 2, 2020 5:16 am

Nobody has a right to a commodity produced by other people.

May 2, 2020 7:35 am
May 5, 2020 3:55 pm

It is not a right; however, neither is food, housing, and a guaranteed paycheck.

You can stop by a water source, lake, etc. and pretty much get the water you need, but that is different. You have to treat it like you just came out of the forest with nothing on your possession. That is how to treat a right.

If his argument is that we should have access to power not denied, like water, that would be different in a way. Not that you deserve the power and get it for free, but you do have access to water.

Arizona and California almost went in an interstate war on the Colorado River as California was vacuuming the water from the river for its agricultural industry. It was one of the longest SCOTUS cases between AZ and CA, some 11 years. It guarantees that States have rights to water sources (most of AZ is in the Colorado river network).

Access should only mean where it is available. Not a guaranteed right.

I like Bryce. I may not agree with everything he says, but he is a very savvy dude.

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