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Energy consumption vs quality-of-life
Transcript of Energy consumption vs quality-of-life
"Only about one-quarter of more than 4 billion people on this planet live in countries where the average food consumption is well above physiological needs, where infant mortality is relatively low (typically below 25 per 1000 live births), life expectancy is high (around 70 years), and literacy approaches 100%" (Alam, 1991).
HDI: Advancing Human Wellbeing?
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Vol XCIII, No. 311
Oil and coal lead the world
Global Energy Consumption on the Rise
Impact of Innovations on Mankind
Are Humans Making Things Better or Worse?
Energy is required by all life forms to survive and reproduce. Not only do humans require food energy, but mankind also requires huge amounts of external energy, through sources like oil and electricity: "Modern humans invest their own energy plus an enormously larger quantity of fossil fuel to produce food, to generate leisure and to do the plethora of activities and attributes we associate with modern society" (Lambert et al., 2014).
In the early days of humans, most energy was supplied through food and biomass (like firewood). People did work by hand or used animals and used biomass to heat homes and for cooking purposes. Over the years, some new innovations allowed for new methods of harvesting energy including windmills and watermills. It was the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries that brought the major change to the focus on fossil fuels. The 20th century brought natural gas and nuclear fission (Rodrigue, 2016).
According to a recent Electric Power Monthly report from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA, 2016), the top energy sources in the United States are coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydropower, and other renewable resources - especially wind (EIA, 2016). Europe relies much less on fossil fuels with their top energy resources being nuclear, renewable energy sources (mostly hydroelectric and wind), coal, and natural gas (Eurostat, 2016). An International Energy Agency study (IEA, 2015) reported that the primary sources of world energy (
) is supplied by oil, coal, natural gas, biofuels, and nuclear (IEA, 2015).
In 2013 the IEA estimated that the total global energy consumption was 9,301 Mtoe (
). This is equivalent to 3.89 x 1020 joules or 12.3 terawatts (IEA, 2013).
According to Pasten & Santamarina (2012), "15% of the world's population consumes more than 5 kW/person and accounts for 49% of the world's total energy consumption...In contrast, 6% of the world's population lives under very precarious conditions and without basic services, consuming less than 100 W/person" (p. 471).
The Human Development Index (HDI) is a tool to assess develop of a country by looking not only at the economic growth, but also at the people. The measure focuses on three key dimensions of human development and quality of life: a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living (
). HDI is often used in comparison with GDP (gross domestic product) and GNI (gross national income) (United Nations Development Programme, 2015).
The world map (
) illustrates the global distribution of the four levels of HDI: Very High, High, Medium, and Low Human Development. Much of North America, Europe, and Australia fall into the Very High Human Development range. Most of South America and Asia even have High Human Development. The Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia are where the lower levels of development are concentrated. (United Nations Development Programme, 2015)
Thought of the Day:
Can electricity foster education?
Is there a point of diminishing returns?
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Energy consumption and human development index (HDI) have a well-established positive correlation; however, is there a point where there is a diminished return on quality of life improvement? As in all systems, there is some point at which increases one variable begin to have a reduce effect on increases on the second correlational variable.
. World total energy supply from 1971 to 2013 by fuel (IEA, 2013).
. World total energy consumption from 1971 to 2013 by fuel (IEA, 2013).
. Map depicting world-wide levels of human development (United Nations Development Programme, 2015).
. Factors that contribute to determining HDI (United Nations Development Programme, 2015).
Commonly applied intuition based observations can lead to inaccurate conclusions about a phenomenon’s cause. Often times, two observed occurrences which share a correlational relationship may be acted upon by another variable which shares commonality (Goldin, 2015).
Does Correlation Imply Causation?
Al-mulali, U. (2016). Exploring the bi-directional long run relationship between consumption and life quality.
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews,
54, 824-837. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032115012046
Alam, M. S., Bala, B. K., Huo, A. M. Z., & Matin, M. A. (1991). A model for the
quality of life as a function of electrical energy consumption - quality of life - global issues - index - issues - GENI - global energy network institute. Retrieved September 15, 2016, from Global Energy Networking Institute, http://www.geni.org/globalenergy/issues/global/qualityoflife/QualityOfLifeVsEnergyConsumption.shtm
"Causes of child mortality." Global Health Observatory section, World Health Organization. Retrieved from
DeLong, J. P., Burger, O., & Hamilton, M. J. (2010). Current demographics suggest future energy supplies
will be inadequate to slow human population growth.
Eurostat. (2016). Energy Production and Imports. Retrieved from
Godin, R. (2015). Causation vs Correlation. Stats.org: Sense About Statistics. Retrieved from
International Energy Agency. (2015). Key World Energy Statistics. Retrieved from
Lambert, J. G., Hall, C. A. S., Balogh, S., Gupta, A., & Arnold, M. (2014). Energy,
EROI, and quality of life. Energy Policy, 64, 153-167.
Pasten, C. & Santamarina, J.C. (2012). Energy and quality of life. Energy Policy, 49. Retrieved from
Pielke, R. (2009). Graph of the day: Life expectancy vs. Energy use. Retrieved
September 15, 2016, from Roger Pielke Jr.’s Blog, http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2013/02/graph-of-day-life-expectancy-vs-energy.html
Rehfuess, E. (2006). World Health Organization. Retrieved September 15, 2016,
from World Health Organization, http://www.who.int/indoorair/publications/fuelforlife.pdf
Rodrigue, J. (2016). Evolution of Energy Sources. The Geography of
Transport Systems. Retrieved from https://people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/eng/ch8en/conc8en/evolenergy.html
Rosling, Hans. (2010). The magic washing machine [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/
Samil, Vaclav. (2000). Energy in the twentieth century: resources, conversions, costs, uses, and
consequences. Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, 25, 21-51. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.energy.25.1.21
Teller, A. (2009). Corelation is not causation. ENS News. Retrieved from https://www.euronuclear.org/e-
The World Bank. World Development Indicators 2016. Retrieved from http://
United Nations Development Programme. (2015). Human development reports. Retrieved from
U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2016). Electric Power Monthly. Retrieved from
Is there a connection?
Quality of Life Measures vs Energy Use
In a 2014 study, Lambert et al. introduce a newly developed method, the Lambert Energy Index (LEI) in "an attempt to account for quality, quantity and distribution of energy delivered to a society more fully (2014). The index considers energy efficiency, average energy use, and income distribution. Country development involves way more than economics and this index is an attempt to quantify that.
HDI and LEI have a very strong correlation based on the R2 value of 0.8447 in
. This supports the hypothesis that quality of life measures are correlated with energy use as well as energy availability and GDP. Countries that have more energy available have higher human development. Similar trends can be seen in comparisons of LEI vs % of children underweight, health expenditure, gender inequality, and improved rural water source (Lambert et al., 2014).
Eight countries out of 188 included in the 2015 HDI rankings were selected for closer investigation. Norway topped the list with the highest HDI value. Niger came in at 188 with the lowest score.
Using data from The World Bank (2016), energy use per year can be compared. Norway and the United States, the two countries with the highest HDI values, consume an enormous amount of energy compared to all of the other countries. These highly developed nations use about 3.5 times as much energy as the next lower level of development and almost 7 times as much as the bottom two levels (The World Bank, 2016). Life in countries like Niger and Mozambique is quite different from life in highly developed countries. People in these countries often lack education, good health care, and many of the luxuries of the developed world. China has been undergoing development in the past 40 years and this is shown in the increase in energy usage.
The paragraphs below take a closer look at two measures of quality of life: child mortality and life expectancy. Vamil (2000) suggests that these two measures are "perhaps the two best indicators of the physical quality of life" (Vamil, 2000).
. Comparison of HDI with LEI values (Lambert et al., 2014).
. Comparison of life expectancy with energy consumption rate per capita (Pasten & Santamarina, 2012).
. Comparison of infant mortality with energy consumption rate per capita (Pasten & Santamarina, 2012).
. Comparison of energy use over time (The World Bank, 2016).
Roger Pielke Jr. posted the graph to the left in 2013 on his blog. He simply explained the graph and discussed that while energy poverty is not the only reason Life Expectancy is low, it is in fact, a serious dilemma. If you look at the graph you will notice that as energy consumption per person increases, so does life expectancy. It shows that people in parts of the world who do not have readily available energy directly in their hands daily have a shorter life expectancy.
This is clearly a problem for those countries that energy is not harnessed and available for them because they simply can't afford it. While the U.S. and many other countries move on in the energy world, many countries are trying to play catch up to no prevail. That fact alone is keeping poverty countries from making true strides.
DeLong, Burger, & Hamilton (2010) argue that energy use increases life expectancy: "energy is used to develop medical knowledge and technology and produce and distribute medical services, as well as support increased quantity and diversity of food that improves the nutritional state of people" (DeLong, Burger, & Hamilton, 2010). Healthy people live longer lives. People who have money, access to healthcare, enough food and clean water, and have access to education have a greater chance of being healthy. Energy increases GDP which helps increase all of these things.
The child mortality rate is elevated in countries with low energy availability. Many of the countries must rely on what we would call the "old" ways of obtaining energy. One example would be the use of stoves to cook on. Because these countries lack modern convenience they are force to build a fire and cook inside. The ash and debris from the smoke made by cooking build up inside the house. The ultimately causes small children, and adults, to breath in contaminated air. Because the children's bodies are not strong enough to handle the invasion, they typically develop lung infections and most of the time they end up dying. This is just one of the examples that shows the impact energy poverty has on our children.
The graph to the right that was taken from Pasten and Santamarina 2012, shows what happens to child mortality rates as the consumption rates per capita increase. It shows that child mortality actually decreases when energy is more readily available per person.
The Global Health Observatory (GHO) recently reported that the leading causes of child mortality (under 5) in 2015 were preterm birth complications, pneumonia, intrapartum-related complications, diarrhea, and congenital abnormalities (GHO, 2015). Highly developed countries have good healthcare with access to pre- and postnatal care, vaccines, and medication. These places also tend to have educated doctors with facilities and technology to serve the population. People have transportation options to get to the doctor or pharmacy.
1. Steam engine -
brought new growth, but it also launched industrial revolution which increased consumption of energy and has impacted our climate through air pollution and use of natural resources.
- the use of electrical lines connecting people around the world was a innovation that used the energy we had to better communicate. But, this was just the beginning in using energy to connect. This would increase the quality of life because the time taken to communicate would essentially be cut in half. Better communication means more development of energy breakthrough.
3. Electric Light Bulb
- by adding the electric light bulb energy use would have sky rocketed. This extended the work day and made it possible for people to stay up past day light hours with in their home. This would ultimately affect the quality of life because people would be getting paid more for working more and they would also be able to expand the work of being done in energy field and therefore making quality of life better.
- the transistor ultimately changed the way electricity was used. With out it we would never have advanced to computers, laptops, smart phones, etc. Once again there is a major invention that changes how much energy is being used. The transistor gave the ability to turn on and off the use of electricity but it opened the door for more innovations that would ultimately use more energy in the end.
- Once computers came around the internet was not far behind. The internet allowed everyone to be able to connect almost instantly with other people and resources. Everyone who had one was on the internet and therefore using energy. This would ultimately increase the quality of life because of the access people had to resources that could help them. It would also help people to communicate more efficiently which would help in the development of even more innovations.
In this scenario it is rated in terms of kilowatt hours consumed and rated HDI (Teller, 2009). Countries with energy consumption rates above 4,000 kilowatt hours general have above a .9 HDI. As consumption goes beyond 4k kilowatts, there is a diminished improvement in rated quality of life, as demonstrated in the accompanying data (Alam, Bala, Huo, & Matin, 1991). Furthermore, as energy demands increase in developing countries, environmental damage will begin to hamper additional improvements (Al-mulali, 2016).
Vamil (2000) argues that annual consumption of at least 70 GJ/capita appears to be the tipping point for a country to have a high quality of life. Additional energy use is "spent overwhelminly on more ostenacious consumption and more frequent pursuit of high-energy, and often environmentally destructive, pastimes ranging from transcontinental flights to desert casinos to snowmobile runs through national parks. Moreover, abundant food supply and widespread ownership of exertion-saving machines contributed to a veritable epidemic of obesity (Vamil, 2000). More energy does not necessarily mean a higher quality of life.
Can energy use effect quality of life?
Andrew Teller (2009), asserts that there is likely a misinterpretation of the correlation between energy consumption and quality of life. It may be that energy consumption is only an indicator of a greater trend which supports a better quality of life; such as better job opportunities, which in turn drives consumerism of goods utilizing electricity (Teller, 2009).
Edited by Mark Skinner, Mary-Kate Ward, & Ashley Wilson