But today we no longer need to do this work, for most of the wealth we experience comes from fossil sunlight in the form of coal, oil, and natural gas that does the work for us. Fossil sunlight is so powerful that compared to the 600 watt hours of “work” an averag e human can do in a day, one barrel of oil has the energy potential to do 700,000 watt hours of work, or about equal to a person working for 40 hours per week for over four and a half years! And each American uses about 60 barrels of oil equivalent per year. 113 That’s a lot of invisible energy slaves.
Compact, transportable, not needing sleep or medical care, and with no feelings, our army of fossil workers has an additional huge advantage over human labor: it’s extremely low cost. The average American empl oyee (including CEOs) makes $260 doing eight hours of work per day. Since the USA is a rich nation, this is almost five times higher than the world average earnings of $57 per day. At $20, a barrel of oil can do the equivalent work of over 25,000 humans for one day! Even if oil were $75/barrel, one could buy the work equivalent of over 7,000 human laborers 114 . If a human does 600-watt hours of work per day and 60% of the 7.7 billion of us are working, this totals about 2.8 GigaWatt hours of work per day – merely 0.5% of total global primary energy consumption. Most of the labor done in the global economy is not done by humans at all but by fossil coal, oil, and natural gas, and it’s done thousands of times cheaper. At 4.5 years per barrel and 105 billion barrels per year of coal oil and natural gas, human economies are currently supported by a fossil army equivalent of 500,000,000,000 human workers (or about 100 times the amount done by human workers).
TaaL: It may well seem fanciful to you to consider the “fossil energy” your societies use as “fossil slaves,” but it’s a quite good analogy: they essentially
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