Reality Blind - Vol. 1

60-year period was only 1.4% per annum - if this continued this would mean for one unit of increase in the size of our economy, our energy use would rise by 0.986 units. What we see here is a ‘ relative decoupling’ between money and energy use (using 1.4%x less units of energy for the same GDP) but still extremely tight ` coupling (~98.6%). But the link is even stronger than that. The USA has increasingly become a service economy – a lot of our products are now made in other countries. In a very real way, the ‘heavy lifting’ of much of our products requires chemical potential energy to be burned – not where we live – but in other countries around the world, like China and Bangladesh. The oft-cited accounting showing reductions in energy intensity in countries, such as the UK and USA, neglect that these economies exported their energy -and carbon-intensive manufacturing to cheap lab or regions. China’s industrial sector alone uses almost as much energy as the entire US economy (National Bureau of Statistics, 2018), as the USA now imports what it used to produce. 120

Thus, to see how linked human GDP is to human energy use we must look at the whole world.

On a global level, up until 1970 or so, the relationship between GDP and energy use was 1:1. From the mid-1970s to 2000, we replaced oil burning electricity plants with natural gas and coal and many other similar switches that allowed us to convert energy to GDP slightly more efficiently – during


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