Thursday, April 16, 2009

200 billion slaves

A human needs around 2500 kcal per day (2.9 kWh, most of it, around 80 percent is used just to stay, alive, think, sleep etc, so around 600 Wh are used for work as a power output. But let’s say that a person who is really doing physical work – which this is about anyway – generates some 800 Wh per day. On a yearly basis a person consumes some 1.16 MWh in the form of food.

Let us contrast this against how much other energy we have put to use in this modern world. The Swede use 5.65 toe (toe is ton oil equivalents, i.e. the energy in one metric tonne of oil), the American 7.71, the Britton 3.8 and the Senegalese use 0.20. Let’s look at the Swede: 5.65 toe corresponds to 65.7 MWh which means that we use ”external energy” corresponding to the energy of 57 human beings. But that is brut. If we look at hour conversion rate we said that we use only 20 percent of the food energy for actual work, so then we would use more than 250 peoples’ power. On the other hand, the external energy also has a lot of conversion losses. If we assume them to be 40 percent (this is now a bit of ”back of the envelope calculation) we are down to 100 energy slaves as I would call them. If we look at the global average energy use it is about one third of the Swede’s which means that there are about 200 billion energy slaves working for us all year round. It is not surprising that we can produce a lot more things than our savage ancestors. And it is not surprising that we also can make much greater mess than they could by using those forces in the wrong way!

Another way to look at the same condition, but adding an economic perspective is that one barrel of oil corresponds to 25 000 man-hours of work (around 12 man-years). The cost to actually produce this barrel is some few dollars per barrel. One can see that even with a price of 200 dollars per barrel that is a very cheap price to get 12 man-years of work done. Of course the barrel of oil is not as intelligent as the 12 humans and its use is thus a bit more limited…

Monday, April 13, 2009

Warning messages on consumer goods.

Positive labeling, such as organic labeling and eco-labeling have had a good impact. It also has a certain appeal within the capitalism paradigm. It is about giving the consumer accurate information. So far so good. However, we also know that the impact of these kinds of labeling schemes is limited. In addition, they have the perverse mechanism that those that are doing a good thing, such as organic farmers, are penalized with costs and scrutiny for an labeling, inspection and certification system. Those costs are passed on to the consumers who then are also penalized for making a benign choice. For those who see these schemes solely as marketing gimmicks this is perhaps considered as being fair. But if you see them as delivering public goods it is hard to defend – and this is also the reason that some governments take on the costs.

However, negative labeling could also fulfill the same role, or even more forceful role. We have seen the labeling on tobacco with unsympathetic warning messages – in some countries such as Thailand also with very repulsive pictures. In Sweden there is also warning messages on alcohol advertisements – but not on the product. This kind of negative labeling should be considerably expanded in my opinion. The first step would be to have a competition on what kind of messages there should be for selected damaging products.

-1.2 million people die per year in car accidents, many more are maimed for life.
-Cars emit 200 dangerous chemical compounds to nature every time you drive it.
-The car infrastructure (roads, garages etc.) destroys ??? m2 of land per car sold. In total cars have occupied an area corresponding to two France.
-regardless of which fuel you use for this device it will always take away resources that could be better used by poor people.
-Driving a car make you lazy and fat.

A conventional chicken:
- This chicken is fed with antibiotics and the consumption of chicken may increase risks for antibiotic resistance in bacteria
- This chicken is fed with hormones, which may cause reproductive disturbance, development of breasts in males, increased deformities in infants
- These chicken have never seen the light of day and have not been given the possibility to exercise their natural behaviors

A CD player
- this item is not likely to make you a happier person.
- this CD player contains 162 different dangerous chemicals. Most of them will end up in nature, some of them in your body when this item is used and disposed of.
-use this device only in aerated room for the first five months to ensure that most of the flame retardants and other substances emitted from by this item will not cause you damage.

Personally I find that this kind of labeling is a lot more interesting than labeling of origin, or carbon labeling or other labeling ideas that flourish.