. . . and equal men are not free.

Our local Christian radio station has started playing Christmas music – all the time.  They started before Halloween.  Good for them.  I will listen once the season and the songs match a bit better.

So instead I was listening to NPR yesterday, and caught the end of the Diane Rehm show.  The topic of discussion was China and energy.  In the final, “give us a take-away” segment, one guest mentioned that the US uses four times the energy, per capita, compared to China, and that’s why we need cap-and-trade.

Well, the guy was wrong.  According to this chart, for the year 2003, it was almost seven times greater.

The other thing he was wrong about is that we need cap-and-trade.  That’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.  “Cap” means there’s a limit to how much greenhouse gasses we can put out.  “Trade” means we have to buy carbon credits from other countries – call it a penalty for the US being rich.  And this is all necessary to stop global warming – which is actually influenced much more by sunspots and water vapor than by carbon dioxide in the air.

Before leaving this point, I want to show small thinking vs. big thinking.  Cap-and-trade is small thinking.  It forces us all to be equal and turn over our decisions – our lives – to the government.  Right now, the orange part of this graph shows what is for the benefit of the energy consumers (you and me).  Watch what happens under cap-and-trade:

What happened to the poor consumer?  Don’t worry, he is being managed carefully, so that everybody in the world is equal:

But should we all be equal?  Some people think so.  I was looking at the new TwitterPeek device, which is a dedicated Twitter phone (except it’s not a phone). It’s not for me, because (1) I dont use Twitter, and (2) I don’t want another dedicated device hanging off my belt.  One reviewer castigated this from an environmental standpoint.  A commenter wrote that this was perfect for him – he could avoid purchasing a new cell phone.  Somebody went off on him, calling him out:

You really really do have to worry about what this world is coming to when the hedgehogs and polar bears are dying just for junk like this.

Deep breath, now, boys.  One silly twitter device isn’t going to kill a hedgehog.  And a million of them won’t kill a polar bear.

Does the US use a lot of energy?  Yes, we do.  This chart measures how much electricity each of us uses vs. how much we produce (on average):

In a perfect world, we would be able to produce incredible amounts of stuff for zero energy (lines would go straight up).  Japan is closer to that than we are.  In a horrible world, we’d expend tons of energy and produce almost nothing (flat line).  That’s close to where Russia is.  I think it has to do with spending energy to keep warm in the cold climate, seriously.  China is down in the cluster in the lower left – doesn’t produce much, doesn’t spend much energy to do it.  You can see the general line of these data points, though: as GDP goes up, energy consumption goes up.

Another way to look at this is energy efficiency.  It’s the GDP (per capita) compared to the energy used to create those products (again, per capita).  This chart tends to look like a ski slope, with a few outliers.

The US is highly productive, and burns a lot of energy to get there.  Bangladesh is very efficient, but doesn’t produce much (again, I think part of the efficiency is not heating or cooling their homes and businesses).  Hong Kong has some good stuff going on – very productive, and pretty efficient.

And I like living in a country that has the ability, vision, and resources to build big stuff and do great things.  I’m not talking about the Mall of America, or a big bulldozer, or a big duck, or the world’s biggest loaf of bread.  I’m talking about going to space on a beam of light.  This week, people walked away with money for making a machine to harness energy from a laser and climb a rope to a helicopter.  It gets cooler once you don’t need a helicopter – you have created a space elevator.

It gets even cooler once you realize you don’t need a laser on the ground, and that the elevator is optional.  Look at how much energy is available from the sun:

All we have to do is launch some solar panels up there, build some collectors down here ground-side, and we have energy independence.  No need for oil (except as lubrication), no need for greenhouse gas concerns, no need for cap-and-trade.

Free men are not equal.  Equal men are not free.