As Adam Smith pointed out, slavery simply isn't economic

The point here is one made by Deepak Lal. We can think of varied forms of economic growth, perhaps Malthusian say. Where, over time, there is no rise in the general living standard, just a rise in the number of people doing the living. Smithian growth, where the division and specialisation of labour create that growth through greater efficiency. And then Lal talks about Promethian growth, where we substitute other energy sources for human and animal muscle.

Which leads us to this:

Based on the amount of energy expended per average American for residential electricity, heating, cooking, and transportation, and for industry and commercial purposes, how many full-time “energy equivalent human servants/workers” would the average American’s energy use represent?

An interesting question. The answer?

Now putting the two parts of the analysis together, we can calculate that a typical American has the energy equivalent of “138.7 human energy servants (or domestic energy workers)” laboring for them 24 hours every day, during each of the 365 days of the year (10,350 constant watts of annual energy per American / 74.6 watts of energy per human). Over a full year, that would be the equivalent of 1,215,362 hours of work (24 hours per day X 365 days X 138.7 workers), which if divided by the annual number of hours for a single full-time worker working 40 hours per week for 52 weeks per year (2,080), would be 584.3 individual full-time workers. In that case, each American today has the energy equivalent of nearly 600 “human energy servants” providing around-the-clock energy services.

Which is an interesting number given how many people currently say we’ve just got to have society using less energy. The services of which of these 600 are we to lose? Or, even, which of us will have to become, physically, part of those 600 if we reduce that Promethian use of energy?