Industrial Insight

Carbon and prosperity… | January 28, 2013

January 28, 2013 4:00 A.M.

Carbon Use and GDP
Why are progressives so eager to suppress the things most necessary for economic growth?

By Robert Zubrin

The story that Figure 1 tells is remarkable; it is, perhaps, one of the grandest stories ever told. It shows how, over the past two centuries, by using carbon in ever-increasing amounts, the human race has lifted itself out of hopeless poverty and misery to achieve a modicum of dignity and happiness. Look at that line reaching up, in direct proportion to global carbon use, from an average global income of $180 per person in 1800 to $2,200 in 1960 to $9,000 today; that is progress.

Of course, we still have a ways to go. The current $9,000 average world income is just a fifth of the $45,000 U.S. average, yet we still have some poverty here. Still, the achievement is incredible. In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt campaigned for president on the promise of “a chicken in every pot,” and millions found the offer compelling. Today, in the United States, minimum wage is $7 per hour, and chicken sells for less than $2 per pound; so, a person working at minimum wage can buy a pound of chicken with about 17 minutes’ labor. This is freedom from want, indeed, delivered not by the New Deal, but by the terrific expansion of our use of carbon.


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About author

I'm the executive vice president for a steel casting trade association, the Steel Founders' Society of America. I've got a crazy wife, five crazy children, three crazy people that married into the family, and two crazy fun little grandsons.







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