Power to the People

Power to the People: Energy in Europe over the Last Five Centuries

Astrid Kander
Paolo Malanima
Paul Warde
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 504
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt4cgb93
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  • Book Info
    Power to the People
    Book Description:

    Power to the Peopleexamines the varied but interconnected relationships between energy consumption and economic development in Europe over the last five centuries. It describes how the traditional energy economy of medieval and early modern Europe was marked by stable or falling per capita energy consumption, and how the First Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century--fueled by coal and steam engines--redrew the economic, social, and geopolitical map of Europe and the world. The Second Industrial Revolution continued this energy expansion and social transformation through the use of oil and electricity, but after 1970 Europe entered a new stage in which energy consumption has stabilized. This book challenges the view that the outsourcing of heavy industry overseas is the cause, arguing that a Third Industrial Revolution driven by new information and communication technologies has played a major stabilizing role.

    Power to the Peopleoffers new perspectives on the challenges posed today by climate change and peak oil, demonstrating that although the path of modern economic development has vastly increased our energy use, it has not been a story of ever-rising and continuous consumption. The book sheds light on the often lengthy and complex changes needed for new energy systems to emerge, the role of energy resources in economic growth, and the importance of energy efficiency in promoting growth and reducing future energy demand.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4888-1
    Subjects: Economics, Business, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Astrid Kander, Paolo Malanima and Paul Warde
  4. CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-16)

    This book is an economic history of Europe viewed through the role that energy has played in that history. As such, it also aims to provide an account of the role energy can play in economic history more generally, and how energy consumption and economic development have been, are, and may be, entwined.

    All things need energy, and all actions are transformations of energy. Every step, small or large, that a human takes, is part of an energy economy, and every object we treasure, use, or discard is similarly the product of that economy. We have always been “children of...

  5. CHAPTER TWO DEFINITIONS AND CONCEPTS
    (pp. 17-34)

    This chapter will define some important concepts that we use in this book as we deal with energy in the economic context.

    In daily life we have direct contact with matter, but not with energy. Matter can be touched, its form described, and it is found underfoot and all around us. With energy, things are different. We only perceive the indirect effects that derive from changes either in thestructure, that is, the molecular or atomic composition of matter, or in itslocationin space, such as in the case of a stream of water or wind, whose potential energy...

  6. PART I Pre-Industrial Economies
    • CHAPTER THREE TRADITIONAL SOURCES
      (pp. 37-80)

      Over the last two centuries energy has been plentiful, its price relatively low, and the influence of its consumption on the environment profound. In agrarian economies of the past, in contrast, energy was scarce, expensive, and its productivity low; environmental, and particularly climatic, changes heavily influenced its availability. Almost all of the energy exploited by humans was directly obtained from products of the soil, the main converters of solar radiation.

      The energy system of these agrarian societies developed between 5000 and 3000 BC, the epoch that also saw the birth of the major agrarian civilizations, and that energy system remained...

    • CHAPTER FOUR CONSTRAINTS AND DYNAMICS
      (pp. 81-128)

      Our view of the early modern European economy is more pessimistic than that proposed by many historians. We think that, while in aggregate terms agricultural output was growing in the continent from the late Middle Ages, in per capita terms the reverse was true. Since energy consumption almost coincided with agricultural output, energy per capita declined as well.

      The start of the energy transition in Britain from the second half of the sixteenth century was a reaction to this constraint in a period when population pressure on resources, as well as prices, were rising. This reaction or “escape from the...

  7. PART II The First Industrial Revolution
    • CHAPTER FIVE A MODERN ENERGY REGIME
      (pp. 131-158)

      By the early nineteenth century, Europe had become a far more populous continent than three centuries previously, at the beginning of the early modern period. A mixture of opportunism, an “improving” ethic, and response to price pressures had led to efforts at saving land and labor, so that the soil supported that much larger population and the maritime powers of Europe had acquired vast and growing empires overseas. There were increasingly widespread efforts to develop engineering, convert scientific knowledge into innovation, and we can see the rapid growth in some parts of the textile industry using mechanization powered by water....

    • CHAPTER SIX THE COAL DEVELOPMENT BLOCK
      (pp. 159-208)

      From an energy point of view, the key aspects of the first industrial revolution were coal, steam, and iron.¹ No doubt individually many of the numerous technological improvements of the age, such as mechanization in the textile industry, would have raised productivity even in the absence of fossil fuel, steam power, and cheap metals. But we argue that they would not have fundamentally changed the trajectory of economic development, launching us on a sustained and historically rapid path of growth in per capita incomes. The most successful of the early modern “advanced organic economies” already made extensive use of fossil...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN ENERGY AND INDUSTRIAL GROWTH
      (pp. 209-248)

      The economies of Europe grew more rapidly during the nineteenth century than at any previous period in history. This was not simply a consequence of the doubling of the population; per capita income rose too. Given these facts it is hardly surprising that energy consumption also increased dramatically. Some might argue that higher energy consumption is simply a natural function of growth, and requires no further explanation. The economy might grow for any number of reasons, but as people consumed more final goods and services, they also consumed more energy. But we argue that energy consumption, and the availability of...

  8. PART III The Second and Third Industrial Revolutions
    • CHAPTER EIGHT ENERGY TRANSITIONS IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
      (pp. 251-286)

      This final part of the book examines the rise in energy consumption in the twentieth century and the breakthrough of oil and electricity. These developments display similarities and differences with the previous century, that of the first industrial revolution, where coal came to dominate the scene and released the economy from the constraints of the organic economy. Rather than speaking of one industrial revolution, ortheindustrial revolution, and one big energy transition (from traditional, area-restricted resources to modern fossil fuel energy resources), we will use the idea of a second industrial revolution (related to oil and electricity) and a...

    • CHAPTER NINE MAJOR DEVELOPMENT BLOCKS IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY AND THEIR IMPACTS ON ENERGY
      (pp. 287-332)

      This chapter examines the impact that the major development blocks of the twentieth century had on the diffusion of new energy carriers and energy use in society. Here we will primarily address the drivers of energy transitions and economic energy efficiency.

      The second and third industrial revolutions were each distinguished by major development blocks in the fields of energy and communication. In the second industrial revolution, starting around 1870, but having an impact that lasted over a century, there were two main development blocks: one centered on the internal combustion engine and oil use (henceforth called the ICE-Oil block) and...

    • CHAPTER TEN THE ROLE OF ENERGY IN TWENTIETH-CENTURY ECONOMIC GROWTH
      (pp. 333-365)

      This chapter will focus on thenature of twentieth-century economic growth with respect to energy. There has been a degree of convergence in final energy consumption among European nations, while the nineteenth century was a story of divergence. With this in mind, our aim is to examine the interrelations of factors of production, to find the general features of a shared experience of growth, rather than to illuminate the local differences. We seek to understand how factors of production including energy interrelate in a general sense. Nevertheless, we will frequently proceed by investigations on a national scale, mirroring the availability...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN SUMMARY AND IMPLICATIONS FOR THE FUTURE
      (pp. 366-386)

      In this chapter we will first summarize the main results of the book, and then move on to a discussion of what we think can be learned for the future. As historians, the first comes rather more naturally to us than the second; and as we are historians, the reader may also accordingly give rather more credence to the first part of this chapter than the second. Nevertheless, we hold two tenets to be true that can inform contemporary debates about energy transition, and the future of economic growth. First, that societies move on trajectories, not perhaps entirely deterministically, but...

  9. Appendixes
    • APPENDIX A THE ROLE OF ENERGY IN GROWTH ACCOUNTING
      (pp. 387-394)
    • APPENDIX B DECOMPOSING ENERGY INTENSITY, 1870–1970
      (pp. 395-401)
    • APPENDIX C THE IMPACT FROM THE SERVICE TRANSITION ON ENERGY INTENSITY
      (pp. 402-410)
    • APPENDIX D BIASED TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENT
      (pp. 411-414)
  10. References
    (pp. 415-450)
  11. Index
    (pp. 451-458)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 459-460)