The Role of Energy in Development

Philip J. Lloyd


Using World Bank Development Indicators, it is shown that the use of energy is strongly related to almost every conceivable aspect of development. Wealth, health, nutrition, water, infrastructure, education, even life expectancy itself, are strongly and significantly related to the consumption of energy per capita. In general, the approach taken was to break the consumption of energy into three or more classes, to calculate the average value of the relevant indicator in each class, and to demonstrate that the average value in one class was statistically different, at above the 95% confidence level, from the average in adjacent classes. In the case of life expectancy, the change in expectancy was tracked against energy consumption over 40 or more years, in India, China, Indonesia and Brazil. It is concluded that energy is such a necessary element in development that it should be seen as a basic right. The impact of energy on development is felt strongly up to about 2 000 kg oil equivalent per capita, and is essentially saturated above that level. The data are qualitatively assessed using the environmental Kuznets curve. The OECD nations appear to have peaked, and emissions may continue to drop for the foreseeable future. However, emissions from the non-OECD nations have surged in this millennium, and are likely to exceed 40 000 Mt CO2 per annum before slowing. In this light, the intent of the Paris Agreement to constrain global temperature rise to less than 1.5 °C, seems unrealistic. Any hopes of reducing carbon dioxide emissions significantly, in the face of development by the developing nations, seems doomed to failure.

Keywords: development, World Bank Indicators, life expectancy, future emissions

•    Many development indicators are strongly related to the per-capita energy consumption.
•    The impacts of increasing energy on development continues up to about 2000 kg oil equivalent per capita per year.
•    Over the past 50 years, increases in per-capita energy consumption correlate strongly with increases in life expectancy.
•    If all developing nations strive for 2000 kg per capita per year energy consumption, CO2 emissions will continue to rise.


Development; World Bank Indicators; Life expectancy; Future emissions

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