There’s one more point I wanted to make relevant to my yesterday post, Making Excuses. I’m not merely accusing Tom Friedman of hypocrisy. I have no way of proving this but my intuition is that there’s a long tail quality to energy and petroleum use. Or, said another way, I suspect that the top 1% of iindividual energy consumers consume a disproportionately large amount of oil and I further suspect that these consumers tend to be in the higher income brackets. They frequently drive gas-guzzling cars, power larger houses (and more of them), travel more generally, and travel longer distances. I can even produce a tiny bit of support for my intuition. Apparently, people who make $100,000 or more per year use twice as much energy in BTU’s as people who make $10,000 or less. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to imagine that people in the top 1% of income earners consume significantly more oil than those in the top quintile of income earners.
Just for the sake of argument let’s say that the top 1% of income earners consume 10% of all of the oil consumed by individuals. Reducing their consumption to 1% of the baseline would have about the same effect as everybody else reducing theirs by 10% and you’d need to persuade a lot fewer people to change their habits. Additionally, those in the higher income brackets have a lot more control over where they work than people in the lowest brackets do.
Consequently, I not just accusing Tom Friedman of hypocrisy. I’m saying that we’ll get a lot farther a lot more easily if the elite go first in reducing their energy consumption. After you, my dear Alphonse!
A bit more evidence: in Guatemala the net energy consumption of the tenth decile (richest) of Guatemalans is three times the net consumption of the first (poorest). Note also a guest appearance in the paper of the Jevons paradox.
More: across countries oil demand more than doubles as income doubles. Household income of the top 1% of families is 20 times what the household income of the bottom 10% is. If the more than doubling as income doubles relationship holds, that would certainly seem to support my WAG about increased oil consumption among the wealthy.