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By Hal Fox, Editor-in-Chief, New Energy News

From: NEN, Vol. 6, No. 7, January 1999, pp. 1-2.
New Energy News (NEN) copyright 1999 by Fusion Information Center, Inc.
COPYING NOT ALLOWED without written permission.

By Hal Fox, Editor-in-Chief, New Energy News

An acceptable method for measuring productivity of workers is to divide the number of workers into the gross dollar volume of the goods or services provided. The January 11, 1999 issue of Business Week provided figures for a number of industries in the United States. The figures used in this article were taken from that issue. [These following 1999 figures are estimates.] For example, the 1999 output for energy is estimated at $250.73 billion. The number of workers is estimated at 510 million. Using these figures, the calculated productivity is $491,627 per worker.

In the current energy industry, the number of workers that were required to build an existing, electrical-generating plant would not be counted. The plant is built and the costs are being paid off by income received from energy sales. The productivity rate does not count the costs that will be charged off to taxpayers for the cleanup of nuclear power plants when they are closed down and dismantled. However, the productivity for energy workers at a large hydro-electric, power-generating facility would be very high. The productivity of maintenance workers who have to repair storm-damaged power lines would below. (See Utilities.) Overall, the productivity of the energy industry is relatively high as compared to other industries. It can be argued that the existing energy industry productivity is artificially high because it is based on the one-time use of natural resources such as oil, natural gas, and coal. No deduction from productivity is made for the use of the non-renewable resources. One of the purposes of this article is to provide a comparison of productivity among sevreal sectors of the nation's economy.

In terms of which United States industries are the largest (see charted categories, next page), here are the top five: (output in billions $)

Retailing                   $2073.95
Real Estate                 $1754.00
Health Care                 $ 807.08
Food                        $ 698.73
Energy Plus Utilities       $ 513.38
As a young student, we often talked about necessities of Food, Clothing, and Shelter. From today's society (in the United States) we would say Personal Goods, Shelter, Health, Food, and Energy.

In terms of productivity (thousands $/worker), the top five categories are the following:

Energy Plus Utilities       $ 442.6
Drugs & Biotech             $ 369.2
Autos                       $ 365.9
Computers & Chips           $ 363.0
Telecommunications          $ 269.6
Note that except for "Energy Plus Utilities," all of the high-productivity categories are related to categories other than the five largest product categories. It is interesting that the lowest productivity is for education and food. However, the farmers in the United States lead the world in agricultural productivity.

What does all of this mean for the future of energy. As we develop the lower-cost, new-energy devices and systems, we will not have the productivity advantage of pumping oil, or transporting natural gas. The new-energy PRODUCTIVITY COMPARISONS:

Industry                Output in     Workers in    Productivity in
                        Billions $    Millions      Thousands 
Manufacturing Sector
Energy                  250.73        0.51          $ 491.6
Autos                   351.27        0.96          $ 365.9
Aerospace               140.41        0.59          $ 238.0
Metals                  182.11        0.71          $ 256.5

Information Sector
Computers & Chips       221.4         0.61          $ 363.0
Software                273.24        1.90          $ 143.8
Telecommunications      339.68        1.26          $ 269.6
Media and Entertainment 250.17        1.71          $ 146.3

Life Sciences Sector
Drugs & Biotech          99.68        0.27          $ 369.2
Agriculture             289.98        3.63          $  79.9
Health Care             807.08       10.49          $  76.9

Distribution Sector
Retailing              2073.95       12.38          $ 167.5
Food                    698.73       12.10          $  57.7
Transportation          390.37        3.45          $ 113.2

Services Sector
Education               110.85        2.39          $  46.4
Travel                  233.92        3.04          $  76.9
Real Estate            1754.0         9.43          $ 186.0
Utilities               262.65        0.65          $ 404.1

Energy Plus Utilities   513.38        1.16          $ 442.6
Note: In the manner in which this author thinks about energy it would also include the distribution of energy. However, it is probable that the distribution of energy for automobiles is included in Retailing.infrastructure will be more like the computer industry or the communications industry. We will be turning materials like ceramics, copper, plastics, and silicon into high-tech manufactured products. Initially, the productivity will be relatively low, such as with the aerospace industry. However, productivity should approach the productivity of the computer or auto industries.

This means that the talk of free energy is a whole lot of wishful thinking. Just as the old rural farmer said when he first saw a giraffe, "There ain't so such animal!" In the first months of high-volume production of new-energy systems and devices, there will not be substantial cost savings. However, there will be substantial savings in environmental costs because these devices and systems will be pollution free (except for thermal pollution). However, we can radiate excess thermal energy into space on any cloudless night. As the technology progresses, the costs of energy are expected to decrease to about one-third to one-fourth of our current energy costs.

In case you don't recognize what new-energy technology is being commercialized, it is the high-density charge cluster technology now being investigated by five different groups in four countries and with one U.S. government agency planning support for flat panel displays.

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March 8, 1999.