How much energy does it take to have a good and healthy life? A new study from Stanford University claims it has found the answer. By looking at 140 countries, each person — apparently — just needs 75 gigaojoules of energy per YEAR for ultimate happiness (which is equal to 600 gallons of gasoline). Glenn and Stu break down the RIDICULOUSNESS of this study…
Below is a rush transcript that may contain errors
GLENN: Welcome to the program. Mr. Stu Burguiere. Our executive producer. Stu, there is Arab -- there is a story from NPR, that I think is very important. How much energy does it take to have a good and healthy life?
Americans haven't asked themselves that. Perhaps we should. A new Stanford University study has found the answer is, what?
GLENN: Far -- far less.
STU: Than we have now. Yes.
GLENN: Far less than the average American is using currently. Comparing energy use and quality of life, across 140 countries. You know, may I just say. That's cool.
You know, 140 countries. How many of them have the life we have here in America?
STU: Well, none. Zero.
How far down the ladder do you have to go, before it's very noticeable? Ten?
STU: Yeah. Ten to 20, maybe.
GLENN: Ten to 20. I don't care what's happening down -- don't tell me what I have to live with, based on what's happening with country 110. All right? Let's bring 110 up to us. Let's not bring us down to 110.
STU: But, Glenn, they're happy in the Central African Republic.
GLENN: Oh, I know they are. Yeah. So comparing energy to quality of life. Over 140 countries, researchers found the magic number is 75 gigajoules a year or less. For context, one gigajoule of energy is equal to about eight gallons of gasoline. One. We're only supposed to have 75 per year. One is 8 gallons of gasoline. Okay?
STU: Oh. Okay. This is sort of the money can't buy you happiness approach.
GLENN: Yeah. Energy can't buy you happiness.
STU: So, therefore, you shouldn't have it.
GLENN: So 75 gigajoules per year, if one of them is -- how many gallons of gasoline can I buy? If one gigajoule is 8 gallons, and we're only supposed to have 75 per year.
GLENN: 600 gallons of gasoline. That's it.
STU: And that's not just your car.
GLENN: No. That's not just your car. That's running your house, and everything. Americans use 284 gigajoules per year per capita. Nearly four times the amount, that equals happiness.
STU: Equals happiness.
GLENN: That suggests to me --
GLENN: That suggests to me, this is according to the new research. The author and professor of earth system science. Rod Jackson.
This suggests to me, that we could nudge energy use downward in a bunch of hyper consuming countries, and not just make a more equitable world. But perhaps make ourselves happier and healthier. Oh. Key word there. Perhaps!
STU: Yeah, perhaps. We can nudge it down. First of all, you have the problem of people realizing what they used to have and no longer have.
So you can't just say, look, there are people happy in Madagascar. So we can lower the -- the energy usage of St. Louis to Madagascar level. They'll also be happy. That's not the way that works.
GLENN: Well, but if there is a crisis, your -- your quality of living goes down, and you bitch about it for a while. Then you go, well, what are we going to do about it? You know, I'm still waiting for a curtain rod, and it's taken me four months to get it. But what are you going to do about it.
STU: Yeah. Wednesday is my eight month anniversary of ordering my car. And it's not coming in.
GLENN: That's weird. And what's weird. I think my car has gone missing. Because I told you, I ordered a car three years ago. We're coming up on its four-year anniversary. Okay?
Four years. I talk about it on my Instagram. Four-year anniversary. But I don't think that has to do with supply chains. I think that has to do with, maybe I picked the wrong company.
STU: Because I read your Instagram post. That does mention the company doing this work.
GLENN: No. It does. It does. Force because I don't want to hit them with everything. You know what I mean? Putting them out of business.
STU: This is what an Amber Alert does.
GLENN: That's what I have. You put the picture of my car, on the back of a milk carton. Because it is missing. Hasn't been seen now for three and a half years.
STU: Is it possible, the next picture you get of this car is the car with a gun to its head?
GLENN: I want to be -- I almost wrote, I want to talk to my car, because I don't think it's alive anymore. You know.
STU: Totally different problem.
GLENN: Totally different problem. Because I'll use more than 8 gallons of gasoline in that car.
STU: Yeah. 3 miles a gallon in that thing.
GLENN: Yes, it will. Yes, it will.
STU: It's such a fascinating thing of trying to -- look, people adapt to trying circumstances. Unpleasant circumstances. If you go back hundreds of years to our founding, they used zero gallons in their cars. They were, I'm sure happy. It doesn't mean you're guaranteeing it. It doesn't mean going backwards in time and eliminate inconveniences that not only make us a more happy society at some level, but also a healthier one. Has anybody noticed that the age expectancy has gone up, with the exception the last couple of years with --
GLENN: Well, not in all countries. Globally, 759 million people lived without electricity. 2.6 billion without clean cooking fuel in 2019, according to the World Bank.
STU: Well, they don't need it.
GLENN: That comes at an enormous human cost, Stu.
STU: Are there happy people that don't have cooking fuel, Glenn? I'm sure there are somewhere.
GLENN: At 4 million people, they die each year from cooking conditions, by indoor air pollution, from cooking fires inside. And access to electricity is crucial for providing medical services. And powering modern economies. And we're using it all. Now, there is no such thing as a global grid.
So, you know, we could -- we could -- and I would for this. We could all pool our money together, and build nuclear power plants. We can do that. You know.
STU: But like -- you know, I -- having a -- you know, burning open air flames indoors, does seem to be the world's most easily solved problem. Right?
This is something -- and it is one of the distillers in the world.
GLENN: Buy everybody a Franklin stove. There was no copyright on that. He gave that free to the world.
STU: Right. And that would solve that completely.
GLENN: This study measured those studies, and when they plateau, scientists looked at nine benchmarks for a long, healthy life, based on the United Nation's sustainable development goals. So this is good. This fits right into the ESG plan. And, oh, my gosh, what a tiny little present to all of us. Access to electricity, air supply. Food supply. And the genie coefficient. Now, I didn't know what the genie coefficient was. But that measures wealth inequality. And I think they call it the genie coefficient, because there will be a magic genie that comes and takes money from one people and gives it to another group of people. And everybody is going to be happy. On tax day, I know I'm really happy. I feel so charitable today. There's nothing I like more than working half my day for taxes. And then have the government just piss it away. I love that. You know, it could create jobs. You know, if -- if private people weren't using the money. Government, they don't create jobs. They piss money away. But I digress. I don't want to get all preachy on how good it feels to be so charitable today. You know, I feel really charitable. I do every year.
Anyway, they said that happiness peaks at about 75 gigajoules a year. So if we want to be happy, we should use less energy.
STU: Just how dumb -- these studies are so stupid. As if using more energy starts to create unhappiness. Look, energy, I think, at a basic level from zero to let's say 75 megajoules, or whatever they're saying. Gigajoules. That probably does alleviate that poverty-level struggle, which, yes, can make you go zero to 60 in an important way. The increase from there. They also help. It probably doesn't help as much as the zero to 75.
GLENN: No. No. If all of our factories. And, you know, all of our researchers, and everybody else. They only had -- how many gallons of gasoline?
STU: 600. A whole year.
GLENN: Yeah. If everybody had only 600 gallons of gasoline for the whole year. For all energy use. I think it would be -- I think we would be making more medicine right now.
STU: No. No, we would not.
GLENN: It would also mean, according to the study, that we would be walking and biking more. And using public transport. Oh, my gosh. Oh. I didn't know that. Because now I'm really happy. I'm thinking, riding the bus to work. Oh, man.
That would make me happy. Many approaches require a blend of the two. To incentivize people and businesses to make upfront investments in equipment and technology, that uses less energy over time. You know what, if we could just get rid of all the people, then nobody would drive. We wouldn't have all these problems, if it wasn't for all these people. We should just tell the elites to liquidate all of us. They are hopeful that the $1.2 trillion infrastructure investment and jobs act, which includes several provisions, focused on reducing consumption. Did you know that? Did you know that?
Wait a minute. It's the infrastructure investment and jobs act. And according to this article, it has several provisions, focused on reducing consumption.
Wow! Now, hopefully, they will do that. They do say that many of these moves can face resistance at the local level. We have to stop saying, hey. We really don't want a new bus or rapid transit route. We don't want X, Y, Z piece of infrastructure in our area. When it's our longer term interest to support that.
Can I tell you, every city -- now, I've lived in, I don't know. One hundred cities. Because I couldn't hold down a job for most of my career. You know what signals death to any city? When I like, well, this city is over. Whenever they go, we're going to build a rapid transit train. As soon as you hear that. You're like, okay. They're done. They're just pissing away the money now! This is especially true, now that there is growing evidence, that those measures -- uh-huh. Are using less energy, generally, and do not have a negative impact on Americans living a happy, healthy life. I don't know. The rapid transit train, Stu. You see it every day, when we go to work. I don't even know where the stations are, okay?
I know where the station is here. But I can't -- I can't get on that rapid train. Wouldn't mind it. Because it would be like living the life of being chauffeured in a giant limousine, because it's only you. Because the rapid transit train, never has a soul on it.
Okay? It's soulless. It's -- it's not even driven by -- there's not even one human that has to drive it. It drives itself. It stops at all these stations, that nobody wants to go to. It's empty.
But the good news is, I don't know how many gigajoules it's using, but it uses those gigajoules 24 hours a day.
STU: It does. No one rides it. In fact, I think 92 percent of people have never ridden it, in the area. But they've built it. So that the 8 percent of people could occasionally do it. Only 4 percent of people in the area, actually use it to commute. 4 percent.
GLENN: Yeah. 4 percent.
STU: And it costs an absolute fortune. In fact, it's betters to use your cash in any other way. Any other way. Like, for example, honestly, taking the construction costs. And just keep an open mind on this one, and just lighting it on fire.
GLENN: Yeah. Here's one that I would really like to do. I want to take polar bear fetuses. And plant them here in the soil. Here in Texas. And I'll water them. I think I can grow a whole new crop of polar bears. So if you just want to funnel that tax dollar to me, that's what I'll do.
STU: Wow. That would be nice.
GLENN: Yeah. I'll try to do that. But the environmentalist will stop me from aborting polar bear fetuses. So I might have to use human fetuses. All right. Back in just a minute.