High energy society

Rich countries today live in a high energy society. These countries have extensive energy infrastructure (like the electrical grid) to give citizens access to energy currencies which provide extensive services that allow them to maintain a high quality of life.

People living in wealthy countries have:

  • Reliable sources of electricity that turn on whenever they wish and can use functionally as much of this electricity as they like.
  • Extensive transportation fuels for personal transport and the transportation of goods (like food, clothing, etc.) where there is, once again, functionally as much of these secondary fuels as people would like to buy.
  • Home heating (and commercial heating) systems that actively control temperatures in buildings within a narrow range, which people can set for their own comfort.
  • Extensive refrigeration for food preservation
  • Access to a wide range of goods and services provided by and maintained by the above energy infrastructure. Moreover, the price of energy is usually a small fraction of a household's total expenditure.

All of these provide comfort and economic opportunities. Many of the non-OECD countries are developing infrastructure to create the opportunities available in these wealthy OECD countries. Most notably the BRIC countries are increasing primary energy use quite rapidly.

One grouping of these wealthy countries is the group of OECD countries. The OECD countries contain roughly 1/6th of the world population, but use roughly 1/2 of the primary energy.[1] This means that the more than 6 billion people living in non-OECD countries use roughly the same amount of energy as slightly more than 1 billion living in the OECD countries.[1] See figure 1 for a comparison of their energy use per person (and click the per capita button to see total energy use). To see a map of which countries are in the OECD, please see figure 2.

Figure 1. Primary energy use in OECD (blue) and non-OECD (red) countries. Click the 'per capita' to see total energy use of these countries, see the map in figure 2 for which countries are part of OECD.

Figure 2. a) World map of OECD countries (blue), countries that OECD cooperates with (brown), and non-OECD countries (both red and brown). b) European map (note: Turkey is in OECD but is red because it's not in Europe).


  1. 1.0 1.1 BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2014, found online; http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/about-bp/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy.html

Authors and Editors

Jordan Hanania, Jason Donev