The 2014 Institute Of Public Affairs HV McKay Lecture

Transcript of the 2014 Institute of Public Affairs HV McKay Lecture delivered by Robert Bryce Good evening.

My title for my remarks tonight is “More energy please: How increasing energy use promotes a richer, freer world”. I’m going to make five main points and I’m going to make them in about 45 minutes:

  1. Scale (and I’m going to spend a fair amount of time talking about scale);
  2. Electricity, wealth and freedom;
  3. Coal;
  4. The big fib;
  5. Iteration means innovation.

So my first point, ‘scale’. And I’m going to start with a pop quiz. Hope you studied. Who here can name the country which, since 1985, has had the biggest percentage increase in CO2 emissions? Anyone? Go ahead shout it out.

It’s Thailand. Up 600% since 1985.

Another quiz: Who can name the country which, since 1985, has had the biggest percentage increase in electricity generation? Any guesses?

It’s Vietnam. Up nearly 2,500%.

Final part of the quiz. And you’re doing badly so far.

Which country, since 1985, has had the biggest percentage increase in coal consumption? It’s Indonesia. Up nearly 6,000%.

Now, if you were to guess China or India or Chindia and you were to guess those numbers in absolute terms, you would probably be right, or close to right.

But why do I bring these three countries up at the beginning? Because they go to the heart of the points that I’m making this evening. Those three countries, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, have a combined population of roughly 400 million people and they have an average per capita GDP of about $6,000.

That’s half of the average per capita GDP globally, which about $12,000, and it is less than 1/10th of the per capita GDP here in Australia which is roughly $67,000.

The residents of Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam and other developing countries don’t need less energy, they need more. They need a lot more.

I want to drive home this point on scale because it goes to the heart of this entire discussion about what do we do today when we talk about CO2 emissions, climate change etc. while we have so many, not millions, not hundreds of millions but more than a billion people living without electricity.

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