Part 2: Defining ‘National Economic Energy Flux Density’

Reversing the Devastation of Globalization

Regular followers of the LaRouchePAC website might have seen various references to assessments of the energy or electricity consumption per capita, for either the United States or other nations.  Over recent years, these studies have been carried out with the recognition that energy or electricity consumption per capita is a rough, but useful approximation of the energy flux density of a national economy considered as a self-bounded dynamic system.  In this series of articles, we are taking that approximation a few steps closer to reality by focusing on a deeper understanding of Lyndon LaRouche’s notion of energy flux density. 

We open this second part of our six-part series by referring back to LaRouche's 1983 report, A Fifty-Year Development Policy for the Indian-Pacific Oceans Basin.  In that report he elaborates a thorough program for the economic development of South and East Asia, with an emphasis on the approach needed to uplift severely underdeveloped and impoverished countries. Among the essential elements of that approach, LaRouche describes four main categories of basic economic infrastructure, and states the absolutely essential role of energy systems:

"1) Fresh-water management systems, including their role in inland transportation; 2) Transportation, including ocean transport, ports, railway systems, air-transport systems, highway systems, and efficient interface among these systems and the warehousing and related materials-handling features of transportation as a whole; 3) Energy production and distribution systems; and 4) Urban industrial infrastructure. The pivotal feature of general programs for development of infrastructure is energy systems.  The possibility of assimilation of modern technology, and more advanced technologies, into agriculture and industry, and development of water management, transportation, and urban infrastructure is bounded by the constraints embedded in existing capacities of energy’s production and distribution." [emphasis added]

The key factors for assessing the levels of energy production and distribution are discussed in that 1983 report, and they are outlined in more detail in a related 1983 unpublished memo, “Converting All LaRouche-Riemann Forecasting to Potential Relative Population-Density.”¹ In his memo, under the section, 
"census of energy production & distribution," LaRouche gives the following outline of considerations for energy infrastructure when studying economies (we have slightly truncated the list for length, indicated in square brackets). 

  • 1. Total kilowatt-hours annual energy production
    • Central power stations
      • Hydroelectric 
      • Nuclear 
      • Coal
      • Petroleum
      • Gas
      • Other
    • “Captive” power stations
      • [By power generation type]
    • Fuels consumed by other modes 
      • Automotive 
      • Heating
      • Other 
    • Chemical supplies of energy 
      • Fertilizers & related 
      • Other industrial

  • 2. Consumption of energy produced
    • Basic economic infrastructure
      • Water & land management
      • Transportation
        • [Transportation used by each economic sector]
      • Energy [production & distribution]
      • Basic urban infrastructure 
    • Raw materials production 
      • Agriculture (broadly defined)
      • Other
    • Final goods production
      • Capital goods
      • Consumer goods
      • Basic industry
      • Intermediate goods
    • [Overhead types of employment]

  • 3. Energy-flux density of consumption
    • Per-square-kilometer
      • Agriculture
      • Industrial
      • Commercial
      • Household dwelling-areas
      • Other
    • Per capita
      • Operatives
        • Infrastructure
        • Agriculture
        • Other raw materials
        • Final capital goods
        • Final consumer durables
        • Final consumer non-durables
        • Basic industry
        • Intermediate goods production
      • Other employment categories
      • Total population

This outline provides an excellent overview of the different factors to be considered when defining an energy-flux-density metric for national economies as single systems. Of the three main categories—energy production, energy consumption, and energy-flux density of consumption—the third category (energy-flux density of consumption) references the type of per capita measurements that we have used in earlier studies. 

Before delving into additional factors, let us emphasize one particular clarification about the per-capita measurements. Referencing “energy consumption per capita” might be a little misleading at first, perhaps seeming to imply the amount of energy or electricity an average individual member of society uses themselves. The actual per-capita measure expresses something significantly different, bringing together all energy uses throughout society, including energy uses the average person may have nothing to do with, such as the production and transportation of raw materials or the activities of the industrial sector and the transportation of industrial goods.  When discussing per-capita measurements we are taking the totality of all energy consumption throughout all aspects of an economy, and dividing that by the total population in that economy, providing an expression of the state of the economy as a whole, not an average individual's activity within that economy. 

When understood in this way, our per-capita measurements can be expressions of the totality of the economy, viewed as a single unified system. 

When proceeding from this and the other considerations LaRouche outlined, we are converging on a true notion of the energy flux density of a physical economic system viewed as a single, self-bounded system.  We will call this measure “national economic energy flux density,” because this author has found that to be helpful to distinguish the analysis of an economy in its totality from other expressions of energy flux density (as presented in part one), and from attempted reductionist applications of energy flux density as if it were a formula.

As discussed in part one and elaborated in the concluding part six of this series, the key is starting from the intrinsic characteristics of the system being studied as a whole, and defining the metrics as they express the inherent properties of a dynamic entity. 

Let us pursue this type of approach within the science of physical economy—defining the key considerations relevant to an assessment of national economic energy flux density—providing us with a unique basis to assess what’s required for the United States and the world to reverse the devastation caused by the failures of globalization.


Qualities (Not Quantities) of Energy 

Although there is a quantitative value to which all forms of energy can be reduced, this reduction quickly becomes problematic when examining the effectiveness of energy with respect to complex physical systems (understood as dynamic unified entities), such as an economy.  The study of national economic energy flux density can not solely rely upon quantities of energy consumed per capita or per square kilometer without also assessing the quality of that energy and its source.

A useful example is the distinction between a kilowatt-hour of thermal energy (for example, from the combustion of petroleum) and a kilowatt-hour of electrical energy.  A gallon of gasoline contains 33.4 kilowatt-hours of energy, which can take an average car about 25 miles, when applied via the technology of an internal combustion engine.  However, a gallon of gasoline cannot power a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, an electronically controlled machine tool, or the marvelous scientific instrumentation outfitting the Mars curiosity rover, unless that gasoline is used to generate electricity

Although the heat released through the combustion of petroleum and an amount of electricity used can both be measured in terms of a standard reductionist energy unit of kilowatt-hours (or joules, BTUs, calories, etc.), the qualitative characteristics between different forms of energy can be drastically different, and, thus, so can their associated potential applications, mediated through the relevant technologies—technologies, which, themselves, are often designed around particular qualities of energy. 

Even with thermal energy, the qualities and potentialities vary immensely as a function of the energy flux density of the localized application.  A useful illustration of this, as expressed through changing technologies, was identified in part one with the relation between productivity, technology, and energy flux density in the history of iron and steel production in the United States.  

Further, qualitative shifts are seen as phase changes in domains of physical chemistry. The fascinating case of trans-thermal characteristics of femtosecond petawatt lasers was discussed in part one, but a more accessible example might be the transition from chemical to nuclear reactions.  Although the energy output of a nuclear fission or fusion reactor can be measured in thermal units, the qualitative characteristics of the originating action—a nuclear process—are completely different from the chemical sources of thermal energy generated by the burning of coal or natural gas.  The processes of the radiation, fission, and fusion of atomic elements operate in the domain of nuclear reactions (fundamentally distinct from the domain of chemical reactions), and are associated with levels of energy flux density orders of magnitude beyond what is seen in chemical reactions.²

We come back to the qualitative distinction of nuclear power at the end of this article, and focus on the qualitative role of electricity within an economy. 

The unique characteristics of electrical energy will continue to be an increasingly important component of any modern economy.  Even in so-called “developed” countries which have suffered an overall economic stagnation or decline from a shift into post-industrial and radical environmental policies in the context of globalization (more on this in part four), electricity consumption per capita and per square kilometer continued to rise even as total energy consumption per capita and per square kilometer stagnated or declined. 

In the following chart we see the percentage of total primary energy consumed in the form of electricity.  In both so-called developed countries and countries that have been able to successfully develop over the past 60 years, we see electricity playing a growing part of total energy consumption.

The World Bank: Electric power consumption (kWh per capita), Energy use (kg of oil equivalent per capita): IEA (2014). Based on IEA data from IEA (1960-2016), All rights reserved; as modified by the World Bank and Benjamin Deniston.


When assessing the national economic energy flux density of individual countries in parts three, four, and five of this series, we consider both primary energy consumption and electricity consumption, as expressed per capita and per square kilometer. Keeping all four of these measurements in mind is necessary for our goal of defining metric for assessing physical economic systems viewed as dynamic wholes. 


Population Density 

Next, we have to recognize that the effectiveness of a given amount of energy or electricity consumption per capita or per square kilometer is connected to the population density of the national economy it powers.

A country with a smaller population distributed over a larger land area will have to expend more energy per capita on transportation of people and goods, and will likely have lower per-capita usage of certain nationwide infrastructure systems, resulting in higher capital goods and energy cost per unit of infrastructure provided per capita and per square kilometer.

This was discussed in the 1997 EIR special report, The Eurasian Land-Bridge: The ‘New Silk Road’—Locomotive for Worldwide Economic Development, from the standpoint of promoting high-density corridors of economic development crisscrossing the sparsely populated interior regions of the Eurasian landmass.  In support of this argument, the authors highlighted a useful illustrative comparison.

“If we compare, for example, the relative energy efficiencies of the U.S., French, and Japanese economies around 1980—a relatively prosperous period by present standards [1997]—we find that in order to maintain a (very roughly) comparable standard of health, living standard and industrial activity, the Japanese economy required the least expenditure of energy per capita, but at the same time had the highest density of energy use per square kilometer. The Japanese economy has profited from the advantage of greater density.”
(page 84)

Here we have replicated this assessment (using average values covering the decade of the 1980s to avoid any particular spikes or dips which might be unique to a given year), and added Germany and the United Kingdom to the comparison.³ 


Average Values for 1980s
  millions km² km²
Population Land area Population density
U.S.A. 237 9,158,960 26
France 57 547,566 103
Japan 120 365,290 329
Germany 78 349,130 224
U.K. 57 241,930 234


Average Values for 1980s
  kWh / yr kWh / km² / yr
Electricity per capita Electricity per km²
U.S.A. 10,396 269,369
France 5,130 530,282
Japan 5,275 1,739,148
Germany 6,291 1,407,594
U.K. 4,827 1,129,219


Average Values for 1980s
  kWh / yr kWh / km² / yr
Energy per capita Energy per km²
U.S.A. 88,023 2,277,806
France 41,084 4,243,230
Japan 35,076 11,554,071
Germany 52,198 11,678,576
U.K. 40,847 9,553,151

The World Bank: Population, total: ( 1 ) United Nations Population Division. World Population Prospects: 2019 Revision. ( 2 ) Census reports and other statistical publications from national statistical offices, ( 3 ) Eurostat: Demographic Statistics, ( 4 ) United Nations Statistical Division. Population and Vital Statistics Reprot ( various years ), ( 5 ) U.S. Census Bureau: International Database, and ( 6 ) Secretariat of the Pacific Community: Statistics and Demography Programme. The World Bank: Land area (sq. km): Food and Agriculture Organization, electronic files and web site. The World Bank: Agricultural land (sq. km): Food and Agriculture Organization, electronic files and web site. The World Bank: Urban land area (sq. km): Center for International Earth Science Information Network ( CIESIN )/Columbia University. 2013. Urban-Rural Population and Land Area Estimates Version 2. Palisades, NY: NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center ( SEDAC ). The World Bank: Electric power consumption (kWh per capita), Energy use (kg of oil equivalent per capita): IEA (2014). Based on IEA data from IEA (1980-1989), All rights reserved; as modified by the World Bank and Benjamin Deniston.


The results of this rough, but useful comparison are consistent with what was shown in the 1997 EIR special report—countries are able to sustain roughly comparable levels of economic development with significantly different levels of energy and electricity consumption per capita as a function of different population densities.

To highlight just one set of values from the table, we graph population density against primary energy consumption per capita for these five industrialized nations—France, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, and United States—in the 1980s (and an exponential trend line is added to give a sense of the continuity of this relation). 

The World Bank: Population, total: ( 1 ) United Nations Population Division. World Population Prospects: 2019 Revision. ( 2 ) Census reports and other statistical publications from national statistical offices, ( 3 ) Eurostat: Demographic Statistics, ( 4 ) United Nations Statistical Division. Population and Vital Statistics Reprot ( various years ), ( 5 ) U.S. Census Bureau: International Database, and ( 6 ) Secretariat of the Pacific Community: Statistics and Demography Programme. The World Bank: Land area (sq. km): Food and Agriculture Organization, electronic files and web site. The World Bank: Energy use (kg of oil equivalent per capita): IEA (2014). Based on IEA data from IEA (1980-1989), All rights reserved; as modified by the World Bank and Benjamin Deniston.


Because all five countries are assumed to have about the same level of development, we can see that a unit of electricity consumption per capita in a nation with 250 people per square kilometer is about twice as effective as in a nation with 25 people per square kilometer.  In part five of this series we use this population density factor when assessing the future energy and electricity needs of various countries under a program of post-globalization large-scale economic development modeled on LaRouche's 1983 program. 

This takes us one step closer to defining our new metric of national economic energy flux density (which will provide a unique basis to assess the economic development status and requirements of countries around the world). 


Economic Sectors and Operatives vs. Overhead

Returning to the list of energy generation and distribution considerations LaRouche outlined in his 1983 memo, we consider distinctions between various sectors of the economy and classifications of the labor force.

According to his outline, this includes the total amount, and quality, of energy consumed for basic economic infrastructure, raw materials production, final goods production, and various overhead functions, as well as the energy consumption per square kilometer for agricultural, industrial, commercial, household, and other categories of activity, and the energy consumption per capita for each of the categories of productive operatives and overhead employment. 

This distinction between productive operatives and overhead, and the specific employment categories LaRouche identifies in his outline, come from his unique work in defining a thermodynamic approach to a scientific study of a physical economy (an excellent introduction is always his 1984 economics textbook, So, You Wish to Learn All About Economics?).  A short introduction to the basic considerations is provided in the following animation. 



The accuracy of energy and electricity consumption per capita and per square kilometer as decent representations of national economic energy flux density depends upon the constraint that the economy is operating in a healthy, anti-entropic mode, consistent with the specifications outlined in LaRouche's 1984 textbook.  For example, a healthy economy should have roughly 50% of the labor force employed as productive operatives, and about 5% employed in scientific and technological research and development, with the economy operating in a technologically progressive mode producing the technologically-improving capital and consumer goods required by the domestic population, and available for export and trade.  

However, policies of post-industrialization, free trade, and globalization have created an unhealthy and highly distorted situation in many countries.  For example, over the last generation the energy and electricity consumption per capita and per square kilometer within the United States does not accurately reflect the capital and consumer goods production processes which sustain the U.S. economy.  Instead of technologically progressive, capital intensive, and high energy-flux-density modes of production within the United States, outsourcing shifted production to lower technology, less capital intensive, and lower energy-flux-density production in underdeveloped countries—what is colloquially referred to as a cheap labor policy.  This has not only exploited impoverished and desperate populations globally, but has also been detrimental to the majority of the general population inside the United States, as the notions of a “consumer society” or a “services economy” have shown themselves to be economic disasters, leaving large sections of the U.S. territory and population in economic ruin. 

A comprehensive treatment of national economic energy flux density would take all of these considerations into account, assessing the degree to which the energy consumed by an economy is distributed across the relevant sectors, regions, and labor force categories in ways corresponding to a healthy, anti-entropic economy.  In short, the most developed measure of national economic energy flux density requires that the required quantity and quality of energy is consumed productively, by the productive processes intrinsically defined by a science of physical economy. 

Unfortunately, the data required to completely satisfy this type of more refined analysis is not as readily available for this series.

However, in part four of this series, a more detailed study of the history of the U.S. economy provides key additional insights respecting energy and electricity consumption in different sectors of an economy.  As we see there, if we simply look at total electricity or energy consumption per capita without considering the relevant sectors and operatives using the energy, energy consumption growth in commercial and residential sectors can mask a major decline within the industrial sector.


Energy Density

Now let us return to the qualitative considerations of different energy sources.  The most basic assessment of these distinctions is expressed in the varying energy densities of different fuels.  The long-term progressive development of human societies is intimately connected to increases in the energy density of the primary fuel sources powering those societies. 

Leaving aside considerations of animal power and the conversion of wind and water motions into mechanical power in early civilizations (and ignoring the absurdity of modern efforts to implement low-density and intermittent power sources like wind and solar on a large scale), the basic sequence of chemical fuels is exemplary, with the transitions from wood (and charcoal), to coal (and coke), to petroleum and natural gas representing successive steps in the increasing energy density of primary fuel supplies—supporting fundamental advances in the physical chemistry, technology, associated productivity, and potential relative population density of societies.


Fuel Source Energy Density (kWh / kg)
Combustion of wood 5
Combustion of coal (bituminous) 7.5
Combustion of petroleum (diesel) 13
Natural gas 15
Calculations by Jason Ross.


The discovery of nuclear reactions, transcending basic chemistry, opened up a continuation of this progression, although starting out nearly one million times higher than chemical reactions. 


Fuel Source Energy Density (kWh / kg)
Typical nuclear fission fuel 1,000,000
Direct fission energy of uranium-235 23,000,000
Deuterium-Tritium fusion 90,000,000
Annihilation of antimatter 25,000,000,000
Calculations by Jason Ross. The usable energy density of nuclear fission fuel becomes significantly higher with reprocessing and fast neutron reactor technologies.


An alternative way to examine this difference is to compare the different amounts of fuel containing the same amount of energy (in quantitative terms).  If we take a 16 gallon car fuel tank filled with gasoline as a reference, to get the same amount of energy would take 200 pounds of coal (just over one-half the volume of a standard-size 55 gallon drum) or 300 pounds of wood (about a cubic yard, over one-half the bed volume of a standard-size F-150 Ford pickup truck). 

Going in the other direction, a paperclip’s worth of uranium used in a typical nuclear power plant provides the same amount of energy as our 16 gallon gas tank.  Or, with fusion, an amount of deuterium-tritium fuel the equivalent of a single grain of rice (by weight) could supply the same amount of energy—again, if we are only considering quantitative assessments. 


Fuel Source Weight of Fuel
Combustion of wood 300 pounds
Combustion of coal (bituminous) 200 pounds
Combustion of petroleum (diesel) 16 gallon gas tank
Typical nuclear fission fuel A paperclip
Deuterium-Tritium fusion A grain of rice
Benjamin Deniston. All comparisons are by weight.


Nuclear fission has already been fully established as the most advanced and efficient source of the baseline power needs of modern society today, and moving into the immediate future, while nuclear fusion represents the next frontier, awaiting the necessary investments for its fully commercialized large-scale realization. 

The history of primary energy consumption per capita in the United States from 1776 through approximately 1970 shows this natural energy density progression very clearly. Unfortunately, the full-scale realization of nuclear fission, and the investments needed for fusion power, have been largely stunted and suppressed by the post-industrial, globalization, and radical environmentalist policies which have increasingly dominated the United States since the late 1960s.  If we take the history of the United States through 1962, and then take the expected nuclear fission power usage under the continuation of the policies represented by the John F. Kennedy administration through 2010, we can see what a healthy developing economy had been (1776-1970), and should have been (1971-2010), in terms of the succession of primary energy sources of increasing energy density.  This is most usefully expressed in per-capita terms, showing a successive series of waves, each expressing a higher energy density of primary fuel source, and each taking total national economic energy flux densities to higher levels (the impact of a fusion power crash program has also been added). 

Based on these considerations of energy density, in his 1980 book,
Basic Economics for Conservative Democrats, LaRouche detailed the necessity of a massive investment in the rapid mass implementation of nuclear fission power for the U.S. economy (followed by a crash program for the development of fusion power). As he elaborated there, the qualitative, physical economic benefits of energy density are best understood in terms of LaRouche's thermodynamic analysis of a physical economic system.

“In general, the potential productivity of an economy is limited on the higher side by the energy-density of the basic modes of energy production being used by that economy. The higher the energy-density, the cheaper the energy can be in terms of social costs of producing energy, and the more abundant the energy available for expanding the economy.”

These social costs are measured as the percentage of the labor force and the percentage of capital goods output required for the mining, processing, transportation, and utilization of various energy sources, defining a top-down physical economic assessment of the necessity of continued improvements in energy density of primary energy supplies—as LaRouche specified in So, You Wish to Learn All About Economics? and other locations.

This brings us back to the key methodological issue: deriving our metric from the physically-defined characteristics intrinsic to the dynamic system being investigated

To conclude this second part in our series, we recognize that a comprehensive metric for “national economic energy flux density” has many factors.  These include:

  • The ratios between various fuel sources supplying the primary and electrical energy to the economy, with emphasis on increasingly energy dense and qualitatively progressive sources.

  • An assessment of the energy consumption by various economic sectors (by land area and by workers) and types of employment, according to the standards outlined in So, You Wish to Learn All About Economics?

  • The quality of the energy consumed, as expressed in the portion of total energy consumption that is in the form of electricity, and in the localized energy flux density of the technologies employing the energy.

  • The population density of a country, or region being assessed. 

While all these considerations are not easily implemented, in part three we see that even simple versions of a national economic energy flux density metric are great for assessing national economies—in terms of historical successes and failures, and future requirements (and possible tragedies, if those requirements are not met). For example, this energy-flux-density analysis demonstrates that the globalization paradigm is responsible for a level of mass-murder orders of magnitude beyond anything carried out by fascist dictatorships in the past century. 


Benjamin Deniston 
LaRouchePAC Science 

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1. This unpublished memo outlined his program for upgrading his famous LaRouche-Riemann economic forecasting model to be more independent from the incompetent (when not downright fraudulent) economic data being provided by U.S. government agencies in the 1980s, by creating a database designed around his metric of potential relative population density, rather than supposedly market-derived monetary values of goods and services. In his brief introduction to a lengthy outline of the relevant database elements and their relative hierarchy, LaRouche notes the relation of this memo to the public Indian-Pacific Oceans basin report, “The preparation and issuance of the preliminary proposal for Fifty-Year Economic Development of the Indian-Pacific Oceans Basin has the correlated significance of inaugurating our own internal ‘crash program’ to base analysis on determination of rates of change of potential relative population-density as I have been careful to specify all the crucial features of this within relevant parts of my section of that preliminary proposal.” [return to top]

2. Jason Ross elaborates these distinctions in his 2015 LaRouchePAC production, “Forging Fusion: Physical, Chemical, Nuclear, Fusion!” [return to top]

3. All of the data for this comparison is from the World Bank’s “indicators” website (, and it is not clearly stated how the pre-1991 distinctions between East and West Germany were handled in each individual data set. There is no separate data available for East Germany, and there are no sharp jumps in land area, population, energy, or electricity values between 1990 and 1991, so it appears an effort was made to reconstruct the values for Germany as a single nation (at least in the data sets used here). [return to top]

4. In addition to the work required to search through additional data sets produced by various nations and agencies, this would also introduce the additional complicating factor of different methodologies used by various nations and agencies when gathering what is supposed to be the same data (for example, overhead vs. productive operatives could easily be defined in various ways by different governments). For this latter reason, this series is attempting to use as few data sources as possible, in the hope to at least ensure consistency within a given data set and allow us to emphasize the more important factor of relative changes over time (as opposed to merely absolute values per se).  [return to top]

5. This is without considering the additional advantages provided by nuclear fuel reprocessing and breeder reactor technologies.  [return to top] 

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  • Benjamin Deniston
    published this page in Science 2020-10-16 17:14:02 -0400

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