THE PRICE OF LIGHT

The Economic Times - - Disruption: Startups & Tech -

THow long you had to work for an hour of light* he costs for the pro­duc­tion of light, one of the most im­por­tant en­ablers of progress, have dropped in a way that is hardly imag­in­able. En­vi­ron­men­tal econ­o­mists Roger Fou­quet and Peter Pear­son have now re­traced this devel­op­ment for Eng­land. One hour of light (re­ferred to as the quan­tity of light shed by a 100 watt bulb in one hour) cost 3200 times as much in 1800 in Eng­land than it does to­day, amount­ing to €130 eu­ros (or a lit­tle more than $150). In 1900, it still cost € 4 (close to $5). In the year 2000, we ar­rived at a cost of €4 cents (5 US cents). You can also put this in con­text by com­par­ing the amount of time that an av­er­age worker needed to labour dur­ing dif­fer­ent ages in

order to earn enough for the 100 watt bulb to glow for an hour - just like the economist William Nord­haus has done in one of his clas­sic es­says. The peo­ple of Baby­lon, in 1750 B.C., who used sesame oil to light the lamps, had to work for 400 hours to pro­duce the said amount of light. Around 1800, us­ing tal­cum can­dles, 50 hours needed to be in­vested. Us­ing a gas lamp in the late 19th cen­tury, 3 hours were due. Us­ing an en­ergy sav­ing bulb to­day, you will have to work for the blink of an eye — a sec­ond.

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