THE PRICE OF LIGHT
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.