Power to the People!

By Nick Sibilla

The Oregon Department of Energy (DOE) has unveiled a bold new plan to create green jobs: investing in human energy. With retrofitted bikes and elliptical machines, people can turn their workouts into renewable energy. Thirty minutes of exercise generate 50 watt hours of human energy, enough to charge a laptop for one whole hour.

Among other sources of green power, Oregon is also a pioneer in human energy. The University of Oregon has spent $22,000 on 20 human energy machines, while in March 2009, Oregon State University had the largest human power plant in the world. Those are some sweaty Beavers.

Inspired by these universities, the DOE will pay all 185,000 unemployed Oregonians to generate human energy. If each jobless Oregonian exercised eight hours a day, five days a week, we could produce 18.5MW[i] of clean power each year. That’s enough electricity to power 2,700 homes! All this is possible, for only $3.3 billion.[ii] Now that’s a bargain.

Since anyone with legs can bike or run, these are the ultimate “green collar” jobs. No skills required. Plus, by investing in human energy, even more jobs will be created: Machines break down—mechanic jobs. Athletes need food and water—concession jobs. Bikers need music to listen to—Steve Jobs!

As you can imagine, all this exercise will be great for our health. In fact, we could eliminate childhood obesity altogether by mandating that kids provide human energy. After all, our children are getting fat and corrupted by violent video games. Our children need to learn a sense of civic duty. What better way to teach them how the government works than by forcing them to do something that goes absolutely nowhere?

More jobs, more clean energy and lower health care costs—it’s a triple win!

Now, I know some free trade capitalists will hate this, but we need to make sure that only Oregonians can have these jobs. We can’t let the unwashed masses from Idaho or Seattle steal our human energy. We need to seal off the border. That’s the only way we can keep our energy local. Plus, think of all the jobs that would be created: construction workers, guards, moat diggers, you name it. Soon, we would have too many jobs—can you say negative unemployment?

But fiscally conservative nattering nabobs of negativity will say it’s insane to pay people to ride bikes to power Oregon. They say clean energy subsidies are completely unnecessary. After a Portland streetcar that costs $50 million per mile and a billion-dollar wind farm, they would have you believe Oregon can’t afford any more gimmicks.

But the DOE’s plan has two sources of funding. The first would be to raise taxes on the rich. Recently, Robert Reich proposed a 70% marginal tax rate. But that’s too low. Instead, that rate should be 100% of revenue. Why? 100% is bigger than 70%. Obviously. Better yet, make the rich give 110%. They can afford it. (And what’s this business calling taxes “marginal?” Too many hard-working, middle-class Americans have to pay taxes. Taxes aren’t marginal: They’re mainstream.)

Second, this plan would sell “human energy certificates” (HEX). Buying HEX would allow people to finance human energy without actually exercising. People who buy HEX receive the benefits of human energy, like sweat, a sexier body and an unflappable sense of moral superiority, all at low, low prices!

We must invest in human energy to save our economy and our planet. After all, people are the ultimate renewable resource.


Nick Sibilla is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market think tank. When he’s not being über-manly, he dabbles in political satire.


[i]100 watt hours per hour X 40 hour workweek = 4,000 watt hours (4 kWh per week)

4,000 X 50 weeks = 200,0000 watt hours per year (200 kWh per year, per person)

200 kWh X 185,000 unemployed Oregonians in May 2011 = 37,000,000 kWh (37,000 MWh)

37,000MWh = convert to MW (divide by the number of hours biked each year [2,000h (40h X 50 weeks)]

37,000MWh/2,000h = 18.5 MW QED!

[ii]$8.50 X 2,000 man-hours per year = $17,000 annual wage X 185,000 unemployed= $3.145 billion

$1100 per machine X 185,000 unemployed = $203.5 million

Total cost = around $3.35 billion

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to LinkedIn Post to Reddit

Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , | 424 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post

Stay Tuned...

Stay up to date with the latest political news and commentary from Oregon Catalyst through daily email updates:

Prefer another subscription option? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, become a fan on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Twitter Facebook

No Thanks (close this box)