MAKING DATA ACCESSIBLE
Those of us who see the economy primarily as an energy system rather than a financial one are very much in the minority. Most policymakers and commentators cling to conventional interpretations, even as real events refuse to conform to their world-view. We’re not going to argue our case successfully on theoretical grounds alone, but need evidence to back up our interpretations.
This is what SEEDS – the Surplus Energy Economics Data System – is all about.
The development of SEEDS has been a very big project, almost dauntingly so at times. Now, though, it has reached the point where its output can be made generally available. The aim has been to provide those interested with sufficient data in free-to-download form, whilst not handing comprehensive data free-of-charge to commercial organisations.
Accordingly, SEEDS data has been divided into two products. SEEDS Snapshots are freely available in PDF format, whilst a modest charge will be made for the more comprehensive SEEDS Pro datasets.
I am delighted to inform readers that twenty (out of 22) SEEDS Snapshots are now available for download. You can find them on the resources page newly added for this purpose. This means that you can now access data for Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. The sets remaining to be added are Saudi Arabia, and the world overview.
After summaries in local currencies and US dollars, the data sheets look first at the energy “mix” for each country – primary energy consumption is broken out into fossil fuels, renewables and an “other” category comprising nuclear and hydroelectricity, whilst production of energy is stated in aggregate.
Next comes a summary of energy economics, including the estimated trend ECoE (energy cost of energy) and EROEI (energy return on energy invested).
Economic output is divided into three categories. The first of these is GDP, stated at constant values. The second, “underlying output”, adjusts GDP for the estimated extent to which borrowed consumption has inflated the headline number. The “real” economy further adjusts the latter for the economic rent exacted by the energy cost of energy. Each of these numbers is then expressed in per capita terms, and rates of growth are stated both in aggregate and at the per capita level.
Further financial data is set out in the remaining tables. Debt at current values is broken out, where possible, into government, household and PNFC (private non-financial corporate) sectors, and the total is also stated in constant, inflation-adjusted terms. Debt is then expressed as a percentage both of GDP and of the borrowing-adjusted underlying equivalent.
Annual growth and borrowing are then compared, in constant terms. Thus, Australian GDP increased by A$39bn in 2015, of which it is estimated that A$30bn was debt-fuelled consumption. Also in 2015, Australia borrowed a net A$284bn, using A$254bn for purposes other than boosting consumption. Over the ten years from 2005 to 2015, each A$1 addition to GDP was accompanied by A$4.35 in net new debt.
The penultimate table summarises government finances in both current and constant values. This is broken out into government revenue, interest paid on government debt, and all other public expenditures, resulting in a surplus or deficit. All of this is set out in current, constant and percentage terms. Thus, Australia’s government deficit in 1995 was A$18bn, equivalent to A$30bn in constant 2015 values, and also equivalent to 3.4% of GDP.
Finally, a similar summary is provided for the external sector. This shows net exports, and the aggregate of current income, which notably includes returns on investments and interest paid on debt. These sum to the current account, a critical indicator of a country’s financial relationship with the rest of the world.
In future articles, we can explore the methods and conclusions of the SEEDS system in depth. For now, though, do download some of these data sheets, and explore what you can get from them.