In the AEI “Energy 101″ video above featuring Ken Green, we learn that the first energy breakthrough for humans after the discovery of fire was the harnessing of horsepower. But horsepower is limited because 200 horses can’t gallop 60 mph in 10 seconds, and no amount of oats can get a horse to power a 747 jet plane.
As Steve Hayward explains on the Powerline blog: “This particular script was mostly my idea; it came to me one day when I was behind a Ford Mustang at a stoplight, and my mind wandered to a meditation about how and why we still use “horsepower” as a measure of energy, even though no one really has the foggiest idea what a “horsepower” actually is (other than wanting a lot of them “under the hood”).”
Related: The photo below illustrates “horsepower” in the old days, and shows what farming in the U.S. was like without fossil fuels, when a combine harvester was pulled by 33 horses (from Wikimedia Commons).
And here’s the same farming operation today, using fossil fuels to generate “horsepower” a lot more efficiently at a much lower cost (from Wikimedia Commons).