The Oil Drum has a thoughtful article on whether energy use makes you happy. There are 6.5 billion people on this planet, and not enough energy to go around. When people discuss peak oil, and the changes that will ensue, it's assumed that we will need to find new energy sources to replace it. However, the article looks at peak oil 'from a broader context: the necessity and purpose of continued increases in demand for energy. What is it all for, if not to make us happy?'
The article contains quite a lot of interesting statistics, including a study that compares GNP to the average happiness of countries' occupants. The basic result is that money, and therefore consumption and products, makes you happier to a point, but after that point does very little. It's summed up nicely by this quote, "When you buy your 5th car, does that make you anything close to as happy than when you bought your first? (does it really make you happy at all, or is it like opening the fridge at midnight?). Is the 10 million dollar in the bank 10 times better than the first? Do we buy the 50th pair of shoes because we need them, or we need the feeling we get from buying them?"Do we really need to be stripping the Earth of resources as quickly as we are, in order to keep everyone happy, even considering how many people are balanced on top of it? Even if the answer is yes, then it would appear that an even distribution of energy use would up the global happiness average considerably. Of course, that all seems rather obvious and intuitive when you say it like that. It's interesting to see that conspicuous consumption is pointless, but quite another to convince people to give away all but a few of their millions for the greater good. ::The Oil Drum