An excellent article on energy use, GDP, wealth and energy expenditure by a system modeler Francois Cellier:
The Slavery of Oil
"As energy becomes more expensive, we may soon experience a situation where we spend our entire GDP and more just to procure the energy needed to maintain our life style. This claim is what I wanted to verify."
Last year as oil went up to $147/barrel, the procurement of oil alone started to near 12% of GDP. Oil is black gold and will be more so in the future. Even if price tanks this year to $30/barrel, it will multiply in years to come.
"This means that, if ever the price of energy should rise to a level of $0.37/kWh, we would spend our entire GDP just on the procurement of energy. This corresponds to an oil price of $590/barrel."
$590 of 2009 dollars sounds a lot. Still, many analysts have already flashed estimates of $300/barrel (inflatated) dollars. Even inflation adjusted that would be near $200-$250/barrel in a few years. So, roughly 30-40% of GDP.
"Why are the Norwegians spending more energy than the Swedes? There is no good reason for it. They do it, because they can."
This is a good reminder. If you have energy, you will waste it, even when it's expensive, as long as you can make for the additional expenses by selling surplus to others at a higher price. High oil prices only increase consumption in the oil exporting nations, as Middle-East countries so effectively demonstrated us in the past years.
Finland would probably be slightly below and to the right of Sweden. That is, less wealthy, but wasting more energy. Is that something to be proud of? Is that a good position to start from, once we start on a global liquid energy diet?
Lots of more good stuff in the article and in the comments below. Be sure to look at Euan Mearn's related follow up article at TOD also, titled "The Financial Return of Energy Invested".