Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Needs More Thought

Hope you are all feeling great about "earth day." Planning to turn out the lights tonight? Don't burn candles instead as the impact on the environment is MUCH worse. Not planning on driving to work? Make sure that the lost productivity doesn't wipe out the positive impact that the reduced CO2 might have. In fact just about everything we do that "feels good" about conservation really isn't going to help. Let's look at the big picture.

Average per-capita energy consumption on the planet in 2005 was 1,778 kgoe

US consumption was 7,885.9 kgoe.

So yes, US citizens per capita consume way more than the average -- although it is incorrect to say that we consume the most. Folks in the very hot places (like the United Arab Emirates) handily beat us at that game.

But let's talk about conservation -- what if we convinced US citizens on average to consume 20% less energy? We'd save something like 1577.18 kgoe per person per year. But the US is less than 5% of the population of the planet. So how much would the other 6.7 billion people have to increase their energy use to wipe out our conservation?

About 70 kgoe

That is just 20 gallons of gasoline.

So if everyone in the US reduces our energy consumption by 20% for an entire year the rest of the world can fill up their gas tanks once and wipe out all of our conservation.

Of course not everyone in the world has a car (most don't today). But the problem with conservation is that it ignores the real problem -- the rest of the world wants to live like we do. Instead of reducing energy use we need to focus on how we can increase energy use without destroying the planet and the only way is to create cheap clean energy alternatives to oil.

In fact, lets increase average global energy consumption by an order of magnitude - to 20,000 kgoe -- but with cheap clean energy.

Cheap clean energy would mean cheap clean water which would in turn allow for cheap high quality food and improved living conditions.

And lets not forget that clean energy would reduce greenhouse gasses and help us reverse global climate change.

Simple conservation won't help. Focus your energy instead on the investment in innovation that is necessary to create the power sources of the future.

Happy Earth Day

Data from EarthTrends: The Environmental Information Portal

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