Thursday, October 18, 2007

Black Gold

Step back for a moment and look at how awesome we have it in the United States, from a global and historical standpoint.

Inkeeping with my recent fascination with wood as a source for energy and heat, today I learned how much coal it takes to run a light bulb per year.

See that light bulb? It takes about 746 pounds of coal to run that light bulb for a year, assuming Normal Use.

746 pounds. Of coal. To run a light bulb for a year with normal use. People go several thousand feet under the earth, stick dynamite into holes in a cave, blast out coal, and haul it up from the belly of the earth. Then they ship it all over the country to feed the power plants.

Now...coal is considered Energy Dense compared to most other potential energy sources. The fact that it takes over a quarter ton to light a bulb for a year isn't a deficit on the part of coal. It's simply revealing how much energy we actually use. We use a lot.

Estimate about 7 pounds of coal per annual kWh. A modern refridgerator takes well over 4000 pounds of coal for a year. 18,000 pounds for the AC. 746 pounds per lightbulb. 4000 pound for the computer, and so on and so on.

You see where I'm going with this. The average household consumes 15,600 kWh of electricity per year, or 109,200 pounds of coal per household. Each one of us has a mountain of coal set aside just for us.

This, of course, is awesome. I mean, wow! This is a huge, graphic testament to the efficiency of our economic system and economies of scale. To personally produce the amount of energy you'd need to keep your standard of living, you'd need to haul 95 tones of coal from the ground each year.

This is by no means a condemnation of our energy usage. But we should realize just how MUCH power we use, and most of it comes from coal. Nationwide we're looking at at least 11,000,000,000,000 pounds of coal brought up from the ground and pumped into the atmosphere each ear in the United States alone. That's over 11 TRILLION pounds of buried coal, set aflame and put back into the atmosphere Each Year. It's impossible to believe that has no impact on the atmospheric makeup. Imagine lighting a cigarette in a football stadium. Now imagine everybody lighting a cigarette in a football stadium. How long will it take before somebody walks in and says "I smell cigarettes."

1 comment:

Andy said...

This reminds me of a survey I took a few weeks ago that was designed to gather impressions of a new advertising campaign the coal industry is planning. The campaign involved several images of a pair of hands holding a pile of coal. Respondents were to mark which image looked "cleanest". They all looked incredibly dirty to me.