Happy Saturday green people! Tis’ the season for cozy fires, festive celebrations and quality time with family. The next few months are also the season for higher spikes in energy use, which believe it or not doesn’t just hurt your wallet. On this holly jolly Saturday, we are going to unravel the mysterious process of how energy; like electricity is generated and why our consumption has a direct impact on the environment.
My curiosity about energy, our consumption of it, and what that means for the environment began with the realization that I lacked an understanding of the most basic concept of how energy is generated for our use. As I researched the topic of energy, I discovered a well of information, but found it necessary to start with the explanation of how energy (more specifically) electricity is generated. The short answer is to generate electricity the majority of power plants burn coal, crude oil or other fossil fuels. That definition is simple, but vague, so for the readers like me who enjoy an overload of details I dug a little deeper and uncovered a detailed list of the process below:
- Oil burns to make heat
- Heat boils water
- Water turns to steam
- Steam pressure turns a turbine
- Turbine turns an electric generator
- Generator produces electricity
- Electricity powers light bulbs
- Light bulbs then give off light
I believe that it is important to mention that fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource; meaning that at some point we will have depleted the earth of all of it and are unable to recreate those natural resources. “The more we use, the more we lose,” as the old saying goes, which is why our dependence on fossil fuel creates a problem for current and future generations. We need to make a strong effort to continue conserving as much energy as we can because not only does it reduce the output of pollution caused by generating fossil fuels into energy, but it slows down the inevitable “running out” factor that frankly the world has not fully prepared for.
The U.S. gets around 80% of its total energy from fossil fuels, we depend on them for not only electricity, but for heating our homes, running are vehicles and more. The United States accounts for just 5% of the world’s population but consumes 17% of the world’s energy. In 2018 the total primary energy consumption per person in the U.S was 309 million British Thermal Units (the quantity of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water one-degree Fahrenheit at a specified temperature, such as 39°F), we also spent roughly a trillion dollars for that energy. Fossil fuel causes air pollution when burned and is expensive to mine, which is why consuming less power helps reduce the harmful effects to our environment and our wallets.
On the bright side of all the “gloom and doom” I’ve mentioned above I do want to say scientist are working to find safe and long- lasting alternatives. There has been an increase in the use of renewable energy sources called “clean energy,” which are; solar, wind, water, geothermal, bioenergy and nuclear. According to Francesco La Camera, who is the director general of IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) “renewable power is the backbone of any development that aims to be sustainable.” These resources are better options for consumers to utilize for their power and electricity when given the option. We are not at a point where all Countries, States, and Cities have access to clean energy resources, so I want to note that it makes a great difference when individuals practice energy conservation. Practicing energy conservation can be remembering to turn the lights out when you leave a room, lowering your thermostat when you are not home, or washing only full loads of laundry. If you want to take your energy conservation practices a step further opt for connecting devices to power strips, which makes them easier to switch off, switch to energy efficient light bulbs and install a smart thermostat that you can adjust away from home. The use of power strips prevents appliances from going into “standby mode” which is when an appliance still pulls a small amount of energy from the outlets because they are plugged in aka “vampire energy.” Picking an energy efficient light bulb can lower your electricity use by up to 80% as opposed to using the traditional incandescent light bulb. It’s important to have proper home insulation otherwise the effectiveness of the heating and cooling system is lower.
The U.S consumes 40% of its energy in the form of electricity and heating, and this number spikes in the winter months when people are feeling festive and host holiday celebrations at their homes, coupled with colder temperatures outside. Christmas lights can be seen in most neighborhoods, which is lovely to view but most definitely increase electricity use. Just changing a few or our habits can make a huge difference, according to the EPA; energy efficiency and conservation is about using less energy to get the same job done. I don’t know about you all, but all of the tips and tricks listed seem rather doable. Let’s make this holiday season our most sustainable one yet! Happy Holidays green folks and remember to Reduce (energy), Reuse (decorations), Recycle (as much as you can).
KOB’s Very own Blog Contributor,