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Earth Walk Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the facts ...just the facts...
that may answer many of your questions about everything from A to Z when in comes to creating a sustainable future.

If you are young check out "Info for KIDS"
If you are not read on!!!!

Energy Facts
Energy Consumption

Though accounting for only 5 percent of the world's population, Americans consume 26 percent of the world's energy. (American Almanac)

In 1997, U.S. residents consumed an average of 12,133 kilowatt-hours of electricity each, almost nine times greater than the average for the rest of the world. (Grist Magazine)

Worldwide, some 2 billion people are currently without electricity. (U.S. Department of Energy)

Total U.S. residential energy consumption is projected to increase 17 percent from 1995 - 2015. (U.S. Energy Information Administration)

World energy consumption is expected to increase 40% to 50% by the year 2010, and the global mix of fuels--renewables (18%), nuclear (4%), and fossil (78%)--is projected to remain substantially the same as today; thus global carbon dioxide emissions would also increase 50% to 60%.

Among industrialized and developing countries, Canada consumes per capita the most energy in the world, the United Sates ranks second, and Italy consumes the least among industrialized countries.

Developing countries use 30% of global energy. Rapid population growth, combined with economic growth, will rapidly increase that percentage in the next 10 years.

The World Bank estimates that investments of $1 trillion will be needed in this decade and upwards of $4 trillion during the next 30 years to meet developing countries' electricity needs alone.

America uses about 15 times more energy per person than does the typical developing country.

Residential appliances, including heating and cooling equipment and water heaters, consume 90% of all energy used in the U.S. residential sector.

The United States spends about $440 billion annually for energy. Energy costs U.S. consumers $200 billion and U.S. manufacturers $100 billion annually.

Global Warming

Worldwide, 1995 was the warmest year since global temperatures were first kept in 1856. This supports the near consensus among climatologists that emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases are causing global warming. (Chivilan and Epstein, Boston Globe)

On average, 16 million tons of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere every 24 hours by human use worldwide. (U.S. Department of Energy)

Carbon emissions in North America reached 1,760 million metric tons in 1998, a 38 percent increase since 1970. They are expected to grow another 31 percent, to 2,314 million metric tons, by the year 2020. (U.S. Department of Energy)

The United States is the world's largest single emitter of carbon dioxide, accounting for 23 percent of energy-related carbon emissions worldwide. (U.S. Department of Energy)

An average of 23,000 pounds of carbon dioxide are emitted annually in each American home. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

The transportation sector consumed 35% of the nation's energy in 1990; this sector is 97% dependent on petroleum.

Fossil fuels are depleted at a rate that is 100,000 times faster than they are formed.

Health

Approximately 30,000 lives are cut short in the U.S. each year due to pollution from electricity production. (ABT Associates study)

About 81 tons of mercury are emitted into the atmosphere each year as a result of electric power generation. Mercury is the most toxic heavy metal in existence. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Burning fossil fuels to produce energy releases carbon dioxide and other global-warming-causing gases into the atmosphere. Global warming will increase the incidence of infectious diseases (including equine encephalitis and Lyme disease), death from heat waves, blizzards, and floods, and species loss. (Chivilan and Epstein, Boston Globe, April 10, 1997)

Transportation

The United States consumes about 17 million barrels of oil per day, of which nearly two-thirds is used for transportation.

The United States imports more than seven million barrels of oil per day.

While the world's population doubled between 1950 and 1996, the number of cars increased tenfold. Automobile congestion in the United States alone accounts for $100 billion in wasted fuel, lost productivity, and rising health costs. Still, analysts project that the world's fleet of cars will double in a mere 25 years. (Worldwatch Institute)

Americans use a billion gallons of motor oil a year, 350 million gallons of which end up polluting the environment. (Department of Energy and Maryland Energy Administration)

A car that gets 20 miles per gallon (mpg) emits approximately 50 tons of global-warming inducing carbon dioxide over its lifetime, while a 40-mpg car emits only 25 tons. Over the average lifetime of an American car (100,000 miles), a 40-mpg car will also save approximately $3,000 in fuel costs compared to a 20-mpg car. (Natural Resources Defense Council)

The cars and trucks reaching the junkyards this year have higher gasoline mileage, on average, than the new ones rolling off dealers' lots, for the first time on record. (Matt Wald, The New York Times, August 11, 1997)

Renewables

Only 7.5 percent of total U.S. energy consumption came from renewable sources in 1998. Of that total, 94 percent was from hydropower and biomass (trash and wood incinerators). (U.S. Energy Information Administration)

For the 2 billion people without access to electricity, it would be cheaper to install solar panels than to extend the electrical grid. (The Fund for Renewable Energy Everywhere)

Within 15 years, renewable energy could be generating enough electricity to power 40 million homes and offset 70 days of oil imports.

Photovoltaics

Providing power for villages in developing countries is a fast-growing market for photovoltaics. The United Nations estimates that more than 2 million villages worldwide are without electric power for water supply, refrigeration, lighting, and other basic needs, and the cost of extending the utility grids is prohibitive, $23,000 to $46,000 per kilometer in 1988.

A one kilowatt PV system* each month:

prevents 150 lbs. of coal from being mined

prevents 300 lbs. of CO2 from entering the atmosphere

keeps 105 gallons of water from being consumed

keeps NO and SO2 from being released into the environment

* in Colorado, or an equivalent system that produces 150 kWh per month

Wind

Wind power is the fastest-growing energy source in the world. (Worldwatch Institute)

The wind in North Dakota alone could produce a third of America's electricity. (The Official Earth Day Guide to Planet Repair)

Wind power has the potential to supply a large fraction--probably at least 20%--of U.S. electricity demand at an economical price.

In 1990, California's wind power plants offset the emission of more than 2.5 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, and 15 million pounds of other pollutants that would have otherwise been produced.

Using 100 kWh of wind power each month is equivalent to:

planting ½ acre of trees

not driving 2,400 miles

Solar Thermal

Research shows that an average household with an electric water heater spends about 25% of its home energy costs on heating water.

Solar water heaters offered the largest potential savings, with solar water heater owners saving as much as 50% to 85% annually on their utility bills over the cost of electric water heating.

You can expect a simple payback of 4 to 8 years on a well-designed and properly installed solar water heater. (Simple payback is the length of time required to recover your investment through reduced or avoided energy costs.)

Solar water heaters do not pollute. By investing in one, you will be avoiding carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and the other air pollution and wastes created when your utility generates power or you burn fuel to heat your household water. When a solar water heater replaces an electric water heater, the electricity displaced over 20 years represents more than 50 tons of avoided carbon dioxide emissions alone.

Alternative Fuels

Using bio diesel in a conventional diesel engine substantially reduces emissions of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, sulfates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and particulate matter.

Bio diesel:

can be used at 100% levels or mixed in any proportion with No. 2 diesel or No. 1 diesel.

Contains no nitrogen or aromatics

Typically contains less than 15 ppm sulfur - Does not contribute to sulfur dioxide emissions

Has characteristically low carbon monoxide, particulate, soot and hydrocarbon emissions

Contains 11% oxygen by weight

Has the highest energy content (BTUs) of any alternative fuel and is comparable to No. 1 diesel.

Over 4,000 electric vehicles are operating throughout the United States (with the largest number in California and the western United States).

More than 20,000 flexible-fuel vehicles are in operation.

Over 75,000 natural gas vehicles in U.S. and nearly 1 million worldwide.

Energy Efficiency

By taking appropriate energy-saving measures, by 2010 the United States can have an energy system that reduces costs by $530 per household per year and reduces global warming pollutant emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels. (Energy Innovations report)

Just by using the "off the shelf" energy-efficient technologies available today, we could cut the cost of heating, cooling, and lighting our homes and workplaces by up to 80%. (U.S. Department of Energy and Maryland Energy Administration)

Replacing one incandescent light bulb with an energy-saving compact fluorescent bulb means 1,000 pounds less carbon dioxide is emitted to the atmosphere and $67 dollars is saved on energy costs over the bulb's lifetime. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Alliance to Save Energy)

A decrease of only 1% in industrial energy use would save the equivalent of about 55 million barrels of oil per year, worth about $1 billion.

 

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