Kilowatt Ours, Pt. 2

October 29, 2007 | | 3 Comments

Here’s a follow up to my Kilowatt Ours post from last week, and a response to the W&M Federalist Society’s recent post on the subject. Energy consumption in developing countries is definitely something that should cause warnings bells to go off in our heads. China’s coal consumption threatens to make us look like amateurs very soon. The Federalist Society post makes a good point that we cannot afford to ignore such a juggernaut.

However, increasing energy consumption in places like China cannot be the basis of a refusal to change our own habits. Even though Chinese electricity demands will outstrip our own in the future, it still makes sense to save electricity, for several reasons. First, continuing to waste resources because someone else is wasting more does not make the problem go away. I prefer to make the world better, not worse.

Second, even if developing countries overtake America in the Who-Can-Consume-Faster race, this country still consumes enormous amounts of energy. The author of the Federalist Society’s post on this subject points out that, according (.pdf) to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the United States’s growth rate in energy consumption is about mid-level for developed countries. Our electricity appetite is only expected to grow more than Japan and members of the European Union in the future. So we’re about average as developed countries go growth-wise. I think it’s also important to look at our current levels of consumption when thinking about our growing pains.

The EIA’s website displays a survey (.xls) of energy consumption by global region. In 2005, Europe consumed 3.2 trillion Kilowatt hours of power, North America managed to use 4.5 trillion, and Asia came out on top with 5 trillion. As a planet that year, we used almost 16 trillion Kilowatt hours (That’s about 640 million tons of coal) which weighs about as much as 200 million H3 Hummers…in case you were wondering). Since our continent accounts for almost 28.9% of the electricity consumption on the planet, we have the power to make a big difference in global energy usage. Even though there will soon be bigger kids on the block, we’re still in charge of a big part of the playground.

Third, although I’ll concede that unplugging your nightlight will not stop glaciers from melting or sea levels from rising, unplugging 300 million nightlights every day for 50 years would certainly save a lot of money and coal. And the less coal we dig up and burn, the better our lives will be. Not only because of reduced global warming, but also because burning less coal has tangible benefits.

Jeff Barrie talks about a few simple examples in his film Kilowatt Ours (.pdf), the inspiration for this blog posting today. The EPA estimates that 33 million people in the Southeast live in Bad-Air areas. Asthma is currently the number one culprit for health care expenses for children. Changing the way we use energy can change these problems. If every house in America changed one room to use Energy Star lighting, it would be like taking 1 trillion pounds of greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere. It would also mean less demand for the coal-generated electricity that contributes to these problems.

Fourth, do we really want to let Europe and Japan win? This is America. We go for the gold. Barrie’s flim is so exciting because it points out that winning the energy conservation medal doesn’t require Herculean efforts. I’m going to go do my electricity conservation warm ups (wrist flexing for screwing in efficient light bulbs, finger stretches for turning off lights, a few bicep curls for putting on sweaters in the winter), I hope you’ll join me.


3 Comments so far

  1. Colin on October 29, 2007 10:43 am

    Well said, Jessie.

  2. Christian Miller on October 30, 2007 11:18 am

    Ms. Coulter,

    I thought I’d point out that to the extent you think it is important to look at current levels of consumption the data I provided from the EIA website has that information. The only difference between the data you link to and mine is the units of measurement.


  3. Jessie on October 30, 2007 12:25 pm

    Thanks Christian. I wanted to distinguish between growth in consumption and current levels of consumption. I appreciate your interest!

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