This is part two of the series where I try to get some perspective on the huge task of significantly altering energy use in the U.S. - and try to get some guidelines for policy and measures on success. Also I get to play with numbers in the quadrillions, and talk about Megatons of things. Where else can you have such fun?
Part One is here.
This dives into the numbers available at the EIA, Specifically the Annual Energy Forecast.
- Doing anything to really move energy use needs a big, wartime like, commitment.
- Efficiency and Conservation measures are key.
- If you believe the science then Greenhouse Gas emissions are going to drive policy.
- One big thing won't make these goals. It will take several big things and a thousand little ones, and the government will have to act as an incubator.
Nothing new and exciting but worked through from seeing some actual numbers.
First a few words about the EIA and their wonderful resources. There are dozens and dozens of spreadsheets that contain a lot of the data needed to look at energy use. Their projections are sometimes funny in a sad way. For example their Table 20 Macroeconomic indicators has real disposable income growing 3% this year and with no growth next year about 3% from then on out. I hope so... Their projections also have a built in bias that there will be no major attempt to decrease CO2 emissions. It is odd that while there is a lot of good carbon data in here, projections of energy mix show no real major changes. Still overall I would like to thank the people working at EIA (republican or not!) for the work done on this stuff.
In the future I am just going to say things like Table 8 of the Forecast or just Table. What I mean is Table 8 from the 2009 Preliminary Forecast spreadsheet. I am being specific because already looking at these high level numbers I see striking things and I want to be specific since I could be wrong and this lets the wrongness be pinpointed better.
Ok, some boring terminology. We are now hitting the water in the dive. Energy use is described in several ways using BTU's and Watt-hours, or rather Quadrillion BTU's (Quads) and kilowatt-hours (kWh). The main unit used in these tables is the British Thermal Unit, BTU or in fact the Quadrillion BTU which I will call the Quad. This is used for two reasons, first it is a measure of energy that comes historically from measuring heating from burning things and this has been and still is the biggest source of energy we use today. Second, using a BTU as a base will let us calculate efficiencies. It will become more unsuitable as the years go by in the sense that Wind and Solar and such aren't naturally measured as BTU's but more in kWh. Kilowatt-hours is the standard electrical energy unit. See below (1) for conversion values.
Total Consumption and its lessons.
In 2007 the U.S. Consumed 101.92 Quads of energy or about 30 million million kWh so lets do a standard physics trick and just call that 1 standard year of energy use. The breakdown then is as follows
Total 2007 Energy use by Type (2)
|Type of Energy Source||Quads||% Standard|
|Liquid Fuel (Oil+)||40.75||40%|
All the sexy stuff, Wind, Solar, and such is in that little renewable line.
CO2 emissions 2007 in Megatons of CO2 (3)
|Type of Energy Source||Megatons CO2||% Total|
Yow. Megatons. Another fun word that makes you think. Incidentally I checked this using total usage numbers and Canadian Government CO2 figures and my own calculation agreed to within a couple percent. Just doing some verification. Coal has a varying amount of carbon in it and that affects the numbers depending on the type you use.
Electric Power 2007 by Source (4)
|Type of Energy Source||billion kWh||% Total|
The renewable line here is mostly hydro really with the other, Wind, etc in with it.
Just looking at these numbers alone we can come to some powerful conclusions. Using the goals I mentioned in the first diary (which I expect to do over and over.)
This goal is a constraint on other goals. The size of these numbers is huge. Usually stories I've seen covering this make some personalized example, so who am I to differ? Lets say every able bodied adult in the US, 200 million people, rode a bike an hour a day that was connected to a generator that put out 100 Watts (more than many people could do for an hour, but anyway). So we've got 200 million times 100 Watt-hours times 365 days a year (no breaks!) that gives 7.3 Billion kWh. That is 0.0017 of the annual electricity output. We just need to get over 500 times the U.S. Population to do this!
Let 's look at the story of a study of turning coffee grounds into biodiesel. This was a story that got a lot of press (5). The study showed that globally 340 million gallons of biodiesel could be produced from coffee grounds annually. Assume 100 million gallons are possible for the U.S. At 140,000 BTU per gallon we get about 0.014 Quad or 0.035% of oil use. This is peanuts, no wait, peanuts are actually a bigger source of biodiesel, this is minute. Does this mean we should ignore things like this? Absolutely NOT! It just means we need 1000 more sources of this size to make a dent in Petroleum use. That sounds like a lot but is certainly possible. It means that top down driven development won't cut it alone in this area. We need to encourage entrepreneurial action. Private sector innovation in other words. Wow. Where were the Republicans on this?
On the other hand the way these big numbers stack up shows that conservation is the big win in two separate ways. First it directly reduces use, which means less cost, pollution and such, but it also enables these small projects to make a bigger dent. If we were 20% more efficient in petroleum use then we only need 800 coffee-like projects to make the same percentage dent. It means that clean substitutions are powerful. So if we can replace 10% of electricity with a non-CO2 source and get rid of inefficient power plants that means we would reduce coal use by 20%. The thing is, here is where big time intrusive government regulations and programs would make the dent. Much higher gas rating mandates are called for, very much higher. Programs to buy out the worst gas milage cars will likely be needed. So we've got a call for the business person encouraged by targeted spending and tax cuts and the government doing prudent large scale action. How odd...
Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
If we take the goal of the head of the IPCC seriously and look for 25 to 40% reduction in emissions by 2020 and then look at the numbers for the big emitters this goal will drive all changes. What a daunting challenge but with yet anotherAntarctic ice sheet ready to break there should be some urgency here.
[Edited based on Jerome a Pais comment below]
Let us say we look at a total reduction of 30% and have 15% be from coal and 15% be from oil. That means we need to reduce oil use 34% and coal use 42%. Yikes! In 12 years? Well, it will have to be a two pronged attack. Efficiency gains (i.e. conservation) and transfer to new power sources. For example if we want Wind Power to take up half of the coal conversion we are talking 400 billion kWh a year of generation. 2008 estimate of US output from wind generation is 53 Billion kWh. We would want to increase capacity about 8 times the 2008 levels. That is a city (literally) of turbines, but the natural capacity is there, this could be done. The new Manhattan (KS) project. These numbers are gigantic. For wind it means building 10's of thousands of large structures in rural areas, mainly. It implies big time capital availability, and huge contracts that let GE and such ramp up turbine production. Otherwise we just wouldn't be able to make enough in time. More on this later.
This goal will be the driver of scale, and also argues for efficiency. If we can increase the average efficiency of coal plants by 10% we just reduced ongoing cost and made the replacement job easier. If we do some kind of CO2 capture even a few percent will make a big difference. The overall efficiency of coal plants in these figures is surprisingly bad to me, and must be investigated. It could be the old plants need to be shut rather than improved, but I almost can't believe these numbers. I guess coal cost is too low to drive power plant upgrades vs just depreciating out the bad plants. I want to look into this in relation to electric vehicles later, but those efficiency number are so different from what I read that this changes my view of things.
Reduce Imports of Petroleum
Increase Toughness of the Production and Distribution Systems
Minimizing Ecological damage
Well the numbers show we are living on oil and as later info shows most of this is now imported. I'll discuss that later. Also, the toughness of the distribution network and ecological effects will be dealt with by source. One thing though. Efficiency of use helps all three of these also. The less waste in process the better all of these become. These are all areas to consider over time. I'm doing this mainly so I can get my own head around what I see as really the defining issue for the next 50 years, so I want to look at these in detail.
I thought I'd be swimming over to look at energy production topics but the numbers for current electric production efficiency are so interesting to me that I'm going to make a little model and look at what these numbers say about how shifting sources from oil to electricity really effects greenhouse gas production today.
I have already succeeded - I am discovering things. So next lets see if an electric car really is that efficient today given ancient power plants, and quantify how much more efficient power plants will help the case for electric cars.
1 kWh = 3412.1416 BTU, or reversing and using the big units of Quadrillion BTU.
1 Quad = 293,072 Million kWh. Globally, often you will find the Joule (peta-Joule) used.
1 Quad = 1055 PJ
(2) Forecast Table 1 2007 column
(3) Forecast Table 18 2007 column
(4) Forecast Table 8 2007 column
(5) e.g. Tucson Paper article found by web search