I don’t often pay attention to American State of the Union addresses by any president, let alone this one, but since the Leafs were busy losing another hockey game and I was unmotivated to do much else, I sort of paid attention to what the guy was saying.
I was struck, in a positive way, by his frank and open admission that the United States is addicted to oil, and that it had to end its reliance on petroleum, since that fuel comes from mostly unstable parts of the world and is getting scarce and expensive.
Then he went on to outline a plan that increases research funding for cleaner fuels and hybrid and hydrogen-powered cars. I was impressed. Those would, indeed, be wonderful steps, and who better to lead the charge than the self-styled light of progress, the United States of America? Then he changed topics and went on to discuss other things: wars, the economy, health care.
Hold on! This is America, that uses 50% of the worlds energy! Creates most of the greenhouse emissions! And all he’s got to say is that clean fuels might be good?
You have to understand that I am in possession of a bit of an environmental mind. So, I went through my house, and counted the number of light bulbs. Not wattage. Just the actual number of bulbs. 16 in the basement. 31 on the main floor. 21 upstairs. 6 outside. That’s a lot of bulbs! 74, to be precise. And my house is a small one!
Let us pretend that I am very good at only having lights on in the rooms where I am, and turn them off when I leave. I am going to guess that on average, one fifth of the light bulbs in my house are on all day. That’s fifteen bulbs. Lets further assume that I use 60 watt lightbulbs, in an effort to conserve energy. Thats 900 watts of lightbulb in my house on average! 21.6 kilowatt hours per day. Jeeze.
We’re just talking lights here. Almost a 21.6 kilowatt hours of lights in the house of a mildly concerned individual. No mention of televisions, washers, dryers, kitchen appliances, computers, or anything else. And I was being pretty generous with myself. I probably leave more lights than that on.
I’m not going to dig further, but I think its obvious that clean energy is only half the battle here. If even half the battle. We need clean houses. Efficiency. There’s no way in hell a single house should be using 21.6 kilowatt hours per day in JUST LIGHTS. I’m at work for a 1/3 of the day and asleep for another 1/4!
Efficiency in use, not just production. If we can reduce the amount of energy we use by 50%, do we not automatically reduce the need to produce energy, and therefore greenhouse gasses, by a similar factor?
My numbers may be in error. I do not claim to be an expert on such things, but even I can see that hydrogen powered cars alone will not be enough to solve North America’s energy addiction.