Green living ideas are important in showing people how to conserve energy and turn that conservation into meaningful energy savings. Supporting those ideas on living a greener lifestyle are data, the hard numbers that are the reason for the ideas. We can learn a lot from these numbers.
For example, the US Department of Energy publishes figures for energy consumption throughout the country, broken down by category. Here are the raw numbers for energy usage in the USA by sector:
Industrial uses: 33%
Transportation uses: 28%
Residential uses: 22%
Commercial uses: 17%
What can be immediately seen in these numbers is that business, both heavier industrial companies and lighter commercial enterprises, together account for 50% of the nation’s energy demand. Transportation is another 28% leaving only about 22%-less than one quarter of the total-for residences. Looked at another way, to make significant improvements in energy efficiency we need to focus on what companies can do as well as what individuals can do.
Here is a statistic from the EnergyStar web site that shows how great the impact can be from small actions, broadly taken. If every household in America replaced one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year. That would be worth about $600 million in annual energy costs. Around 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year would be eliminated, equivalent to the emissions from about 800,000 cars. Imagine getting that much benefit from simply replacing light bulbs.
Here is another statistic. Currently about 85% of US energy needs are met by non-renewable sources. Thus, fossil fuels still dominate energy supply. Coal and natural gas are major sources of fuel for power plants. Bringing more energy production on stream from solar power, wind power, and geothermal sources can offset a large fraction of the fossil fuels now burned to create electricity. The USA in particular should be increasing its investments, both private and federal, in these types of renewable energy sources.
The transportation sector is almost ready for larger impacts from renewable energy in the form of biofuels. Currently, even with all the development in biofuels, transportation needs are still overwhelmingly met by petroleum. US gasoline consumption is 378 million gallons per day, equivalent to 9 million barrels of oil per day. The USA imports a total of about 9 million barrels of oil per day for all uses. About 6 million of those barrels per day are imports from OPEC. This needs to change, with biofuels making much larger contributions over the coming decade.
The numbers point the way to greater energy efficiency by showing us how energy is being used now and where it comes from. Our job in the future is to improve on those numbers.