That’s the idea behind the Pipedreams Project. Concerned about a proposed pipeline that would connect Alberta tar sands oil fields to the British Columbia coast, a trio of British Columbians paddled the region that would be in danger in the event of a spill. Now they’re working on a documentary about the proposed pipeline, the trip, and the people they met along the way.
How much energy can each man, woman, and child on Earth use sustainably? According to a consortium of European scientists, it’s 2000 watts. That’s 17,520 kilowatt hours per year per person. Like most nice, tidy numbers, that number is probably more or less fictitious (there’s the question of where the energy comes from, and how you calculate the per-capita consumption, just off the top of my head), but it’s good to have a starting point for thinking about it. And an article in this week’s New Yorker, by Elizabeth Kolbert, does a pretty good job of working through that thought process.
My household electricity usage comes to a little less than 7,200 kwh in the last year – my provider, Avista actually has some great online tools for assessing home energy efficiency, and even allows me to specify that I only buy power from wind and other renewable sources. Unfortunately, my personal energy budget includes more than home light and heating: there’s auto fuel, electricity used at work, and the energy used to produce and transport almost everything I buy, just to name a few. It’s a pity there’s no good way to sum all those up.
NY Times: Increasing ethanol production, spurred by government incentives, concern about global warming, and the desire for energy independence, could be starting to impact the food supply. Cross-reference to the Economist (whence the graph): the upturn in prices is the biggest since the 1970s.
I can’t say it’s surprising, given that most estimates I’ve seen conclude that ethanol couldn’t supply the world’s energy even if all the farmland on the planet were converted to biomass production. But it is surprising that it’s happened so early in the movement to drop fossil fuels. If this is the wave of the future, Americans could someday find themselves literally taking food out of the mouths of the Third World to fuel their cars. That’s a terrible thought.