The US Wastes Enough Energy Each Year to Power the UK for Seven Years

Yves here. Let me underscore that the source for this article is not a granola-head organization but the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which is one of the US national labs, or more formally, the United States Department of Energy national laboratories and technology centers. Per Wikipedia:

The national laboratory system, administered first by the Atomic Energy Commission, then the Energy Research and Development Administration, and currently the Department of Energy, is one of the largest (if not the largest) scientific research systems in the world. The DOE provides more than 40% of the total national funding for physics, chemistry, materials science, and other areas of the physical sciences. Many are locally managed by private companies, while others are managed by academic universities, and as a system they form one of the overarching and far-reaching components in what is known as the “iron triangle” of military, academia, and industry.

And as for how all this waste cited in the headline comes about, I can give an example in my family. My mother lives in a house built in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1950s. It is not insulated. Electricity was so cheap then that it was seen as cheaper to just heat it more in the winter and cool it more in the summer. And no, it’s not remotely feasible to retrofit it now. She does set her thermostat to 80 degrees in the summer, but that only reduces the amount of energy wastage. I’m sure readers can point to other egregious examples.

By James Stafford, editor of OilPrice. Cross posted from OilPrice

Each year the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory releases an analysis of the energy input and energy use of the US economy to determine the energy efficiency.

It might be somewhat surprising to know that in 2012 the US wasted 61% of all energy input into its economy, making it just 39% energy efficient.

Of the 95.1 quadrillion British Thermal Units (BTUs) of raw energy that entered the US economy, only 37.0 quadrillion BTUs were actually used, with the other 58.1 quadrillion BTUs being wasted.

US energy efficiency. (LLNL)

In 1970, the US economy actually managed to use more energy than it wasted, using 31.1 quadrillion BTUs and only wasting 30.6 quadrillion BTUs, achieving an energy efficiency of higher than 50%. Since then the overall energy efficiency of the economy has steadily fallen as the use of electricity generation and transport has increased.

Power plants and internal combustion engines are notoriously inefficient, and as there use has increased, so the efficiency of the economy has fallen.

Some people even suggest that the 39% energy efficiency stated in the analysis is generous, with physicist Robert Ayres stating that the figure should be closer to 14%.

CleanTechnica show an interesting diagram explaining the amount of energy wasted by the US. (CleanTechnica)

For the past ten years the National Laboratory has calculated the US energy waste to be in the region of 50%-58%, but in 2012 this figure jumped to one of the worst levels in decades.

AJ Simon, a senior researcher at the laboratory explained that the jump was mostly due to a change in the ways that they calculated the end use of the energy for vehicles and households. After separate studies into the efficiency of household energy use in areas such as heating, air conditioning and lighting, the figure was dropped from 80% to 65%. Likewise, the efficiency of the internal combustion engine was revised down to 21% from 25%.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. kimyo

    i can’t tell from the article or image if the figures include the waste due to flaring off ‘excess’ gas.

    regardless, wouldn’t it be better to conserve this resource for future generations?

    A new report says flaring in North Dakota – now visible from space – has doubled over the past two years, with gas worth approximately $1 bn literally going up in smoke in 2012.

    The report, Flaring Up, is produced by Ceres, a US organisation promoting more sustainable business practices. It says nearly 30% of North Dakota gas is at present being burned off each month as a byproduct of oil production

  2. Jimi

    Thanks for the article. Sad really, that in the debate of climate change, from both sides, do we acknowledge that their is technology currently available and should be mandatory that would halve our current usage easily. But then energy co.s would’nt make billions would they?

    Some things that are available are LED lights.Do research on savings by cities when installed/used on traffic lights. It’s astronomical.These should be used in every home.Certainly for general lighting.

    As a construction contractor I see it all the time. Building codes in the U.S. are MINIMAL requirements to pass inspection.While structural codes are OK we are only mandating an R factor of insulation around 20. That should be tripled to 50-60R. Excessive MASS (concrete block filled w/ sand, multiple layers ie 3-4 of sheetrock,use of steel, etc. THAT HOLDS THE ENERGY YOU JUST PAID FOR. And then put the insulation on the OUTSIDE 6″ + thick of foamboard and then cover w/siding to finish.

    Straw,not hay, bales should be commercialy available that are both uniform in size and tightly packed and then dipped into clay or concrete to form a thickness of 2-3″ on all sides and then used as building blocks. This gives you an R factor in the 50-60 range.(Also gives you real deep window-wells for plants) You can also take sraw bales raw and stack and pin them together creating your walls using clay or ‘crete as mortar and then spray (Gunnite for swimming pools)fiberglass stranded ‘crete uniformly on walls in and out. or use Gypsum on inside if you prefer for a softer look.

    Refridgerators currently have maybe 1-1.5″ of insulation. Nadatory should be 4″” if not 6″. Your fridge will hardly “run”

    Water heaters could be “batch” heaters depending on climate or @ least pre-heat the water going into your electric one so as not to suck energy. Florida was all batch heaters ’till 1956 when power co.s went door-to-door offering “free” units installed.

    Earth sheltered homes are another option. Just use nature to insulate your home on 3 sides w/ glass on the southside using curtains or awnings to control summer heat.

    Water you have used (kitchen, shower,laundry)should be filtered and reclaimed for plants,trees, and lawn. Even washing your car!

    Since it’s co2 that may be a problem w/climate issues why is’nt the planet planting plants and trees everywhere? Plants eat co2 and to date I have NEVER heard of this approach. Did you know that the bamboo tree will consume four times the co2 than any other plant? Bamboo everwhere!
    Oh, I forgot, it’s considered a nuisance. So is fukushima.

    In most if not all of the above suggestions it is regulated that you can’t do that.Know why? Big biz payoffs to the politicians at ALL levels. (City, County, State and Federal).

    Curiously we can build nuke plants though.

    1. Jimi

      You will expend more energy making “Pink” insulation then it will save over it’s lifetime. It’s only a human comfort issue.
      If this planet survives greed and waste in the future several generations will be chided for the greed and sloth.
      Name me one animal, other then humans, that choose to crap where they sleep. We foul our air,water, and soil for filthy Lucre.

      1. Steve

        Jimi, this is bullshit. Basic economics.
        Insulation saves a lot of energy every year. Payback of installing insulation varies a lot depending on circumstances, but it is reasonable, such as five years.

        If more energy were expended in manufacture, you would have to pay for that energy when you bought the product, no? It would never have a payback.

        This is assuming two things:

        1. Insulation actally works (very easy to prove)
        2. There is no conspiracy to sell energy guzzling insulation well below cost. Must be a plot by big oil to make us all expend more energy.


        1. diptherio

          I think his point is that fiberglass insulation requires a lot of energy just to produce. He is obviously aware of the benefits of insulation in general, but he would have us use more low-energy-input, “naturally occurring” types of insulation.

          1. Steve

            Alternative forms of insulation are great. We live in an earth sheltered house.

            Pink fiberglass is clearly better than nothing. It does not cost more energy to produce than it saves.


          2. digi_owl

            That kind of calculations will forever show us coming up short. And anyone familiar with thermodynamics will know why. Simply put, there is no production process that can ever come close to not wasting some energy.

        2. Nathanael

          My house is very highly insulated by US standards — and it would meet German standards. :-P

    2. from Mexico

      It’s funny too how energy waste — Did I say that? I mean energy consumption — gets marked up as GDP.

      Oh well, as Confucious is reputed to have said, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.”

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      I appreciate your suggestions and wish that I could possess more of your knowledge. Noting that the way of building that you proposed is also ‘not approved by code’ — please elaborate any ideas you have for how to change code or by extending the building concepts you presented, somehow make them acceptable by building code. As I understand buidling codes (not well) I thought that they assumed some underlying logic, structual integrity and fire codes, that could be exploited as paths for getting approval for non-standard building techniques.

      1. Jimi

        Jeremy, If asking me about feasability/bldg. code issues actually it’s not that bad.
        For instance for straw bale use your concrete 1/2″ “skin” applied to interior/exterior walls of bales is plenty strong (shear strength),but municipalities will require you to build a “pole barn” type frame. This increases costs. You can bury the beams in your walls though.

        Earth sheltered home require special engineering (and more costs) but not prohibitive.

        “Batch” heaters. Who would even know but you? Or pay for rooftop solar water heaters.

        Don’t know if California still does this but when I lived there they had a program called “Special K” for northern Cal. that allowed/encouraged non-code bldg.reasoning anybody smart enough to build could. And anybody stupid to not follow or exceed established codes suffered the real consequences.

        Met a guy back then who built a “Pole Barn” 18′ feet wide by 60′ long. Then he used 12′ x 30′ boards every foot for rafters (met code). So now he had 6′ overhang on all sides right? Then he covered the frame in rubber roofing material and then he bought enough sod and laid this sod alternating directions each course 4′ wide for his walls using dirt between each layer to keep level somewhat up to a corrugated steel roofline. Then he put straw and dirt on his roof. Then he planted plants/seeds on his walls and roof and in time had a totally green living home. Really cool! He estimted his R factor for insulation to be 100 plus. Imagine watering your walls. (lightly) He was all solar for power. He also had a composting toilet (did’nt smell)Other than his recyclable batteries every five or so years and propane use his carbon footprint was minimal.

        Remember that original sod homes from settlers wagon training west still are standin today in Nebraska

        1. Jimi

          Geez, I get going on this topic and wandered from your question of permiting. Here goes-
          Cooperate.Be very friendly. Stress at all times you want to go beyond code using non-flamable materials. Tell them, for instance, you want all electrical wiring in steel conduit. Stress safety. Ask their advice of what they would do – this gets them immediately involved in your project. Seek help from State University Extension Programs. You might get help as a school project. Certainly some advice. Going forward, I believe we must start bldg. these ways and I forsee better reception of these plans.

          1. Jimi

            For the record a straw-bale home properly encased in ‘crete or clay has a fire rating exceeding current codes so not an issue. It is packed in such a way their is no air. it would only smolder. Air is fuel in a fire. Now I’ll shutup

            1. Jimi

              Research cordwood homes for a do it yourself/inexpensive way to build. Permiting requires you to start from a “Pole barn” and just infill between beams Looks like stone from a distance.

    4. jonboinAR

      I fear that in my hot, humid Arkansas climate that those hay-bale walls would mold. We already get a kind of weevil, called “foreign grain beetle”, that feeds on the tiny bit of mold that grows on wooden wall-studs. Then it comes into the living area and crawls around. If those hay bales were to start molding it would be terrible.

      1. anon y'mouse

        my limited understanding is that they can be built to withstand relatively moist environments, and semi-humid ones with proper ventilation systems and perhaps dehumidifiers (which might negate any energy-saving from heating/cooling?).

        the bales have to be gathered and stored under the right weather conditions, and the building has to be built in such a way that moisture doesn’t permeate the bales, but also that any which does evaporates

        granted, I don’t know if you live in a highly humid area. but as for “wet”, Europeans have used straw as roofing material (which lasts 50 years before requiring replacement) without much problem in this regard, and that DOES get wet. a discussion I was reading on a Master Roof Thatcher’s website indicated that the wicking action of the chimney kept air moving through the house at a rate that constantly dried out the roof.

        so, a straw building would have to breathe pretty naturally, which is somewhat contrary to the current mode of superinsulation.

        1. Jimi

          No matter your design or type of home you build you must “Air Exchange” that building 3-4 times every hour.
          This is why I stress to use “Mass”.
          All structures need to breathe.Attempts to “seal” these bldg.s will result in a “Sick” bldg. This means while you are energy efficient it is unlivable thru “Gas-offs” of bldg. materials like press board,paint,stains.carpet, even cooking

  3. psychohistorian

    So when does all this sick behavior stop? It looks more and more like it will be when we exterminate our species…..coming soon to our world, but have fun until then……..

    The plutocrats will not enjoy the hell hole they have created with their lies and deceit…..the only justice we will get in the end.

    1. Hugo Stiglitz

      The royal family of America has thus decreed, “The American way of life is not up for negotiation.”

      Please make a note of it.

  4. JL Furtif

    “Likewise, the efficiency of the internal combustion engine was revised down to 21% from 25%”
    If you would compare the energy required to move a human being from point A to point B at an average of 12 mph (I. Illich calculated already back in the ’70s that the average car speed is even lower) to the energy burned in that engine, efficiency is less than one percent.
    The car is the ultimate waste device: you need to spend a considerable amount of time and money to destroy the landscape when building highways. You need to spend even more time and money to waste precious resources to build the cars that run on those highways, but last less than ten years. And you need to spend time and money to get at the oil to pollute the environment when you drive.
    And all of this to go no faster than a bike.

    1. Skeptic

      Yes indeed.

      I call it the Infernal Combustion Engine. Absolutely remarkable that this monstrosity is over 150 years old! ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS! ICE is a combusting monument to human nonovation.

      Then folks talk about technological progress while never mentioning the oligopolies that retard it.

      1. anon y'mouse

        if you live in a suburban wasteland, which by its very design is a non-walkable community, and in which public transport is unavailable or so sporadic as to be useless, then a bicycle is a very good way to close the distance.

        plus, you can supposedly move an entire house worth of stuff on bicycle trailers (wasn’t that link posted a few months ago re: annual moving day in Quebec, in which renting a van is well nigh impossible and bike movers were making headway?).

      2. Nathanael

        The key efficiency savings of the bike over the car is simply that you aren’t moving the 2000+ pounds of car around.

      3. Robert Hurst

        So when you’re driving you don’t consume food energy?

        Fact is, to ride a bike at normal speeds does not require any more food energy than sedentary Americans consume while driving everywhere.

        The bicycle is the most efficient form of transportation ever invented. Even the driver of a hybrid will consume about 20 times as many kilocalories as a bicyclist to travel the same distance.

        1. mgmonza

          Plus, there’s a surplus of human caloric energy, also know as obesity. in the U.S.

          Bicycles convert that excess energy into transportation.
          Problem solved.

          OK, maybe not the safety issue – that would require switching highway funding to bike paths.

  5. anon y'mouse

    if “rejected energy” (light grey in the graph) is the wastage being discussed, the bulk appears to come from 2 areas: transport and electricity generation itself.

    we need a return to the water & wind powered mechanical devices discussed in that Low Tech Magazine that was linked last week.

    we need massive relocalization, so that the bulk of one’s perishable and non-durable goods come from within a certain radius of one’s home. only extremely durable goods, such as something you purchase perhaps once in a lifetime, should be sourced from halfway around the world.

    bicycles, trikes and foot-powered rickshaws should be making their (re)appearance.

    we have not yet begun to conserve!

  6. Skeptic

    I posted about in line hot water heaters a while back. No response.

    I also posted that I had told a lot of people where I live how much $$$ and energy I had saved yet none of them had made the conversion from an elephantine 40 gallon behemoth hot water, all-day, all-night heater to a more efficient in line heater.

    Humans, among other defects, suffer from tremendous inertia, a fatal reluctance to change. This is revealed in the fact that most humans accept the defaults in any system they use and will not change them even if they can. Of course, the corporadoes and .governors know this and give us more and more wasteful and damaging and deadly (take a lot at sickcare) defaults.

    Have you changed your defaults today?

    1. Moneta

      If you are not sure your house or neighborhood will survive the “revolution”, you won’t waste the extra bucks on a metal roof or other energy and environmental saving devices.

    2. Nathanael

      “point of use” hot water heaters are nice, but
      (1) expensive, if you’re getting ones which will generate actual hot water
      (2) require a lot of electrical wiring

      There’s a reason it’s been low on my list of priorities. Super-insulating one’s house has a much quicker payback.

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      at Skeptic — Just a wanted you to know that you post was NOT ignored. I rent so I didn’t run out and get a local water heater. I’ve seen them used in Europe and I wondered whether they were more or more or less efficient than the water heater we have here. You answered that question for me. I intend to build a place to retire where I can live inexpensively and well. When I do I will put in local water heaters. I’m also inclined to configure my bath area to support the Asian style of bathing — wet then soap and scrub — then rinse — without keeping the water on except to wet and rinse. I might even use a bucket of water to rinse like I saw at a bathhouse in Korea. I read your post and it did impact me, and I believe other readers were also affected. You can’t expect feedback for every good idea. Hold it for the value it is in itself and trust that many can also recognize its value.

  7. jjmacjohnson

    Using granola-head organization is insulting. Not funny either. Implies only “important” people matter in discussion. Poor choice.

  8. Andrea

    Charts like this are always interesting. However they come nowhere close to giving an overall picture.

    This one treats the US as a closed system. Much of the energy used by US citizens is embodied in imports – to spout the ugly caricature, imports from China which are made with burning coal for electricity, extremely polluting and wasteful. Some even argue that the dip in energy use in the US (relative dip of course…) is largely due to these imports, and not much to e.g. ‘ppl driving less in the Great Recession.’ I know of no serious nos. on this matter.

    Secondly, it treats energy as a given input (as say average sunlight on a forest) and nowhere is it even mentioned that the energy used is also used to acquire energy (drilling for oil, refineries, etc.) in a never-ending loop with diminishing returns.

    Of a different order: Such charts are not useful for discussing the waste. One can’t distinguish what is inevitable within the system itself – energy loss occurs at every conversion or use – and which wastes might be ameliorated, prevented, etc. But see anon y’mouse above who takes a stab…private cars, for sure. Electricity generation depends on the method. It can reach only 10% loss for the very best hydro-power, to, well getting very little whack, like a coal to electricity plant. But the inefficiency of electric-run machines accounts for a considerable part.

    1. JL Furtif

      TOD had an article yesterday talking about this ‘devolution’. While late 19th-early 20th century hydropower was 80-85% efficient, it is only ~60% today. At the time hydropower was used to drive a system. Today it is used to drive a turbine that creates electricity, that gets transported and transformed, and that finally drives another system.
      Likewise, power plants in that time were 80-85% efficient, and less than 5% today. At the time, power plants were in the city center, and waste water was used to heat other things. Today, power plants are far from people, and waste water gets just wasted.

      1. Nathanael

        The losses in electricity generation and transmission are actually quite small. You’ve overestimated them.

        The losses in oil refining and transportation are spectacularly large.

      2. Andrea

        On a no doubt dead thread, I will look at that, my nos. come from best hydro power in Switz. and the lows are hard to summarize, because they come from may processes, many uses, etc.

  9. The Dork of Cork.

    The article is very vague…… therefore any figure can be plucked out of the ether.

    For example does it include transformation or transmission loss ?

    Its best to burn coal directly at home rather then burning it in a power station so that you can turn on the electric heating unless transport &distribution of this heavy item burns higher value fuel.

    The quality of the fuel burn & not just the raw BTUs is also very very important.

  10. Brooklin Bridge

    And no, it’s not remotely feasible to retrofit it now.

    Why? Expense? Inconvenience/age? Structure? Most houses can be retrofitted short of some very unusual circumstance. There are whole industries springing up to measure energy loss and to retard it. It’s not only possible, but easy to get an accurate idea of what needs treatment and where in the house as well as very accurate estimates of how long it will take to pay back the investment.

    Expense is another matter all together and like underwater mortgages should be dealt with by government subsidies to the victims and not the victimizers. In the meantime, most folks simply can’t afford this stuff and the industry philosophy always emphasizes expensive solutions.

    If the industry was geared toward making these improvements into affordable incremental steps, it would go a long way towards generating movement in the right direction. But it isn’t. For instance, when your house is measured for energy loss, at least by the “HERS” and some other methods, it gets a “score” which is now entered into a national database, entirely out of your control but at your expense. I don’t know if that information is abused or not, but given what we have been seeing for the last decade, if it isn’t now, it soon will be. It’s hardly an incentive for a home owner or land lord to have a rating done, to know that their property will hence forth have an official efficiency “score” that goes with it (unless they can afford to spend potentially very large sums of money to make sure that score is excellent). If that were optional, it would be a different matter, but it’s not and it sets up an all or nothing mentality about home improvement that can be devastating in terms of initial cost. Another item is that in many areas code inspectors that enter your house as part of the permitting process for any project requiring a permit, are now able to review your home, any part of it they see, for any code violations which can add up to be a financial nightmare for the homeowner with modest means. Your home may have been up to code when you bought it, but suddenly require a major update due to the recent explosion in code requirements everywhere (new rent extraction by the building industry). It sounds wonderful to say they are making your house ever safer, but not if it is so safe or energy efficient that you can’t afford to live in it. Then they say, “Well, that hardly ever occurs.” Bull. You and a sudden staggering potential expense are at the whim of the code inspector.

    Humans seem to frequently get caught up in the all or nothing problem and that lends itself well to greed driven natures. Solve it completely, give us all your cash, or don’t bother which always means no first tentative step is taken, no motion generated.

    1. Nathanael

      __The Super-Insulated Retrofit Book_ — published 1981 — explains how to retrofit absolutely any house into a super-insulated house. The examples are mostly from the 19th century.

      There have been a few changes in ventilation standards since that book was published, and there are some better insulating materials now, but on the whole it’s still the “bible”.

      1. ChrisPacific

        Not always true in my experience (my biggest red flags are very thin walls and/or lack of a ceiling cavity – I’d love to know how your book addresses those, especially if the exterior footprint is inflexible and/or interior space is limited).

        Even if it’s theoretically possible, it may not be permitted under building regulations in certain regions. Councils often won’t issue a permit unless they understand what they’re permitting. That usually means selecting from their (often limited) menu of known/approved options. You may have a great renovation plan out of your book that would insulate a house thoroughly and for a reasonable price, but if it uses materials and techniques that aren’t known or understood by the council and on their approved list, good luck getting your permit.

    2. Code Name D

      The problem IS cost.

      I have been preached at several times by salesmen who offer all sorts of retro-fit insulation. A few actually look credible and may pay for itself in about five to six years or so. And by the typical calculus it would seem, the price I am told is reasonable, inexpensive some even tell me. But we are still talking tens of thousands of dollars. I am barley able to keep up with basic maintenance as it is.

      It’s doesn’t really mater how much money or energy I can save down the line if I can’t afford the up-front cost. This is not just true when it comes to adding insulation to the house. Those cheep refrigerators that have inadequate insulation are affordable, while the super-savor refrigerators also start reaching the ten thousand dollar mark. They are often pre-loaded with all sorts of other features that I would just assume do without. But even knocking off the extras doesn’t bring the energy savors in reach of most budgets.

      When you are living on food stamps, there is no way you can even think about renovating the house – even if it would save energy and money. But this is the consequence of poverty in general. As the saying goes – poor people, have poor ways.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Exactly! As I said, “the industry philosophy always emphasizes expensive solutions.”, and I would add, “even when doing so effectively eliminates potentially profitable alternatives.”

  11. charles 2

    Meh ! Most of the”wastage” shown in that graph is a consequence of the Carnot Principle. It is irreductible ('s_theorem_(thermodynamics) )
    A small portion of this “wasted” energy could be used to heat home and industry (this is what cogeneration does), but it is physically impossible that it could power the UK seven times,and unlikely that it could do it even once actually.
    Urgent reads for you : and

    1. Nathanael

      It is entirely avoidable.

      *STOP USING THERMAL ENGINES*. The wastage is due to “burning things” for energy — trying to convert heat into electricity etc. — rather than using solar panels or hydropower or other “direct” methods of electricity generation.

    2. Cujo359

      Some of the waste is preventable. Saying it is seven times the UK’s electricity use, to me, points out the magnitude of the potential savings from using energy more efficiently.

      You’ll note if you look at the LLNL chart that most of the energy wasted is in the electrical and petroleum-using sectors. Much of that has to do with this being a large country compared to the UK. We drive farther and we send our electricity farther. Still, even those can be reduced by more efficient vehicles and a smart grid, to name just a couple of ways.

      Here in Washington state we’ve managed to nearly double the population while increasing electricity generation by a small fraction. That difference came in conservation. Our situation is different from much of the country, but that’s an example of how much can be saved when the incentives are steered in the right direction.

  12. Kurt Sperry

    Just imagine how the calculus would be changed if reality were respected by counting the oceans of petrochemicals powering the US military were correctly designated as waste!

    1. Cujo359

      Believe it or not, DoD has been working on some initiatives to reduce such waste. As that link notes, some of those initiatives were started by the previous presidential administration. That tells me the requirement is something of a no-brainer.

    1. anon y'mouse

      so, they spend half their year cooling while the northerners spend half their year heating. what’s the diff?

      it isn’t the the “where” that is the problem. it is how it is done: suburbanization (for no “good” reason–it’s not like you can start a mini-farm in most of these developments due to regs, plus driving all the time to get to jobs/goods & services), idiotic construction techniques & materials, and inappropriate technologies used (see above).

      this leaves out the question of whether/if global warming occurs, how livable these regions will be and how scarce water already is in many of them.

  13. Synoia

    This is mostly incorrect.

    Second law of termodynamics governs efficiency. To wit:

    50% is the HIGEST possible THEORETICAL efficiency of a heat engine.

    This statement is complete nonsense:

    “Power plants and internal combustion engines are notoriously inefficient, and as there use has increased, so the efficiency of the economy has fallen.”

    1. JL Furtif

      Err, no.
      The theoretical efficiency (or Carnot efficiency) equals (1 – T2/T1), where T2 is the ‘cold’ temperature (in degrees Kelvin) and T1 the ‘hot’ temperature.
      In a typical (small) combustion engine, you can have ~450°C (725K) when burning and ~80°C (275K) outlet, giving an maximum efficiency of ~51%.
      Standard diesel motors in cars do ~35% without a sweat.

      1. Lyle

        Thanks for finally brining a litte physics to the problem. As point out the Carnot cycle limits the efficency of the heat to mechanical motion conversion, which is what happens heat engines both internal and external combustion. Thermal power plants are external combustion engines except for the new combined cycle plants which get up to 60% by starting with a Jet Engine (internal combustion), and then using the waste heat from the turbine to make steam and drive a steam turbine.
        Just as a bit of history of efficency: The 1960 Britinnica says that a steam locomotive ran about 5% efficency (plus they would be banned for smoke if many still ran). Based also on Murray Kleins power makers, it appears that installations like the pearl street plant in NYC ran about 5% or less. (That was a steam engine driving a generator). Samuel Insull installed the first steam turbines in the US in large sizes and got efficency up, and it has continued to today.
        In fact if folks study history in general since the first Newcomen steam engine efficency was a big concern. The Newcomen steam engine only made economic sense at a coal mine where coal was essentially free. (IT pumped water). James Watt’s innovation improved the efficency of the steam engine, and it contiued as the pressure of the steam increased leading to the steam locomotive. I have a copy of catechism of the Locomotive from the 1870s and it talks about how to run a locomotive most efficently.
        So since the first steam engines the efficency of heat to mechanical motion conversion has increased.

    2. craazyboy

      A modern design coal plant is 50% actual thermal effy. NG plant is 60%. Problem is we didn’t build many, and almost all plants running today are 80s and older vintage yielding around 30%.

      Diesel cars are about 35% efficient, which is why they drive them in Europe.

      Electric cars would be great if we had decent batteries. Motor plus control is 80%, and unlike IC engines the effy is constant over the entire speed range. But we don’t.

      My personal Energy Policy in the hot southwest is “Stay Home, Say Naked”. But that probably won’t work for everyone.

      1. Nathanael

        The batteries are good enough for short-distance travel in electric cars. And batteries are getting better.

        1. jonboinAR

          Chevy Volt model! Uses a relatively small battery nearly all the time, converts to gasoline use on the rare occasions you drive over 40-50 miles at a time. So you use gas occasionally, but don’t need too massive a battery. I don’t know why more aren’t on the Volt-model bandwagon.

  14. vlade

    What I’d like to know is whether it takes into account the energy use of US Military. IIRC, US mil consumes just slightly more oil than whole of Sweden, and slightly less electricity than whole of Denmark.

  15. optimader

    I’ve posted this infographic a couple times, glad to see it getting some play.
    It is by it’s nature generalized, so yes details can be picked at (like extractable enthalpy from waste steam/off gas ) , but it is powerful in that it illustrates relative proportions.

    Bottom line, There huge economization opportunities with available technology.
    Minisplit ductless HVC systems

    And yes, blown insulation into Yves mother’s house in Birmingham.

    BTW, no I don’t think this infographic contains ex-US territorial military fuel consumption. I believe the US military is the largest consumer of liquid fuels in the world, so it would be an interesting use to compare to other consumptions, but maybe not in this graph

    1. Nathanael

      A heat recovery ventilator or energy recovery ventilator will solve most of the so-called “moisture issues” which arise from having a superinsulated house.

      (If you’re living in Florida where everything rots immediately even outdoors, you need actual dehumidifiers, of course.)

  16. F. Beard

    Much waste is driven by the silly need of jobs to produce income. That’s why our society is filled with solutions seeking problems, such as the NSA, and bureaucracies in general.

    With an ethical money system, people would no longer have to run to government to create make-work so they can have an income.

    Instead of Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! it should be Justice! Justice! Justice! but sadly the idea of social justice has been tarnished by very poor efforts toward it in the past, efforts that have essentially blamed the victims, rather than attack root causes such as the banking cartel.

    1. JL Furtif

      The 95.1 quad BTU, translate to a lake of more than 1000 square miles and 3 ft deep of oil, burned to nothing over the year.

  17. TC

    Look up on a clear night and observe what you can see. These points of light are but a tiny fraction of energy freely available and yet represent not its source, but rather only some tiny component of its organization manifest. Nikola Tesla was the first to recognize this, and in so conceiving our physical reality as such he went so far as to challenge Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity as being far removed from physical reality unifying the universe.

    Mankind, through its unique power of cognition and capacity to advance beyond the lifetimes of any one individual those creative discoveries that reveal the truth about our physical reality, has barely scratched the surface of its understanding about the universe. In fact I’m willing to bet the so-called “law of energy conservation” will be proven a fraud, and so too the supposed “entropy” giving rise to the second law of thermodynamics.

    Getting back to the subject here, there is in fact more energy available to mankind than we can shake a stick at, notwithstanding our present inability to harness it due to a lack of understanding of the means by which it is manifest, this quite possibly because we are being purposely trapped in a social order intending to subdue our natural tendency toward discovery. So, discussions centering on energy waste really only serve to keep minds trapped withing the confines of a paradigm whose reflection of our true understanding of our physical reality in all probability will prove a statement of our presently poor command over our full potential as a species. The role played in this by the self-appointed gods of Olympus whose little plaything is today’s hopelessly insolvent banking system masquerading as an effective progenitor of capitalism certainly makes the subject matter of this article worthy contemplation, but only to the effect of concluding that, the Lawrence Livermore Lab probably would be better directed toward other pursuits than those that bring it to generate an annual report analyzing the energy use of the U.S. economy–an endeavor we might conclude exposes the scourge of environmentalism on a free people who recognize themselves as being endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.

  18. ChrisPacific

    This article made me think of a Matt Stoller post from last year, which I was eventually able to track down:

    To put it briefly, the pattern of wastage described in the OP is no accident:

    …the central problem that this created was not how to find more of it [oil], but how to ensure that oil cartels profiting from high oil prices could make sure that very few new oil finds, especially from the massive fields in the Middle East, came online…

    …the oil companies used public relations to encourage a high oil consumption lifestyle in the United States, so as to keep the price of oil as high as possible.

    Having lived both in the US and outside it, I can say that the difference in attitude to topics like renewable energy and conservation is palpable and dramatic. Outside the US, these are real and important issues. Inside the US, they barely register on the public conscience at all. To give just one example, on upper floors of older buildings in winter it’s common to regulate temperature by opening windows, because they’re typically centrally heated by an oil furnace running full blast with no thermostat control. In other countries, this would be considered an appalling waste of energy. When I was living there, few Americans even saw it as a problem.

Comments are closed.