The World Consumes More Than 170,000 Terawatt Hours of Energy Every Year

The World Consumes More Than 170,000 Terawatt Hours of Energy Every Year
Photo by Biel Morro on Unsplash

The world is fighting over resources now, from oil to natural gas. Just recently, Russia stopped gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria in retaliation for supplying weapons to Ukraine. Experts say we’re seeing the beginning of a new chapter in what’s going to be a long, nasty conflict.

Russia will be showing the rest of the world how to wage a climate war, weaponizing their raw resources like western countries have done with their currency. That means even if you’re not on the front lines, you’re likely to get caught up in the mess.

When you look at climate disasters like the arctic blast that hit Texas in 2021, on top of energy as a frontier of warfare, then it makes sense to develop some energy independence.

By the way, we also can’t afford to continue consuming electricity at the pace we have been. We can’t just slide into renewable energy. We have to pay more attention to the energy we use.

Here’s why:

The world keeps consuming more power.

The global demand for energy keeps going up. It’s been increasing every single year since the turn of last century.

It’s going up faster and faster.

See below:

Our World in Data

Climate newbies love to point at renewable energy as proof that we’ll avoid the worst fates of global warming. According to them, we don’t have to do anything ourselves because the world’s governments and our billionaire friends will do all the work for us.

The data tells a different story.

We’re inching toward renewable energy, but the vast majority of our power still comes from fossil fuels. If anything, governments have been backtracking on their bold promises.

You can also see the exponential rise in our consumption. We only slow down during recessions and pandemics.

The world’s obsession with cryptocurrency is making things even harder. A single ethereum transaction can power a U.S. home for a week, and a bitcoin transaction can power one for two months. It’s no wonder that mining operations have been causing blackouts around the world, and forcing governments to kick them out. People are working on solutions, like changes to the code, but right now cryptocurrency mining operations pose a serious threat to sustainable energy. We’re at a time when we should be radically reducing our energy needs, not adding to them while rationalizing and making promises to balance the budget later.

At this rate, solar and wind power will keep playing catch up to our insatiable energy thirst forever. There’s only one way for us to slow down and give sustainable power sources a chance.

We have to use less electricity.

What you do has a direct impact.

It’s easy to say our electricity habits don’t have any impact on the world, but they do. In the U.S., residential consumption makes up about 37 percent of all electricity consumed every year.

Take a look:

Environmental Protection Agency

Commercial consumption makes up another 35 percent. That includes all of our office buildings and stores.

That’s a lot.

The industrial sector only accounts for about 27 percent of all the electricity we use in the U.S. The lesson here is that we as citizens and consumers have a lot of direct control over how much power we need to run our daily lives. We have much more say than we think.

Your habits matter.

Homes consume a lot of energy.

The average home in the U.S. uses about 11,000 kilowatt hours a year, but it varies on where you live.

Take a look:

It’s easy to see why single-family detached homes in the southern states use the most electricity. It’s hot and humid, and we love to run our air conditioners full blast all day long.

The bigger your house, the more power you use. A home around 3,000 square foot will use about 14,000 kWhs per year on average, and closer to 16,000 or 17,000 in the south.

Don’t even get me started on mansions. They can easily use 200,000 kWhs hours per year. For anyone who cares about the planet, or our future as a species, there’s just no excuse.

The earth gets hotter every year, and we’re using larger amounts of electricity to cool our homes. It’s not a good trend. At some point, southerners will be forced to reckon with the heat. The rest of us will have no choice but to start practicing better energy habits.

The sooner, the better.

It’s inevitable.

Practice energy mindfulness.

Americans love to talk about mindfulness. We love analyzing our habits, living in the moment, and scribbling in our little journals.

Well, you can practice energy mindfulness.

It’s not that hard.

Your utility company probably gives you a way to monitor your power consumption. Mine gives me a breakdown by month, day, and even by the hour. All you have to do is set up your online and account (and move to paperless billing while your at it).

Here’s one of our typical days (16 kWhs total):

Data helps you look at your energy habits and see when you’re using a lot more electricity than usual. We’ve been drawing our power from wind and solar for years now, but we’re still trying to keep our use around 7,000 kWh a year. The less we use, the better. Heating food consumes a ton of electricity. A stove top alone can draw anywhere from 1.5 to 3 kilowatts of power for a single hour of cooking. That’s why we try to do it in bulk. We also do what we can to keep our AC and heating costs down.

Once you understand your energy consumption, you can learn how to start curbing it. Here’s some things you can do:

  • Use sunlight instead of artificial lighting.
  • Wear your clothes more often before washing.
  • Consolidate your laundry.
  • Line dry when you can.
  • Use less AC and heating.
  • Dress for the weather, even indoors.
  • Make sure your ceiling fan rotates the right direction (clockwise during winter, counter-clockwise during summer).
  • Cook in bulk to save on food heating.
  • Turn off/unplug power hungry gadgets.
  • Here’s 50 other ways.

My family is doing all this, and we’re preparing for scenarios where we might be washing laundry manually, cooking with solar, and finding creative ways to keep ourselves cool without AC.

These sound like trivial efforts, but they add up. If everyone cut their energy by a third, it would have a dramatic impact. Nobody needs us to be climate martyrs. We can have computers and use electronics. We just need to think about what we use and how.

Believe it or not, your utility companies want you to use less energy. They’re reaching their breaking point.

You’re doing them a favor.

Support energy conservation.

Climate realists know we’re going to be using fossil fuels to some degree for a long time, but we need to get more responsible.

Every year, the oil and gas industry spews 8–10 million tons of methane into the atmosphere. In fact, methane emissions reached their highest level ever in 2021. We’re not talking about cow farts. We’re talking about leaks from drilling sites and pipelines, and the entire distribution network. We can curb these emissions with stricter regulations.

States and cities can tighten up gas distribution and fix leaks. We’re also starting to use satellites to detect them.

While we’re curbing our own energy use, we can educate ourselves on energy waste and push local and federal governments to get better at spotting and fixing leaks. It’s not just about keeping them out of the atmosphere. Stopping waste conserves these resources.

It saves corporations money.

They should like that.

It’s time to embrace energy minimalism.

If Americans aren’t talking about mindfulness, then we’re talking about minimalism and stoicism. We’re always on a never ending quest to own less stuff and master our inner desires.

If you’re really into minimalism, then I would humbly suggest you become an energy minimalist. Practice mindfulness when it comes to your power consumption. Try to use less.

All of this aligns with everything we hear about personal growth, about learning to unplug from our gadgets and tread outside our comfort zones. You’re just doing it to save the planet.

Here’s a challenge: Look at your monthly and daily energy consumption. See if you can cut it by 25 percent.

Go from there.

We’re making gradual progress on the renewable energy front, but that’s not an excuse for lapsing into complacency and wishful thinking. The world still relies on fossil fuels for the vast majority of its business, and we need to pick up the pace if we’re going to survive.

Going green is half the battle.

Every year we consume more power, the harder we make the transition. If you want to help, start paying attention to your own energy use and encourage other people to do the same.

Use less.

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