Global energy consumption and use

In 2002, the world used 409 Quads of energy. Where did all that energy come from? Table 4-1 lists the power sources and percentage of the total usage each represents, both globally and in the United States.

Table 4-1

Power Sources, in Percentages, in 2002

Energy Source

Percentage of Total Usage Globally

Percentage of Total Usage in U.S.

Petroleum

39 percent

21 percent

Natural gas

23 percent

27 percent

Coal

24 percent

32 percent

Hydroelectric

6 percent

3 percent

Nuclear

7 percent

11 percent

Renewables

1 percent

3.5 percent

As Table 4-1 shows, the combustion of hydrocarbons (fossil fuels, like petroleum, natural gas, and coal) comprised 86 percent of the world's energy consumption — a number that has grown in the last decades; as China and India come on line, it will continue to grow — and 80 percent of the U.S. consumption. Hydroelectric, nuclear, and renewable fuels account for the alternative contributions, and amount to only around 14 percent of the world's energy sources — the U.S. does slightly better with alternatives, coming in at about 18 percent. Note: This percentage does not include alternative sources like solar room heating (that is, using direct sunlight for warmth) and bicycle riding, however.

And where did all this energy go? Table 4-2 gives a sampling of countries. From this table you can see that the U.S., despite the fact that it represents only 4 percent of the world's population, consumes about 24 percent of world energy consumption and uses about 25 percent of the world's oil.

Table 4-2

Comparison of Energy Use around the World

Country

Percentage of World's Population

Percentage of World's Energy Consumption

Percentage of World's Oil

Consumption

Consumption per Person per year (MMBTU)

USA

4.6

23.7

25.3

339

Canada

0.5

3.2

2.7

418

Mexico

1.6

1.6

2.5

65

Western Europe

7.8

17.6

19

149

India

17

2.8

2.8

13

China

21

10.5

6.6

33

Japan

2

5.3

6.8

172

Some interesting things to note about the data in Table 4-2: Canadians use more energy per capita than do Americans. True, Canada is cold, and its citizens require a lot of heat. But their high consumption also reflects the fact that energy is relatively inexpensive in Canada. When energy is cheap, there's little incentive to conserve or practice efficiency and conservation.

What's more interesting is to compare per capita consumption in the U.S. (339) with per capita consumption in Western Europe (149). Western Europeans, in many ways, enjoy better lifestyles than Americans. So why is their per capita consumption so low? Because they've been inculcated by high energy prices for so long that energy conservation and efficiency are ingrained into the very fabric of their societies. Western Europe provides Americans with a paradigm; this is where we are heading, and it's not bad at all. In fact, there may be some interesting but subtle increases in our quality of life when we end up using less energy.

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