Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Playing with math :: Carbon Dioxide Emissions :: MY MATH IS OFF!


I was looking for data on total U.S. energy usage - something to validate the 5 terawatt figure I have rolling around in my head - when I ran across another troubling figure.

Annual CO2 emissions (from fossil fuels) in the U.S. are estimated this year at 5,981.5 million metric tons or tonnes. A tonne is 1000 kilograms or 2205 pounds.

I pull up a blank Excel spreadsheet to start doing the math - simple unit conversions.

So that's 5,981,500,000,000 or five trillion, nine hundred eighty one billion, five hundred million tonnes.

In pounds, that equals 13,189,207,500,000,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere each year. Thirteen quadrillion, blah, blah, blah pounds.

I decide to convert this into units I can get my head around.

The curb weight of one Ford Expedition is give or take 5500 pounds.

That equates to 2,398,037,727,273 [two trillion, three hundred ninety eight billion, thirty seven million, seven hundred twenty seven thousand, two-hundred seventy-three] Ford Expeditions [by weight, not volume], a figure that's still difficult to comprehend. Try writing a check out for that amount! Ha!

A Ford Expedition takes up a footprint of roughly 110.70 square feet. Those 2.398 trillion Ford Expeditions parked side to side, bumper to bumper, would cover 9,522,176 (nine million five-hundred twenty-two thousand one hundred seventy-six) square miles.

Still meaningless?

Imagine the State of Vermont covered solid with Ford Expeditions - in one layer. Or, try Travis County, Texas covered 10 layers deep with Ford Expeditions.

That's just for one year. The annual amount will continue to grow each year to 6800 million tonnes in 2030.

Just figure we are adding another layer of Ford Expeditions to the State of Vermont each year. In twenty years it would be twenty layers deep. Travis County would be 200 layers deep, or 1200 feet deep with Ford Expeditions.

That's just emissions for the United States.

Ready to reduce your carbon footprint now?

Yeah, that's it, you got it - go ahead and screw in your little fluorescent twisty bulb thingies. Bring your cloth sacks to the grocery store and don't use their plastic bags. String a clothesline. Set the thermostat to sweat in the summer and shiver in the winter. Upgrade your old fridgerator to an Energy Star model. Sell your car and ride your bike. Hell, go ahead and sell both cars. Sell your house or condo and move into a teepee, or a yurt. Erect a solar PV panel to power your computer and tiny refrigerator. Tend your energy usage to zero.

Go ahead and do it, do your part. It still won't be enough to make a difference. Why not? Because there are five billion other people on the planet who will never do it.

Houston, we have a problem.

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