Friday, March 25, 2011

In which my energy consumption becomes manifest

The U.S. has less than 5% of the world's population and consumes 25% of its energy.  Americans consume almost twice as much per capita as Germans and Japanese, and about sixteen times as much as the average Indian. 

I can't say I've given these widely cited facts a tremendous amount of thought, but a trip to the recycle bins in my backyard just brought home one sliver of that massive consumption. We have one bin for newspaper and one for non-newsprint -- that is, magazines and junk mail.  That bin is 3 1/2 feet tall and a bit more than two feet square. I opened it, and it was filled to the brim, almost entirely with junk mail -- more than 14 cubic feet of propositions that no one even glanced at.  The bin probably weighs 200 pounds.  I wish I could say how long it took to fill -- it usually doesn't fill all the way,  because a couple of pickups were canceled due to all the snow we had this winter.  But still. For a moment there, the sheer waste staggered me.

For perspective, courtesy of Google Knol, a beta product that looks like a wikipedia challenger (which I never heard of before my latest 20-second research project), that silo of consumption has its place in the far right of the chart below, in the 32% of our collective U.S. consumption in which paper has a substantial sliver. Looks to me like about 3% of the whole, maybe a little less. sliver of a sliver of the enormous burn machine that is my existence.

A newspaper bin of equal size sits beside our junk mail bin and probably fills up faster. I get three papers, and read less and less in print (I have access to all three online). For a dozen years and more, I've bought the print WSJ, always managing to pay between $100 and $250 per year. This year, the fourth in the Murdoch era, I may run out of ways to avoid the approx $450 they've been asking for the past three years. I think it's time to burn less fossil fuel as well as cash and go to online only.But I won't give up my print FT! At least, not while I can still get it for $150/year.

1 comment:

  1. I'd gas as much more wasteful. The Japanese tend to cluster in big cities, reducing the number of people using cars; the U.S. favours suburban sprawl. Then, there's the low price of gas in the States, and the huge homes in the suburbs leading to huge heating bills.