Surprising Stats about Greenhouse Gases

December 24, 2014

Rocky Mountain Institute:

Christmas is just a few days away, and with it, also TBS’s annual marathon of A Christmas Story. Readers of a certain generation will remember it as the classic movie from 1983 in which Ralphie Parker, the central character, pines for an airsoft Red Ryder BB gun, only to be rebuffed, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

As it turns out, he’d do a number on the climate, too. The other day a colleague alerted me to the fact that some airsoft guns use HFC 134a as a propellant. HFC 134a is 3,800 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas over a 20-year period.

But here are 10 other statistics you might not know about greenhouse gas emissions and energy this holiday season:

1. If considered as a separate nation, the United States’ building stock would rank third in energy consumption: Only China and the U.S. consume more primary energy than the U.S. built environment, which uses 8 percent of the world’s primary energy, 42 percent of U.S. primary energy, and 72 percent of U.S. electricity.

2. Searching for parking burns one million barrels of oil per day: In Los Angeles alone, city drivers searching for parking in a 15-block district drove more than 950,000 miles, emitted 730 metric tons of carbon dioxide, and burned 47,000 gallons of gasoline.

3. Junk mail has a huge carbon footprint, not just a landfill footprint: The energy used to produce, deliver, and dispose of junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 2.8 million cars.

4. Micropower now produces about one-fourth of the world’s total electricity: Low- and no-carbon micropower, which includes renewables minus big hydro, plus cogeneration, now produces one-fourth of the world’s electricity. When you add big hydro and nuclear to the mix, micropower produced half the world’s electricity in 2013.

5. Photovoltaic power worldwide is scaling even faster than cellphones: For the last 14 years, global solar PV production has grown faster than 41 percent per year. The amount of solar power installed worldwide is now over 140 GW.

6. Renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels: The cost of solar and wind power has plummeted so much in the past five years that utility-scale renewable generation is now cost competitive with, and in some markets cheaper than, coal and natural gas, even without subsidies.

7. Efficient transportation beats out the fracking revolution: Between 2004 and 2013 the decrease in driving in the U.S. along with more-efficient vehicles displaced twice as many oil imports than the U.S. fracking revolution and the consequent rise in domestic oil output.

8. Efficiency beats out natural gas: In 2012, energy efficiency displaced nearly twice as much domestically burned coal as expanded natural gas use did. In fact, lower consumption due to 1974–2010 increases in energy efficiency was the largest single energy resource across the 11 IEA member countries’ aggregate total final consumption—bigger than oil, or than all other sources combined.

9. Universities are striving for carbon neutrality: Since 2007, the American Colleges and Universities Presidents’ Climate Commitment has encouraged almost 700 colleges and universities to commit to achieving carbon neutrality. A few small colleges have already achieved carbon neutrality, most recently Colby College in Maine.

10. There are more U.S. jobs in the solar industry than in coal mining: In 2013 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated 80,030 jobs for all occupations within the coal-mining industry. Meanwhile, the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2013, stated that the solar industry employed 142,698 Americans.



6 Responses to “Surprising Stats about Greenhouse Gases”

  1. […] Warming — And There Never Was One – ImaGeoWhat Are Greenhouse Gases and Where Do They Come FromSurprising Stats about Greenhouse Gasesbody { background: […]

  2. 7. It might just be the biggest reason for low oil prices. Declining demand.

  3. Gingerbaker Says:

    Re number 4:

    “Micropower now produces about one-fourth of the world’s total electricity”

    And here we were, we idiots, thinking that renewables still only made up a few percentage points of the world’s electricity generation. How could we – and all the scientists and analysts – have been so terribly wrong?

    Please notice – this is gives every indication of being a propaganda piece from our friends at the Rocky Mountain Institute.. WTF is “micropower”, and why would someone make a claim that it provides 1/4 of the world’s electricity?

    Well, go there and look at the graph. Almost all of “micropower” is “cogeneration”. Evidently “cogeneration” has something to do with a new green way to burn fossil fuels without calling it CO2 generation.

    I mean – look at this blatant bullshit being spewed in the name of ‘progress the RMI way’:

    “Second, micropower enables individuals, communities, building owners, and factory operators to generate electricity, displacing dependence on centralized, inefficient, dirty generators. “

    Yes, they are arguing against utility-scale solar and wind here. The campaign against efficient large-scale public renewables continues apace over at the Rocky Mountain Institute. Jesus, I used to think these were the good guys. I can now only conclude that they are a very canny enterprise indeed, and exist to keep profits within the fossil fuel industry and the for-profit energy business.

    Evil shit.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      I think switching to more efficient, smaller scale, distributed energy systems is a net positive.
      electricity at utility scale is still, on balance, coal dominated in this country, so opting out of that is a good idea. Meanwhile, building in the kind of control systems that allow for distributed power like this makes moving to a more internet-like grid all the easier.

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        All I am saying is that the RMI has coined a new term here – micropower. And almost all of that micropower is cogeneration. And almost all cogeneration is NOT renewables – it is still burning fossil fuels.

        They are greenwashing the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas here. They are not “opting out” of burning coal – they are promoting its use.

    • Utiliities are becoming energy transporters, not generators. The two biggest German utilities have divested from large centralized thermal power plants, not utility solar, wind, etc. Utility wind and PV solar are still distributed, just not customer sited. They are aggregated at the utility side. There is room for both and advantages to both, but centralized thermal power plants are a liability because their slow construction and high capital cost are risky in an era of decaying demand. That leaves a lot of capital hanging as stranded assets with no way to pay it back. Smaller modular build outs are less risky.

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