Global Energy and Carbon: Tracking Our Footprint

Global Energy and Carbon: Tracking Our Footprint


(male narrator)
Our Carbon Footprint– it’s the amount
of greenhouse gases we humans release
to the atmosphere. And a lot of it comes
from our energy use. Let’s meet 6 families
from 3 countries in very different parts
of the world. All use energy and all
have a carbon footprint. Representing
the postindustrial world from Prior Lake, Minnesota: Hi, we’re the Preslers. We’re the Langes
from Howard Lake, Minnesota. From the rapidly
emerging economies… Hi, we are
the Handa Family from New Delhi. Hi, I’m Doctor Lata Sharma. I’m from New Delhi.
This is my family. (narrator)
And from the developing world… I am Amin Maurice. I live in Muyuka, Cameroon. Here is my family. Hi. I am Anumendem Nicodemus. I live in Ikata village, Muyuka
subdivision here in Cameroon. This is my family. (narrator)
6 families, 3 countries. What do their carbon
footprints look like? And what does managing carbon
emissions mean for them? Funding provided by: The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy; The National Energy Technology
Laboratory; Members of the Energy &
Environmental Research Center’s Plains CO2 Reduction
Partnership, and… (narrator)
The comforts of life
in the postindustrial world are available at the flick
of a switch and turn of a key. Right now, most of that energy
comes from fossil fuels, which release greenhouse gases
to the atmosphere. The amount of greenhouse gases
released from human activities is our carbon footprint. The carbon footprint
of the postindustrial world is large and relatively stable. In other places around the
globe, economic development and quality
of life are catching up, and the global carbon footprint
is also growing. Scientists are concerned that more greenhouse gases
in the atmosphere may trigger unfavorable changes
to the earth’s climate. Nations large and small,
industrialized and developing, are looking for
ways to have energy without increasing
carbon emissions. Many actions will be needed, and new technologies will play
a major role. Households make up a big part
of the picture of energy and carbon
around the globe. Understanding that picture
will help us play our part in shrinking
our carbon footprint. We’ve chosen 6 families
to represent daily life in postindustrial, emerging,
and developing nations. They all share
a comfortable lifestyle in their own countries. We will see the types and
amounts of energy they use, And how much carbon they release
to the atmosphere. Let’s start with the Lange
family in rural Minnesota. It’s morning in Howard Lake, a small town west
of Minneapolis. [knocking] (man) Come on,
it’s time to get up. (narrator)
Troy, Suzi,
and their sons C.J. and Chase live in a comfortable 4-bedroom
house outside of town. Like most American families,
Troy and Suzi both work outside the home, and the kids
spend the day in school. Troy works at a local business;
Suzi is a flight attendant. By 7:30, they will all
be out the door, going their separate ways. Half a world away
in New Deli, India, the day starts as commuters
pour into the city. In the Handa household, Priti
fixes breakfast as her husband John,
his grandmother, and his mom get ready
for the day. In this city of 14 million,
housing is at a premium. Shobha Handa, a widow,
shares her 7-room apartment with her grown children
and her mother. Priti and John ride together
to their offices. In the shadow of Mount Cameroon, the households of Ikata village
greet the day. Several times each month,
Mary Anumendem is up before dawn to prepare
a lunch that will be shared with
neighbors at her farm plot. Daughters Vivian
and Canisia lend a hand. Mary and her husband, Manu, share their 6-room
cinder block house with 3 of their grown children
and 3 grandchildren. In the early morning, the
children are sent to the stream to fetch water and bathe. By 7:30, the children leave
for school, and the adults begin chores or
head off to their farm plots. As we meet
the rest of our families, let’s pay more attention
to their energy use. In the bedroom community
of Prior Lake, Minnesota, the energy meter is running even before Troy and Tricia
Presler start their day. The water heater is at work
long before Lakyn turns on the bathroom light
and plugs in the iron. Energy helps put breakfast
on the table– the fridge, the toaster,
and coffeemaker make the meal, and the dishwasher will handle
most of the cleanup. Troy, an engineer, is taking
some time off for classes, so he spends the mornings hitting the books
and caring for Sterling. Tricia, a real estate agent, works flexible hours around
Troy’s schedule. After breakfast, Lakyn will
catch the bus to school, and Tricia will drive
to her morning meeting. In the Sharmas’ 3-bedroom
apartment in Delhi, the fish tank bubbles,
the fridge hums, and the fans turn
through the night. Cisterns filled by electric
pumps hold tepid water for son Sharad’s
morning routine. In the living room, Atul Sharma
performs morning devotions. Varum takes a call
from a classmate while his mom prepares
breakfast. Lata Sharma uses the gas stove
to fry battered paneer. The maid cleans up
from last night’s dinner. She commutes to the city
via train. After breakfast, Lata, a doctor,
will give son Varum a ride to school
on her way to her clinic. In Muyuka, Cameroon, De Rosa
Amin uses the kitchen fire pit to prepare breakfast–
plantain and potatoes from the family’s plantation. No need for early trips
to the stream–energy brings the family’s water
to a spigot outside their home. The energy in their
4-bedroom home comes from the crackling fire and a handful of electrical
outlets and lights. Visiting relatives
and friends join De Rosa, her husband Morris, and their
5 children at the morning meal. With no refrigeration available, eggs gathered daily
are eaten or sold. Dried milk and sugar
flavor their tea. After breakfast, the children
will leave for school, and Morris will hitch a ride
to his plantation. What kinds of energy do
the different households use? How much energy do our
families’ households consume? And what about each household’s
carbon footprint? Households use energy
for light, power, heat, and transportation. In America,
that usually means electricity, natural gas or propane,
and gasoline. Power in the home generally
means electricity– everything from toasters
to telephones, lights to computer screens. And it makes our lives easier. At the Lange and Presler
households, the refrigerator stores a week’s worth of food,
saving shopping time and effort. Electricity
in the laundry room makes clothes washing
a quick chore. And everyone with a fan
or air conditioner depends on electricity to keep
their cool in the summer. Electricity brings clean water from the treatment plant
and from the well. Long ago, electricity
eliminated the need for household help
in middle-class homes and gave us more time
for leisure. [laughter] The carbon footprint
of electricity comes from the way it’s made. Generating electricity using
nuclear energy, hydroelectric dams, wind,
geothermal, and solar doesn’t emit
carbon dioxide. But most of the electricity in
the United States–70%– is made by burning fossil fuels, mainly coal, which is
plentiful and affordable. Burning fossil fuels also
generates carbon dioxide because of its carbon content. For the Langes and Preslers, about 1/3rd of their energy use
is electricity. Electricity makes up
nearly 2/3rds of the household’s
carbon footprint. This is because most
of their electricity is made by burning coal, which contains more carbon
than any other fossil fuel. The Handa and Sharma families
in New Delhi live in a world in transition. Better access to electricity
means their compact apartments are being wired
for modern appliances and 21st-century electronics. Electricity powers the fans that bring relief
from the year-’round heat. Both households have
a washing machine. Still, some laundry
is washed by hand. Neither household has
a clothes dryer. But the tropical climate makes hanging clothes
an effective option. Dishes are washed by hand
and air-dried. Affordable human labor still
handles most household chores. Abundant coal deposits supply over 70% of the electricity
in India. For the Sharma and Handa
households, electricity accounts for
about 20% of household energy. Because most of the electricity
comes from coal, it makes up nearly half of the
households’ carbon footprint. The Amins and Anumendems
live in a world that is just gaining
access to energy. Electricity came to Ikata in
2008, replacing kerosene lamps, and bringing cell phones,
televisions, and a refrigerator
for the local pub. In the nearby city of Muyuka, the Amin family has enjoyed
electricity for a few years. But the service is expensive,
and not everyone can afford it. Electric pumps bring water to
homes and neighborhood taps. The high electric rates mean people use
the energy sparingly. The Anumendems wash small loads
of laundry at home and carry larger loads
to the stream Dishes are washed by hand
after every meal. Mountainous Cameroon
is blessed with many rivers and waterfalls, some of which have been tapped
to make electricity. This means that
while electricity accounts for 3% of the energy
use in both households, it adds nothing
to their carbon footprint. Another use of energy is
for heating. In America, that means
natural gas or propane, which often fuels the furnace, the water heater,
and clothes dryer. In many homes, these fuels provide the energy
that cooks the meals. The Langes have a propane range, and the Preslers have
a natural gas cooktop. They also have propane grills
for backyard cooking. But the single largest use of
energy inside an American home is for heating and cooling. Like 2/3rds of U.S. households, our families use natural gas
and propane for heating. Natural gas and propane account for about 1/3rd of our
families’ energy use. But because they contain
the least amount of carbon of all fossil fuels,
natural gas and propane account for less than 20% of
our families’ carbon footprint. The Handas and Sharmas cook using a mixture of propane
and butane called LPG. The LPG gas comes in a cylinder and is attached to the cooktop
just like gas grills in the U.S. The cylinders last about 3 to 6
weeks, depending on the season. About half the urban households
in India use LPG. The other households still use kerosene cookstoves
or wood fires. Families buy cylinders of LPG
from local vendors. In this tropical climate, water
for chores and personal use is heated by the sun
in roof-top tanks. Because Delhi has cold weather
only a few weeks a year, homes do not have furnaces. For our families, these cooking
gases account for 6% of the household energy use
and 4% of the carbon footprint. Heating is not a concern
in tropical Cameroon, where the temperatures
are hot year-’round. LPG is expensive
and rare outside the cities. But wood and crop residue
are common and are used by 90%
of the population. The biomass fuel is
gathered by the family or purchased in the market
from a woodcutter. Like fossil fuels, plant
materials contain carbon. And carbon dioxide is generated
when they are burned. Our families use fuel from
young trees and seasonal crops. Unlike the carbon in
old-growth forests, the carbon in these plants was recently
absorbed from the atmosphere. Scientists say that burning
this type of biomass only recycles the carbon. It doesn’t add more
to the atmosphere. As a result,
they do not count the carbon from seasonal biomass fuel
in the carbon footprint. This biomass fuel accounts
for 60% of the energy used by our families in Cameroon,
but does not add anything to their households’
carbon footprint. The other major household
energy use is for transportation,
brought to you by gasoline and diesel,
refined from petroleum. Since the time of the Model T, personal transportation has
defined America. Over 90% of American households have a registered driver
and a personal vehicle. Every week, the Langes commute 260 miles back and forth
to work. The Preslers commute about
the same to work and school. Let’s get in the car. Let’s go get
the girls from basketball. (narrator)
Tricia shares driving duties
for after-school activities with other parents
in the neighborhood. Commuting, plus trips to the
grocery store and other errands, adds up to about 1100 gallons
of gasoline per year. All of this driving accounts for the last 1/3rd
of our families’ energy use. Because carbon makes up much of
the gasoline, transportation is about 20% of
our families’ carbon footprint. Trains, buses, taxis,
and rickshaws make up the mass transit that is
widely available in India. For personal transport,
it’s the motorbike. Only one in 25 households in
India has a passenger vehicle, but the number of cars is
growing rapidly. Most cars and motorbikes
run on gasoline, creating a serious
smog situation. Compressed natural gas, CNG,
is used in buses and taxis in the city
to help reduce pollution. The Handas share one vehicle to commute 30 miles per day
through city traffic. John drops Priti off at her
office, and then drives to his. Shobha Handa uses a CNG taxi to go to work each day
and for errands. For the Handa family,
vehicle use accounts for about 75%
of the household energy use and 1/2 of the carbon footprint. For the Sharmas,
the number is even higher. In Cameroon, transportation is
mostly by foot and motorbike. Cars are expensive to buy,
operate, and maintain. Gasoline and diesel are
at a premium. Neither of our families
owns a vehicle. Mary Anumendem and her neighbors
walk up to an hour and a half along the roads and paths
to her farm plots, and carry produce
back the same way. Morris Amin’s plantation
is 15 miles from his home. He and his workers hitch
a ride to go to work. He hires a truck to transport
his harvests. The children walk to school. Because rides are shared, the families don’t use much
energy for transportation. Transportation accounts for
about 1/3rd of their energy use, but the fossil fuel used
for the vehicles makes up the households’
total carbon footprint. Our families share
a comfortable lifestyle in their own countries. But the economies of their
countries are very different, and so is their access
to energy. In the postindustrial world,
the amount and types of energy our American families use is in the range of families in Canada. It’s a little higher than the
other postindustrial economies of Japan, the European Union,
or Australia. A big part of the difference
is transportation– we’re much more spread out. Still, energy use in our
American households is fairly typical of the 15%
of the world’s population that lives
in postindustrial economies. So what is the total energy used by households
in the United States? To get an idea of the amount,
multiply the Langes’ energy use by 110 million households. That comes out to be about half of the energy used
in the United States each year. What about the rest? The other half is used
in our schools, at our jobs, to provide health care,
to produce goods, and for the many services that
define our modern lifestyle. When you add up all the energy
used in America, it comes out to about 20%
of the world’s energy use. And we use that energy
to produce 25% of the world’s goods
and services. Altogether, the postindustrial
economies are using a little more than half
the world’s energy, producing 70% of the world’s
goods and services, and putting out half
the world’s carbon. Energy demand in these countries
is stable or growing slowly. And their carbon footprints
are doing the same. India is in the middle
of an economic revolution. Its demand for energy
is surging. They use the same types of
energy as our American families, but on a smaller scale–
no heating, less driving, and fewer
and smaller appliances. Energy use in our Indian
households is about 1/3rd of what is used by
our American families. This difference is reflected
in their carbon footprints. Right now, India uses 4%
of the world’s energy to produce 2% of the world’s
goods and services. India’s carbon emissions are
the 5th largest in the world. But India is not the only
country with a rapidly growing economy. China’s economy is growing even
faster than India’s. China’s carbon emission levels passed those of the United
States in 2005. As their economies grow, China and India will use more
and more energy. And now we come
to our families in Cameroon. They represent the emerging
middle class of the developing world. Their energy use is low, 15% of
what our American families use. Most of their energy comes
from renewable sources, and that means that their
carbon footprint is less than 4% of ours. With respect to their
carbon emissions, Cameroon is at the same level that
the United States was in 1843, at the onset
of our industrial revolution. But with access to modern
energy and communication, they already have one foot
in the modern age. The carbon emissions
for our 3 countries reflect the stages of
global economic development– postindustrial,
emerging, and developing. In 1930 today’s postindustrial
countries put out almost all of the world’s
carbon dioxide emissions. Today, global emissions
are 7 times larger. We now contribute
only half. And India and China emit more than the entire developing
world. Right now, only one in 6
households in India have the access to energy
enjoyed by our middle-class
Indian families. Most of the rest use kerosene wood, or dried cow dung
for cooking fuel. They travel by cart
or motorbike, and cool themselves
in the shade. They emit very little carbon. As India’s economy continues
to grow, electricity and other forms of energy will
come to the rural areas. If we continue to use fossil
fuels without doing something to control carbon dioxide, the world’s carbon emissions
will double again in 50 years. If we want to avoid that, we need to have energy without
emitting carbon. What does that mean
for our way of life? In the postindustrial world,
we’ve spent the last 200 years learning how
to harness fossil energy to improve our quality of life
and economic productivity. And we’ve become pretty good
at it. Are we going to give up all the
benefits of modern living? Probably not, but there are
many actions that we can take to check the increase of CO2
in the atmosphere– energy efficiency
and conservation; using different energy sources; capturing and storing carbon
emissions from fossil fuels; keeping carbon in the forests
and in the soil; soaking up more
of the carbon already in the atmosphere. And scientists say that
every one of these options will be needed if we’re really going to make
a difference. Households will need help to make big changes
in their carbon footprint. Society can break the connection
between carbon and energy and help the rest of the world
to do the same. Let’s look at 3 actions
that society could take to make a difference for our
families in the United States. The first is
carbon capture
and storage. 70% of our electricity comes
from fossil fuel power plants. The carbon released
in making this electricity happens at the plant. By reducing emissions
at the source, the electricity would
have a low carbon footprint when it arrives at our homes. In carbon capture
and storage, or CCS, CO2 is captured
instead of being released. The CO2 is then injected
deep underground, where it remains
in permanent storage. If we equip new power plants
with CCS technology, we could make a big impact on CO2 emissions for households and all other
electricity users. The carbon footprint
from electricity at homes served by these CCS plants
would shrink dramatically. China and India are
rich in coal reserves, and they are building hundreds
of new coal-fired plants. Carbon capture and storage is a
technology that China and India could adopt to reduce
their carbon emissions. The same kind of reduction
could be accomplished if we greatly expanded the role of nuclear for generating
electricity. Expanding wind and solar power
could also provide a portion of electrical needs,
especially for peak loads. However, we would have to
increase the use of wind and solar
many times over to make a significant impact
on carbon emissions. Both personal and mass transit could benefit from using
low-carbon fuels. Electric vehicles are
one example. As long as the electricity
is carbon free, the vehicle will be too. Technology can make a difference
in transportation too. American vehicles get an average
of 21 miles to the gallon. Increasing efficiency
is the number one way to make an impact
on transportation. When our cars get 60 miles
a gallon on average, we will cut today’s household
carbon footprint. Energy efficiency is not just
for transportation. Codifying the latest energy
efficiency techniques in appliances and building
construction can help households use
less energy. That could have a big impact
on heating, cooling, and electrical costs, and on
the associated carbon footprint. Households
in the postindustrial world have enjoyed the benefits
of plentiful energy. Households in other countries
around the world are tasting these benefits
and are hungry for more. The Langes and Preslers want
their children to enjoy the same lifestyle as they do. In India, John and Priti Handa dream of a starting a family
in a home of their own. Lata and Atul Sharma are saving
to send their sons to college and into professional careers. In Cameroon, Morris Amin dreams
of the day when he and his son can have a truck so they can
transport his workers and expand his farming
operation. Mary and Manu Anumendem work
to send their children and grandchildren to college
so they can have a better life. Energy is a key to prosperity
around the world. The ultimate goal is
to have more energy while releasing less carbon. Societies will find the means
to achieve this goal. Families and individuals
can start now. [laughter] Funding provided by: The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy; The National Energy Technology
Laboratory; Members of the Energy &
Environmental Research Center’s Plains CO2 Reduction
Partnership, and…

4 COMMENTS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *