Today, an energy information update.
Our focus is energy use, carbon dioxide emissions, and venture capital innovation.
Energy Use and Emissions
Annually, we get a new flowchart from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Showing where our energy comes from and where it goes, the chart is a handy snapshot of how we power our homes, businesses, and vehicles. The most recent is for 2021. I added three of the labels at the top:
We use and waste a lot of energy. One quad–a quadrillion BTUs–is the energy equivalent of approximately eight billion gallons of gasoline. And, we consumed 97.3 quads!
We can see where the totals come from by following an energy pathway. Starting on the lefthand side, our energy resources are renewable, nuclear, and fossil. Next, their destination is our homes, our businesses, industry, and transportation. Then, on the far right, rejected and services refer primarily to efficiency. Your car’s gasoline drives the wheels as an “energy service” and comes out of your car’s exhaust as “rejected energy.”
At home, to make some toast, we probably use slightly less than 100 BTUs.
As our next step, we need to look at emissions where the zeros tell the whole story. Moving from Solar (yellow) to Nuclear (red), Hydro (blue), Wind (brown), Geothermal (brown), and Biomass, the carbon dioxide emissions are nothing. But, continuing to move downward, in million metric tons, Natural Gas is at 1,637, Coal, 1,003, and Petroleum a whopping 2,223:
Our Bottom Line: Innovation
In a recent article, the NY Times tells us that the one way to mitigate carbon emissions is “plugging in.” If we just had electric versions of what our homes, cars, and factories use, we will be fine. The problem though is the size of the switch. Now, less than one percent of our transportation is electric. And though our residential, industrial, and commercial use of electricty is slightly better, it is not close to what we need it to be.
To convert, for starters, we will need a vastly updated electrical grid. Correspondingly, we will have to electrify 280 million gasoline powered cars and replace the 200 million home appliances (stoves, dryers, furnaces) that use natural gas.
Meanwhile, my Bloomberg Green newsletter suggests there is hope elsewhere. Knowing that electric vehicles and solar panels are “so 2011,” we have a new batch of startups with an entirely different vision:
Describing the deals, Bloomberg notes that, “Decarbonized food, carbon-removing contraptions, futuristic materials and next-generation fuels are now portfolio targets for venture capitalists.”
But most crucially, whether looking at plugging in or startups, we can quote Yogi Berra.
“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
My sources and more: The Lawrence Livermore Lab and its press release were a logical starting point while, for innovation, we concluded with the NY Times and my Bloomberg Green newsletter.