Losing Power

Two truths about electricity: vampires are real and preheating is a fallacy.

Generation of electricity accounts for close to half of the total energy consumed in the U.S. Electricity provides us heat, light, power to light our stoves and refrigerate our food — it powers our lives.

Like many modern advances, developed nations have an insatiable craving for electricity. In 2013, the average American home used over 10,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh). To give you some perspective, it takes about 1.05 pounds of coal to produce a single kWh of energy.

How It All Began

The natural world is responsible for introducing humanity to electricity. In fact, mentions of electric fish can be found in ancient Egyptian texts. Greek philosopher Thales is credited with making the first discovery of static electricity in 600 B.C.E.

It wasn’t until the 18th century, when electricity sparked the interest of Benjamin Franklin and Alessandro Volta (inventor of the voltaic pile, a.k.a. battery), that much progress was made in the actual conduction and storage of electricity.

Large-scale generation of electrical power, either by steam or fossil fuel combustion, began in the latter half of the 19th century.

Fast-forward to the 1930s, when developers (thanks to Albert Einstein’s discovery of the law of photoelectric effect) began to commercially produce products like the television, making electricity a staple in the modern American home.

How It Got So Bad

Today, the majority of electricity available in the U.S. is generated from fossil fuels, including coal, natural gas and oil. The technological revolution that has defined the last two centuries has put an ever-increasing demand on the global energy market.

Beyond sourcing natural gas, this competitive surge has further motivated the leading providing regions, like China and the Middle East, to utilize unconventional methods to produce oil and gas.

The process of generation emits pollutants and greenhouse gases into the natural environment, which contribute to climate change and air quality degradation. While the damage of oil spills is immediately understood, the other damage energy consumption is having on our ocean is less visible.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the pH of surface ocean waters has fallen by .1 units, representing a 30 percent increase in the ocean’s acidity. This change, known as ocean acidification, is a result of seawater absorbing an increasing amount of carbon dioxide present in our atmosphere. From seagrass to coral, acidification affects a wide range of aquatic inhabitants.

A Way Forward

Ensuring a sustainable future for energy production will require systemic change on a global scale. There is, however, a lot to be done at the personal and community level to help lessen our energy waste! Here are some of the biggest ways you yourself can make a difference:

Beware of vampires. Phantom or vampire energy use can save you up to 10 percent on your next energy bill!

Support renewable energy. An estimated 11 percent of the world’s energy consumption comes from renewable energy sources. You can directly support renewable energy through the purchase of green power or on-site generation of renewable energy (i.e. solar panels).

Make time to unplug! Build in time during your day to unplug from the electric world. Even 20 minutes outside can make a difference for the planet and for your own personal health!

To learn all the ways you can make our ocean a cleaner and healthier place, visit 48daysofblue.com.

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