1. tjspiel says:

    #32 That was an interesting article but I think you took away the wrong message. Aggregate energy use per capita has stayed flat the last couple of decades after a steady rise in earlier decades. One reason suggested was due to the shift of more and more manufacturing over seas.

    When they looked at household energy use, that has been relatively flat lately too in-spite of growing size of the house. Maybe that was your point. But they went further. They broke it down. Electric use (per capita) within the home has increased steadily but that has been offset by a drop in natural gas use. This drop has been explained in a few ways. One is the shift in the population toward the South (due to losses of manufacturing jobs in the North perhaps?) and another is more efficient heating systems and better insulated homes (the industry I work in by the way)

    Even though I think it’s a good document it fails to account for a lot of energy consumption. These big houses aren’t empty shells. They’re filled with more furniture, more clothes, more vehicles in the garage, more.. everything. All which required energy to produce and more often than not, energy to ship from some other part of the world. Then there’s the increased energy and materials used to build the larger house itself, – also not accounted for in the article.

    The article looked at gasoline use too. The amount per capita has gone up even with more efficient cars. The amount per vehicle has gone down but the number of vehicles we own has increased to more than compensate.

    Food? We eat more too. Look at some photos of people from the 50s, 60, and 70s. Then compare them to photos today. People in the U.S are fatter. There’s no doubt about it.

    To address your first point, I’m not a Luddite. I work in the energy efficiency field and I think there’s a lot that technology can do to help. The problem is that so far whatever gains we make in terms of increasing the efficiency of various systems, it’s nearly always offset by increasing consumption.

    Increasing consumption unfortunately has become part of our culture and the health of our economy has been set up to depend on it. It wasn’t always that way. The article has a section on “Why Does Consumption Go Up” that’s also very interesting.

  2. tjspiel says:


    Yes, we do have good cycling infrastructure in Minneapolis. Good for a U.S. city anyway. A joke compared to some European cities.

    The #1 and #2 cities in the U.S. in terms of the percentage of commuter cyclists are Portland and Minneapolis. Neither has at first blush what would be considered the ideal climate for that, but people do it anyway.

  3. LibertyLover says:

    #35, The problem is that so far whatever gains we make in terms of increasing the efficiency of various systems, it’s nearly always offset by increasing consumption.


    I read a book a few years ago that explained that exact concept. The whole book was dedicated to that and that alone.

    But for the life of me, I can’t remember the name. Sigh.

    The conclusion was that by making things more efficient, we are really just increasing our energy use because it doesn’t take as much to do the same things.

    For instance, your comment about the more fuel efficient cars, if you can drive 500 miles and it’s cheaper than it was 10 years ago, you’ll spend more time traveling that distance. It’s human nature to want more.

    Arrg. I can’t explain it as well as that book did. I’ll find it Monday at work and post the name. As someone in the industry you will get a good read out of it, I guarantee it.

  4. LibertyLover says:

    #35/#37, Called a friend. He’s the one who loaned it to me.


  5. CrankyGeeksFan says:

    #35 tjspiel – First paragraph: Iron has to be melted in order to make steel. The melting point of iron is 1538 °C (2800 °F). That’s a lot of energy right there.

    Second paragraph: Florida experienced explosive growth in population from the early 1970s onwards that relates to the creation of the rust belt. Florida homes generally don’t have natural gas due to limited supply since there was only one pipeline coming down the west coast of the state from the Louisiana/Texas region. Homes built as late as the 1960s in the Tampa Bay area had furnaces. These would be replaced by heat pumps since almost all homes have air-conditioning.

    From 2008 to 2009, US electric energy consumption declined for the first time from year to year since the late 1950s.

    Third paragraph: Plywood from Brazil and drywall from China made its way to Florida homes in great amounts in the last 10 years. “Greening” an existing structure is usually more green than building a new structure. As George Carlin was remarked: The home is a place for your stuff.

    Fourth paragraph: Increased gasoline consumption would be due to people driving farther to get anywhere.

    Do you think that if homes went to three-phase wiring it would prove to be more efficient?

    #36 tjspiel – In Copenhagen, Denmark, people commute to the airport on bicycles even in the rain.

    #37 LibertyLover – That’s why the US needs to break its addiction to the AUTOMOBILE. Too much time lost in commuting no matter what the energy source.

  6. G2 says:

    #38->Darn. Beat me to it. I knew what book you were referring to but didn’t get there fast enough.

  7. LibertyLover says:

    #39, That’s why the US needs to break its addiction to the AUTOMOBILE. Too much time lost in commuting no matter what the energy source.

    It’s a thought but the towns aren’t as compressed as they are in Europe.

    The average commute is 26 minutes over 16 miles.

    By comparison, in Europe it is half that.

    Our towns are more spread out, probably because we need the roads for all the cars. Catch-22?

    Plus, the culture is way different. When you get off a train over there, you expect what you are looking for to be close by. Here, our trains mostly just get you to town. After that, you are on your own — mainly because the towns are, again, so spread out.

    YMMV on my opinion here. I’ve no proof to back it up. Just experience from traveling over there and over here.


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