Making Up the Difference Pt. 3: Electricity

This is part three of an ongoing series called Making Up the Difference where we will look at ways we can reduce oil consumption in order to ease the transition and to help prevent market forces from causing shortages in vital areas of our economy. In the first two parts, we looked at plastic bags and mass transit. Now we will turn our attention to electricity generation. Conservation of electricity is going to be necessary in the near future as the great majority of production comes from unsustainable sources such as natural gas, coal, and petroleum products. In the short-term, and for the sake of this series, we should look at how much of the total electricity generation is from oil, and how much oil is devoted. During this timeframe, oil will likely be the most scarce resource, meaning we should look to target its use.

According to to the EIA, distillate and residual petroleum fuels and petroleum coke accounted for 1,234.5 trillion Btus of electricity in 2005. This was roughly 3.1% of the total electricity production (Data). This is the equivalent of approximately 600,000 barrels/day of oil used for electricity, or about 3% of our total consumption (Calculations). Because of this, a reduction of 5-10% of electricity use is necessary to get a significant cut in oil consumption. Looking a little closer at the data, we can better understand how to achieve this.

New York and Florida make up about half of the total electricity generation from petroleum products. Hawaii, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland also have a fairly large amount of electricity generated in this way. If the goal is to cut oil consumption in the short-term, it would be most effectively done by targeting New York and Florida. These two states can not be approached entirely the same way in order to get the most efficient outcome. The makeup of demand is likely very different for regions with different weather and patterns of development. While a large amount of electricity may be used for air conditioning in Florida, New York may see a larger share of their consumption come from lighting.

In both states, and across the country, specific measures can be promoted such as planting shade trees, subsidizing window insulation and creating incentives to buy energy efficient products. In Florida, the use of small-scale solar panels that would lower demands on the grid could be taken. The thousands of offices across New York city could implement CFLs to reduce their electricity bill. Many possibilities like these will be explored in future installments of “Making Up the Difference” in order to find ways to reduce the 600,000 barrel requirement for electricity while also increasing the sustainability of our electricity demand. While a change in our sources of electricity generation should be addressed nationwide, the tightened supply of oil is something that should be addressed first due to its vital role in our economy.


3 Responses

  1. […] in the United States, it and its derivatives are used in that way worldwide (see post on electricity). Additionally, electricity from other sources can be used to power electric vehicles or heating […]

  2. […] about peak oil in terms of electricity conservation in our Making Up The Difference series (parts 3 and 3A). We’ve also talked about how careless water consumption in America and elsewhere […]

  3. […] blog has also explored in the past how New York is one of the principal consumers of petroleum as a source of electricity. With Bloomberg’s most recent energy proposal addressing solely electricity, the effect on oil […]

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