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Well, I admit 1000x reduction in fossil foolishness can only be achieved by demand reduction as well as serious efficiency improvements, i.e. 1) we make gizmos that draw far less power (a TransMeta CPU pulls 6w, the P4 pulls 55w, factor of 9 there) and 2) the power has to come from sources other than fossil fuel (the Transmeta cpu pulls low enough current that I might be able to power it off a battery plus solar panel, blah blah) and 3) I should turn the damn thing OFF when not using it :-)  1000x reduction in frivolous travel might well be a natural result of rising fossil fuel prices...  I will admit that 1000x reduction in demand is setting the bar very high, but I can dream can't I?

Anyway I can illustrate a 100x reduction that would be very easily achieved.  On my block is at least one Hummer H2.  I have seen this vehicle with my own eyes drive about 1 mile to the grocery store and 1 mile back to pick up some trivial item -- a bag of groceries, a couple of six packs.  I ride my bike to the grocery store and my cargo bike can carry four bags of groceries plus extras -- 5 full bags if need be.

So let's compare oranges and oranges.  The H2 is approximately a 10mpg vehicle, ignoring all other commodity consumption involved in running it.  We know from someplace or other where I looked it up, that a gallon of gas is 114000 BTUs of potential energy.  So 1 mile in the Hummer squanders 11,400 BTUs.

Now the presumably knowledgeable person who wrote this article says that if a cyclist rides 20 miles at 15mph, he/she burns 620 calories, at 31 calories per mile.  I ride a little slower than that to the grocery store, but let's say for argument's sake that I manage to burn 31 calories per mile even at my leisurely pace.  I bet it's less.

Now we hit any unit-conversion site on the web and discover that 11400 Btu = 2,872.7518057 Calorie [nutritional]

OK, not quite 100, but I make that a factor of 92 in energy-consumption difference between my making this non-demanding 2 mile round trip on flatland by bike, and my neighbour insisting on doing it in a 6500 lb H2 at 10 mpg.  So my neighbour could easily realise a factor of 92 energy savings by riding his bike to the grocery store for those sixpacks instead.

There is a lot of this type of wastefulness in everyday American life.  Americans are used to thinking of energy as damn-near free.  So there is plenty of profligate behaviour that could be corrected for enormous savings -- lots of fat to be trimmed as one might say.

Oh and btw, before anyone leaps with a cry of delight to remind me about the 10 calories of fossil fuel used to supply each of those 31 food calories per mile that I used up, I retort, "Bah Humbug!"  for I really do buy local produce from organic farmers, thus reducing that fossil component of my diet considerably (a good thing  too as I find those crunchy old dinosaur bones kinda hard on the teeth).

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Jun 29th, 2005 at 10:52:40 PM EST
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