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(1/31/10)  Comments are Welcome

Introduction               Questions for Curious Minds

There has never been a more exciting time for science: It is the new Age of Invention, where everything old is new again; where we now value energy, look at what we have done before and ask if there is a better way.

Energy Flow Diagram from LLNL



At first (and even second) glance, the above chart from Lawrence Livermore Nation Lab seems to have so much information that it is completely useless.  If you have a little patience, you will see that it summarizes an enourmous amount of valuable information about CleanTech opportunities in the United States.  (Note that the numbers refer to “Quad”s of energy, not percentages.  Conveniently, however, our energy use in the U.S. in 2008 is close enough to 100 Quads, that we can approximately interpret these as percentages. 

There are two problems.  There is the left side, which shows that we obtain most of our energy from fossil fuels (i.e. 150 million years of biomass compressed and chemically re-formed); in fact, almost 65%, with more than a third of that from coal.  Then there is the right size, which is equally, if not more interesting: we waste more than half of our energy.  The graph shows that we actually use ~42% of the energy we consume, but that we dissipate ~57%.

Where does all of this wasted energy go?  Everywhere, but the two biggest contributors are electrical power and transportation.  Clearly, there is a lot of opportunity to improve energy efficiency in a product design when the standard is less than 50% efficient. 

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