Tuesday, April 24, 2007

America's Power Footprint

I finally had a Eureka moment today in understanding the 'power footprint' data in the United States. The pie chart above shows which constituents are burning the most coal/oil/gas power in the United States for 2000. What I long struggled with was the appearent "double counting" between the "Electric Power" category, and the household, commercial and industrial categories. Weren't these users also the same end users of "electric power" ???

My Eureka moment came from the footnote on this chart. Yes, these users ALSO use electric power. In other words, natural gas electric plants + coal burning electric plants make up the Electric Power category, and your John Deere, and backup diesel generator, and propane forklift whizzing around Costco make up your residential / commercial / industrial consumers of fossil fuel power.

In some ways, there is a notion of double-counting still going on, because that "electric power" category ends up being consumed in houses, builidings and factories. But in terms of managing future carbon emissions, and pricing systems for carbon, the pie is useful as a starting point in who's going to pay, and what impacts a tax / pricing scheme will have across the economy.

Fortunately, others have appearently had similar thinking, from the National Commission on Energy Policy's Carbon Pricing Report, here's the "no double counting version" of that same pie chart that accurately breaks down the end uses from the Electric Power category. People should be required to show this version of the energy footprint chart to save others from needless confusion.