The U.S Department of Energy estimates that the U.S uses 100 quadrillion btus (“quads”) of primary energy per year. Since we use 100 quads of energy there should be 100 quads of waste from the energy if it is all being used efficiently. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates the average American produces 1,130 pounds of trash each year. Each po und of trash contains 4,500 btus and with over 307 million people that’s 1.6 quads of energy in our trash. Also 6.5 million metric tons of sewage are produced each year. The energy conversion is 10,000 btu/dry ton so that adds on another .1 quads. The total solid waste is about 1.7 quads of energy (1.7% of all our energy use). Solid waste only contributes to wasting a very small percent of the total energy wasted. Another contributor is industrial waste.
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab has estimated that with the United States wasted energy it could produce 96 GW of electric power. With a 25 percent fuel-to-power generation efficiency that is another 11.4 quads wasted.
In 2008 the U.S generated 3,806,611 GWh (Gigawatt Hour) from fossil-fired thermal power plants. On average these plants operate at 33 percent fuel efficiency so for every 1 unit of electric power generated 2 units of waste heat were throw away either in cooling towers, rivers or streams. 2 times 3,806,611 GWh of wasted heat comes out to be 26.4 quads of energy gone.
Lastly transportation wastes accounts for 20 quads of waste since we get about 30% of useful energy out of fuel (cars get more useful energy than larger ways of transportation such as trains, ships and long haul trucks). Add up all the wasted energy and you get 60 quads of waste energy for 100 quads of primary energy. This is a huge amount of energy that could really benefit us if we could recover some of it. Getting this waste out of the system should be a priority for our nation. One way to do this would be use less downstream energy. This would include lowering your thermastat, carpool/ ride a bike, living in a home the right size for you, etc. Another way to cut the energy waste down would be switch to alternate fuels like nuclear over c02. Insulating your home and recycling is another way to cut down on wasting energy.
The U.S Department of Energy estimates that if energy efficiency is improved, national energy use could be reduced by 20% in 2020. Improved energy efficiency would bring economic benefits to both the consumer and businesses. Right now the United States leads the world for the country that wastes the most energy. The U.S government and agencies should focus on this problem more since it will be beneficial for the whole nation. By making a more efficient power grid much less electrical energy will be lost when moving through the grid. Also using nuclear power plants to power things instead of C02 power plants since nuclear plants’ energy can be controlled more, is stronger, and do not release emissions.