Electricity: Incredibly Useful and Completely Artificial


Photo Source: Library of Congress

Common appliances and equipment such as light bolts, blenders, digital clocks, computers and traffic signals (to name a few)did not exist until the early years of the 20th Century - today, it is unimaginable to live without them. Yet after the introduction of large scale infrastructure to cities and rural America, companies began to provide people with hundreds of options for electric powered devices. For example, in 1903, the first lightweight electric iron was introduced, in 1907 the first domestic vacuum cleaner, in 1909 the first electric toaster, 1913 the first refrigerator for home use and the first electric dishwater and then 1927 the first garbage disposal. This is a very short list of products - a list that is continually growing today all based on electricity.


Photo Source: frankh/creative commons

The most recent addition to the list is electric cars (not the first electric cars of course...just the most recent). As we look to alternative transport to curb the need for foreign oil, plug-in e-cars guarantee more artificial electricity will be necessary. With automobiles responsible for nearly 30 percent of all the carbon emissions in the United States - alternatives are needed. However, aren't electric cars only deepen our dependence on artificial energy, and allowing us to avoid the fact that we have always lived outside of our means when it comes to electricity? To use the food as an analogy again, it would be as if organic farms were suddenly calling for HFCS for everyone, and recanting the claims toward obesity and diabetes. Or to think about it differently, is the goal of organic foods to have it all created via industrialized organic farms? To live on a planet purely powered by electricity, we will need massive infrastructure and huge power facilities. Maybe industrialize organic energy is the best we can hope...?

Cars aren't Drive Us Electric
If the issue were only cars, maybe there would be less to worry about. But we are finding new ways to use more electricity. A 2009 report by Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company, said the global IT industry generated as much greenhouse gas as the world's airlines - about 2% of global CO2 emissions. In January of the same year, Google blogged that the energy used per web search "amounts to 0.0003 kWh", and compared that to "about the same amount of energy that your body burns in ten seconds".

That may sound like nothing - but considering the fact that Google receives hundreds of millions of searches every day, that small amount adds up quick. So fast that the energy used for Google searches could power thousands of homes each year, and the carbon footprint could measure in the tens of thousands of metric tons. Nicholas Carr, author of The Big Switch, Rewiring the World, calculated that maintaining a character in the virtual game Second Life requires nearly the same amount of electricity per year as the average Brazilian...around 1,752 kilowatt hours.

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