Our Energy Future, in Toasters

  • By Ari Daniel
  • Posted 02.02.17
  • NOVA

On average, each American uses as much energy as the equivalent of running 11 toasters all day, every day. This is well above the global per capita average of 2.5 toasters. Within this century, however, most people on the planet will want to consume as much energy as those living in the United States. The question is: how do we grow the world’s energy supply to make that possible?

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Running Time: 01:53

Transcript

Myhrvold: The energy problem the world has is not really the one that you hear about or see in the US or Europe. The trouble is—we Americans use about 11 kilowatts—11,000 watts. A toaster is about a kilowatt. So it’s very much like each and every American has 11 toasters running all day every day. Now of course we don't really have toasters, but this is taking all the energy we use in heating our buildings, in air conditioning, in all the primary energy uses. It’s like eleven toasters.

Now, if you look at the world and you say, “What is the world average?” 2.5 kilowatts. Way less than us. Africa per capita—800 watts. So the Africans don't even have one toaster each. The Indians—they got a toaster and a half. China happens to be today right about at the world average. They all want 11 toasters. In this century, they're all gonna go to 11 toasters. Hot places want air conditioning. People want computers. They want transportation. They want all the things that we have. And you can't deny it to them, how could you stop them?

So what that means is, we're going to grow the whole world’s energy supply by a factor of five this century.

So if you think about the real energy problem for the 21st century, it's not to say, how can we cut the US back a bit? How can we cut western Europe back? No. It’s about how we can let the rest of the world in on the lifestyle that we have.

I think the real challenge is, can you step forward and do that?

Credits

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Digital Editor
Ari Daniel
Director of Photography
Cameron Hickey
Broadcast Producer
Miles O’Brien
© WGBH Educational Foundation 2017

MEDIA CREDITS

Music & Sound
APM
freesound.org
blake3one6
GreenSentrySolutions
Additional Visuals
AA VFX
Anton Balzah
CretaDrive.gr
dezeen.com
kossars.com
NASA
pexels.com
skillpatron.com
Tech Insider
torm.tk
video.pexels.com
webdesignonlineschools.com
wellbeingpeople.com
westernbagel.com
wikimedia.org
wordpress.com

POSTER IMAGE

(main image: toaster and Earth)
© WGBH Educational Foundation 2017

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