As I mentioned last week, most of us are simply clueless about energy—we have a pretty good sense of weight, time, and distance, but our intuitions about energy are wildly, phenomenally inaccurate. The most extreme example I’ve found is the Snickers-car-crash equivalence principle: a severe car crash, such as an SUV slamming into a brick wall at 70 mph, only releases about as much energy as there is in a single Snickers bar. My intuition tells me that a car crash must be worth thousands of Snickers; but Science tells me that it’s just one.
After discovering the Snickers-car crash factoid, I now find myself habitually—or perhaps obsessively—converting everyday events into numbers of Snickers bars. A typical car devours about four and a half Snickers bars worth of gasoline every mile. My hot water heater munches 10 Snickers bars worth of electricity for my morning shower. A trip across the country in a 747 gobbles up over 4,100 Snickers bars of jet fuel per passenger. And so on.
And unfortunately for the people I work with, my Snickers obsession appears to be contagious. Sitting in the hot Sightline offices, intrepid intern Avi Allison came up with some cool facts about staying chilly: a single Snickers bar will keep a small fan spinning for almost 7 hours, but only keeps a home central air-conditioning unit running for 5 minutes.
So if you can manage to cool yourself off with a single fan, rather than central air, you can reduce your energy consumption by almost 99 percent. That’s something to think about as you head to the freezer for a frozen Snickers.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Lana Palmer under a Creative Commons license.
Have you ever stepped on one of those bikes that lights up 100-watt light bulbs as you pedal? There’s a similar realization that hits as you pedal like mad just get get one bulb going… energy is *hard to come by* in our natural environment. We’re astonishingly lucky to have discovered oil, but in a century we’ve managed to waste most of it on hopelessly trivial and wasteful nonsense.Getting folks to focus on the true costs of our energy use would (eventually) cause tremendous shifts in our behavior. But without those costs being reflected in prices, we’ll continue to flip on the central A/C…Great article, thanks!
trivial and wasteful nonsense… Yes, quite right. We should never have built cities, freeways, plastic products, replacement hearts, replacement limbs, computers, telephones, or any of that trivial, wasteful nonsense. Perhaps if we’d just kept to living in caves, our lives would be better.