Fascinating.  According to this BBC video, it takes 80 cyclists, biking flat out on stationary bikes hooked to generators, to produce enough power to heat up the water for a single shower.  Behold:

This reminds me of the Portland gym that feeds muscle power back into the electricity grid—a nifty idea, but unfortunately not one that’ll generate a lot of juice.  Based on the above video, it’d take 6 hours and 40 minutes of vigorous cycling to heat the water for a 5-minute after-workout shower.

The biggest lesson here:  WE HAVE NO INTUITIVE SENSE OF HOW MUCH ENERGY WE CONSUME IN OUR DAILY LIVES.  Until you see it demonstrated this way, a quick shower doesn’t seem like an energy hog.  But it is.  By the same token, some things that we  assume would take huge amounts of energy actually have modest impacts.  Case in point:  the embodied energy in a devastating car crash is actually about what you’ll find in a Snickers bar.  (A handy rule:  light and motion don’t use much energy; but heat does.)

There’s a policy angle to all this as well.  Since human beings do such a terrible job of gauging energy consumption on their own, the first step in any energy conservation policy is to give people meaningful feedback about their energy consumptionbiking guy - bjorn1101Right now, that feedback is scarce; most people have no sense whatsoever of how much energy their appliances use, and how that compares with the gas they put in their car or the energy they use to heat their home. 

And that’s the real beauty of putting a price on carbon:  it turns the price tag into a reliable source of information about how much fossil energy it takes to live our lives, as well as a clear incentive to cut back on energy waste. 

Sure, a price tag doesn’t make for good television.  But on the upside, it’s far more likely than a clever video to motivate us to shift gears to healthier, more economical, and less polluting energy habits—and a heck of a lot more convenient than trying to power your home with your bike.

H/T to Jeff Mapes