During this year’s South By Southwest (SXSW) interactive music and film festival in Austin, TX, an event was held to discuss Energy at the Movies. Hosted by Dr. Michael E. Webber of The University of Texas at Austin, this event focused on energy as it is portrayed in and influenced by the silver screen. After giving a lecture on this topic, Dr. Webber hosted a panel discussion with research scientist and author Sheril Kirshenbaum, film historian and UT film Professor Dr. Charles Ramirez-Berg, screenwriter and director Matthew Chapman, and producer Turk Pipkin. Yesterday, UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering released video of this discussion. If you’d like to check out the lecture that inspired this discussion, you can access the youtube video here.
On March 9, KLRU studios will host Dr. Michael E. Webber for his presentation on “Energy at the Movies.” This 90-minute lecture and panel discussion will explore energy in movies over the past 70 years and how the portrayal of energy on the big screen has influenced energy policy and the energy industry.
From the gushing geysers of Giant, to the plutonium-powered time machine of Back to the Future, Hollywood has entertained us with unforgettable, often iconic images of energy. Whether intentional or not, films frequently serve as a snapshot of society, capturing sentiments of each time period. Many films have themes or scenes that memorialize collective optimism, fears, and observations about energy. Using film clips as a historical road map, is an entertaining lecture that will enlighten audiences about the ways films influence how we think about energy, and in turn, how we influence energy policy.
Panel members will include:
- Sheril Kirshenbaum: co-author of Unscientific America
- Turk Pipkin: producer of Nobelity Project & One Peace at a Time
- Matthew Chapman: great-great grandson of Charles Darwin, screenwriter and director of such films as Runaway Jury and 2011’s The Ledge
- Charles Ramirez-Berg: film historian and distinguished UT Professor
Tickets are available for up to 250 participants and are expected to sell out quickly. The event will also be webcast live.
The United States emits the same amount of greenhouse gases as 69 other countries – 300 million people emitting the same as 1.5 billion. Since the U.S. uses about 20% of the world’s total energy consumption, this doesn’t come as a big surprise. But, it brings to light a big problem on the horizon. As developing countries continue to increase their energy use – electrifying their homes and businesses, travelling more in newly purchased cars, and producing more goods – is it possible for them to increase their standard of living without a dramatic increase in energy consumption?
What does this mean for the world’s energy use?
Today, the average person in the United States uses about 330 million BTUs (british thermal units) of energy each year. The world’s average is just 75 million. If the world increased its energy use to the current US level, the world’s total annual energy use would more than quadruple – from its current 500 to more than 2,200 Quadrillion BTUs (this assumes that the world’s population does not increase.
The same story goes for the United States versus other countries on its environmental impacts from energy use. The United States uses more energy per capita and it also emits more carbon dioxide than any other country (per capita – China emits more greenhouse gases in total, but they have a much larger population). It is reasonable to say that an increase in energy use would in an increase in greenhouse emissions from these countries.
To get an idea of the scale, I took a look at a new map published on the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) website. This map shows what the US would look like if you redrew the state boundaries based on the greenhouse gas emissions of other countries. According to the NRDC, you could fit the emissions 16 countries + the entire African continent (which, if my counting skills are on-par today, includes 53 countries) into the United State’s footprint.
These countries includes the Philipines, Sweden, France, Morocco, Israel, Thailand, Argentina, India (filling Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi), Brazil, Africa (with its 53 countries), the United Kingdom, Germany, Jordan, Ireland, Malaysia, Norway, and Ecuador.
All told – this map shows that the 300 million people in the United States emit the same amount of carbon dioxide as the 1.5 billion people living in these 69 countries.
As the world continues to electrify its homes, put new cars on the road, and produce more goods in industrial facilities I wonder how the world will deal with the increase in greenhouse gas emissions….
Thanks to The Daily Wogan for introducing me to this NRDC chart.
The economics of a solar power project can be tricky – especially when you don’t have access to the information you need. While it is pretty easy to generalize – “Arizona is sunny – Seattle, not so much” – trying to calculate how much electricity you’ll be able to generate from the panels on your rooftop can be frustrating. And this problem isn’t just felt at home – as cities and counties take a harder look at their parking lots and garages as potential generation stations, knowing how much sun they have to work with becomes critical.
Last week, the American Institute of Physics published a paper on a new way to calculate, compile and graphically show the amount of solar energy potential in a specific region (for example, county or city). The new methodology presented in this paper provides an easy way for you, or members of your city council, to determine the amount of energy that the sun beams down (called solar irradiance) in your area. You can even sort this information by time of day or year, to see how those panels are going to perform at 4pm in January versus 11am in July.
Developed by former graduate student David M. Wogan (of The Daily Wogan) and his advisors, Dr. Michael E. Webber and Dr. Alexandre K. da Silva at The University of Texas at Austin, the aim of this project was to make solar data more meaningful to people who wish to use this renewable resource. In their paper, they discuss how the methodology works (lots of data + computer program + pretty graphs) and apply it to Texas as a case study. Pretty cool.
If you would like to read the paper, you can access it for free here at The Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy.
[Image was found using Creative Commons, using the search term “sunshine.”]