This calculator began in college in 2010 after reading Sustainable Energy – without the hot air
by David MacKay (free online). I (Alexander) wanted to calculate my lifestyle’s energy use. Upon setting up a couple columns and formulas in Excel the first question arose; how much energy does it take to power the 1 train in New York City? Some research uncovered a few reports with multiple figures. Then came flying; what’s the fuel burn of domestic vs. international flights? More research uncovered various statistics and some online calculators. Then came heating and cooling; I had no idea what HVAC system my apartment building had installed; and laundry took a week of research. It took a couple months to build just a basic estimate of my lifestyle energy use.
It occurred to me while downloading national data sets from the World Bank and OECD libraries; what if other people around the world are trying to do this too? Perhaps accessible information and tools could help catalyze this learning process for people; and possibly assist in overcoming barriers to motivation or action.
A few more things started becoming apparent: (1) My compiled data is useful to everyone else too; (2) few online calculators provide a comprehensive-/robust-enough lifestyle energy use estimate, nor (3) do they explain the calculations, and (4) fewer still incorporate energy savings calculations; (5) inviting friends to do this with me would be cool—to aggregate
our net impact; (6) I had no idea (and still in 2016 can’t readily recall) what a ton of CO2 is equivalent to—let alone a million or a billion tons is equivalent to; even though the CO2 emissions per unit of chemical (gross) energy by fossil fuel type doesn’t change (ever); see emissions associated with fuel combustion
cited by David MacKay and/or DEFRA’s conversion factor repository
; (7) being raised with the imperial, metric, and US customary units—it would be really convenient to bridge multiple measurement systems; (8) there is so much data and information on the web, that (a) storing it all in my head is impossible, but (b) passing on research efforts and learning curves could be useful.
One year in the making: Energy We Need hopes to encourage, educate and empower you and your friends to become informed and perhaps take action now—living more equitably, with lower carbon and energy footprints, together. Please send us comments or suggestions! firstname.lastname@example.org