A long-standing goal of AGA’s is to better educate the general public about how energy is produced and delivered to the American consumer.
For example, ask most Americans where the electricity they use in their homes comes from and they will respond, “The electric outlets.” And they are right – sort of, because while it is true that if you plug an electric appliance into an electric outlet, it will receive electric power, that is not where electricity originally comes from.
Electricity originally comes from coal, or natural gas, or from a nuclear power or hydroelectric plant, or – increasingly – from wind or solar energy. These original sources of energy are then converted into electricity at generation plants and delivered using transmission lines (such as those in the picture accompanying this post) to those aforementioned electric outlets.
Here is another thing most Americans don’t know. When the energy source travels from its place of origin – a coal mine in the case of coal, a wellhead in the case of natural gas – to the power plant in which it is converted to electricity, and then on to its ultimate destination at the electric outlet, it has taken a very inefficient journey. In fact, during that journey around 70 percent of the useable energy is lost. Most of that loss results from the generation process.
What is more, depending on what fuel is used to generate the electricity, varying amounts of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere during the generation process. That is why, for example, in our new environmentally conscious climate, natural gas is now the preferred fuel for electricity generation. It is much cleaner than coal; presently it is much more abundant and reliable than wind or solar power; and it is much less controversial than nuclear power.
Of course, in addition to using natural gas to generate electricity to power electric home heaters, water heaters or stoves, natural gas is also used directly to power natural gas home heaters, water heaters or stoves. And guess what? This direct use of natural gas in homes or businesses is far more efficient than turning it into electricity for the same purpose – natural gas only loses about 10 percent of its useable energy traveling from the wellhead to the burner tip. And being more efficient, these direct uses also are more environmentally friendly. In fact, a typical American home generates twice as many greenhouse gas emissions using an electric resistance water heater than one using a comparable natural gas water heater.
That is why AGA is working to educate more Americans, including our political leaders, about the advantages of the direct use of natural gas. It increases energy efficiency, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and saves consumers money. If you’d like to see how much smaller your carbon footprint would be with increased direct use, go to www.comfortableresponsible.org and check out their carbon calculator. You might be surprised.