Behold the US’s Energy Footprint with This Animated Guide

Screen Shot 2013-08-05 at 3.43.55 PMIt’s no secret, the US’s energy usage is staggering. We are the second largest per capita consumers of energy, right after Canada and right before Saudi Arabia. We love our cars, packaged food products, imported goods, and controlled heating, and we unfortunately tend to use and use without discretion. Hopefully much of the problem lies in a lack of education on energy and climate change, which is where this video will come in handy!

Alexis Madrigal, senior technology editor at The Atlantic, outlines the key energy sources we rely on, as well as the larger network of energy waste and efficiency in this brilliantly animated short. Check it out:

Here are the top 10 electrical energy sources, laid out from best to worst by Stanford professor of civil and environment engineering, Mark Jacobson:

  1. Wind
  2. Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)
  3. Geothermal power
  4. Tidal power
  5. Solar photovoltaics (PV)
  6. Wave power
  7. Hydroelectric power
  8. Nuclear power
  9. Coal (even with Carbon Capture and Sequestration, CCS)

Wind energy, as Jacobson’s number one option, is an interesting case. On the one hand, it is a renewable, never-ending source of immense power (more than human beings could ever use). It is space and cost efficient and produces no pollution. On the other hand, wind fluctuates and isn’t necessarily reliable. It’s also noisy, not aesthetically pleasing, and can be a threat to wildlife.

There are bound to be pros and cons with every energy option, but we can probably agree that some are worse than others. Our global lust for fossil fuels has led to wars, oil spills, decimation of forests, mountains and bodies of water, and toxic emissions into the atmosphere. What we might sacrifice by investing in renewable energy sources would surely pale in comparison to the sacrifices we’ve already endured.

What do you think are the best renewable energy options? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!