I vaguely recall reading on the train one day that global energy consumption has shot up by a big percentage in the last few years. The enormous figures were hard to take in if I am being honest but it certainly seemed as though we were burning our way through a huge and ever increasing amount of energy.
It was one of those reports which didn’t really affect my life all that much so I let it wash over me. I never really thought about it again until I visited my brother a few months later on. He had gone to live in China a few years back and I had only been to visit him once since then so it was time to go over and see him again. I was desperately hoping that he had picked up some local cooking skills and that he now spoke Chinese with an amusing Scottish accent, or even English with a Chinese accent.
What a Change
Back on my first visit the city he lived in had been developing rapidly but I was astonished at what I saw this time around. My flight arrived in the evening and as we flew over the city it was ablaze with light from homes, offices, shopping centres and vehicles. It had gone from a modest but aspiring city into a metropolis in the space of about 5 to 10 years.
Where has all of the extra energy come from? I recalled the story which I had read a while before and it came home to me what those facts and figures all meant in the real world. My own city in the UK doesn’t look at the different from the way it did when I was a kid but all over the developing world there are new and exciting ways to use energy which simply didn’t exist before.
Energy Can’t Be Created
I can only remember two things from science classes in school. The first is that if you mess about with a Bunsen burner you are likely to singe the hair of a girl called Susan and get given detention for the rest of the term. The second is that energy can’t be created; it can only be converted from one type of energy into another.
It seems that there is a lot of energy converting going on these days. My brother showed me some of the sights of his new home city and it is incredible to see how far it has advanced in such a short space of time. China is now the world’s biggest energy consumer and I think it might be the biggest producer as well now. A lot of the energy it produces comes from coal and is therefore not very environmentally friendly.
Once I got back home I could appreciate the wind farm we flew over and the hydroelectric plant which I knew was over the other side of the hills. It is clear that there are big advances being made in the UK to give us greener energy but we can’t forget that other countries are still lagging badly behind in this respect.
Seeing the two different sides of the coin in this way has given me a keen interest in the subject. I now keep my eyes peeled for interesting stories on the subject of global energy consumption and I may even have bored some fellow train travellers with my theories at one point.
Hopefully there will come a time when the whole world is truly green but until then I will keep on comparing the situation in the places I visit.
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