critical issues

How does recycling save energy?

Extracting and processing raw resources (wood, oil, ore) to make usable materials (paper, plastic, metal) requires a lot of energy. Recycling often saves energy because the products being recycled usually require much less processing to turn them into usable materials.

Exactly how much energy is saved depends on the material in question. Let’s take two examples: glass and aluminum.

How much energy does a person use in a year?

In 2017, total energy use per person (“per capita consumption”) in the United States was 300 million British thermal units (Btu).1,2 32% of this was from industrial use, 29% from transportation, 20% from residential use, and 18% from commercial use.1 Per-person energy use in the United States decreased by 10.7% from 2007 to 2017.3

For comparison, here is the 2015 per-person energy use (in million Btu) for a selection of other countries:4

How much carbon dioxide is produced when different fuels are burned?

Energy Information Administration FAQs:

"Different fuels emit different amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in relation to the energy they produce when burned. To analyze emissions across fuels, compare the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of energy output or heat content.

Pounds of CO2 emitted per million British thermal units (Btu) of energy for various fuels:

How much carbon dioxide can the United States store underground via geologic sequestration?

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that the United States has the geologic formations to store approximately 3,000 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide.1 For comparison, the United States produces around 5.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year.2 Humans worldwide currently produce around 34 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide per year.3

Read the full assessment here: USGS National Assessment of Geologic Carbon Dioxide Storage Resources (Summary and Full Report)


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