Chew On This

Keywords: chew on this, Eric Schlosser, Charles Wilson, fast food nation, fast food, food for kids, school food programs

Dear reader,

My name is Gabrielle. I’m eleven.

Chew On This
reading in the chicken coop

I recently read a book called Chew On This, by Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) and Charles Wilson.

The saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover‘ applies here. The cover shows pretty nasty fast food, but as you go further into the book it doesn’t just tell you all this bad stuff about fast food, it gives you information – about the employees and how they treat them; about what’s in the food you’re eating; about junk food, about how they treat the animals they process into the food; about people who are overweight and want to change; and mostly about change – how much we have changed and how much we need to change.

And one of the things we need to change is our schools. Many of our nations schools sell junk food and items off many of the menus of McDonalds, KFC, etc. Kids of all ages are losing protein and vitamins and need to get them back. Kids used to drink twice as much milk as soda, now kids drink twice as much soda as milk (fact from book).

Parents are giving toddlers and babies soda which, as you can guess, is not good. I recommend this book to everyone – kids and adults (but if you are squeamish, I would highly recommend skipping the meat chapter). If you eat at McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and other fast food joints regularly, please do yourself a favor and read this book before you go there again. I may only be eleven, but after reading this I’ll think twice before eating any fast food burger ever again. It changed my life. It could change yours.

Thank you for reading my blog and please take my advice – read this book: )

US Energy Use: The Big Picture

This chart from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provides a simple clear way to understand how energy is used in the US.

I use this chart a lot in my presentations. It is a classic example of the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.” On a single page it shows the sources for the energy we use, where it goes, how much is used and how much is wasted.

Energy use in US
Energy Use in the US (click to enlarge) (source: Lawrence Livermore National Labratory and DOE)

Some things to note:

  • Energy sources are on the left side – solar, nuclear, hydro, wind, geothermal, natural gas, coal, biomass, petroleum.
  • Energy users are broken in to four categories – residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation.
  • The gray boxes on the right sum up the energy that was used and the energy that was lost (rejected).
  • The width of the lines running from the various energy sources to their destination uses is proportional to the amount of energy used.

Zeroing In On Oil

As can be seen, the lion’s share of US energy consumption comes from fossil fuel sources (oil, coal, natural gas). Of the fossil fuels, oil is the source most in demand, the bulk of which is used by the transportation sector. And oil consumption in the transportation sector is growing fast.

US Oil Consumption By Sector
(source: DOE)

Zooming in to the transportation sector, we can see that most of that oil is used for personal vehicles (cars, light truck and SUVs).

US Oil Consumption Transportation

Any attempt to reduce our dependance on oil will require grappling with transportation in general, and personal transportation in particular.

Price of Oil and Consumer Behavior

Personal transportation is 4 to 10 times less efficient than public transportation (commuter rail, trains and buses). When oil prices rise quickly, as they did in 2008 (to over $140 per barrel), consumer behavior shifts rapidly. Automobile manufactures saw their large car sales plummet. Airlines saw their fuel costs skyrocket, and bookings plummet. Commuters embraced public transportation, with many metropolitan areas seeing 30 to 45 percent increases in use of public transportation in just one quarter.

Transportation Efficiency
(source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

That rapid behavior shift represents risk and opportunity for business and government. For more on that, check out two related posts: Sustainable Energy Security: Strategic Risks and Opportunities for Business and Walmart Partnering with Patagonia on Sustainable Business Practices.

The last century was a time of abundance in energy. There is a new economy of scarcity emerging in the 21st century. Understanding the energy trends shaping our world is essential to managing risk and innovating solutions for business, government and community.