A few weeks ago a journalist at UNC reached out about an online news site about energy sponsored by the Carnegie and Knight foundations titled Powering a Nation. From the Powering a Nation About us section:
"Powering a Nation will investigate the political, economic and scientific tensions behind U.S. energy use through advanced reporting to engage citizens and inspire informed decision-making."
And with modern media seeming to care more about Miley Cyrus (Good Morning America is playing in the background with a 5 minute feature on Lindsay Lohan's jail time right now) than advanced reporting or trying to engage citizens, I have to commend them on the worthy goal!
They have some really great stories on the site like their feature "Moving Mountains" on Mountaintop Coal Removal or a cool feature that shows the relationship between Food and Fossil Fuels. But my favorite section they have is Energy Portraits, which looks at four very different families across the U.S. and looks at how they use and conserve energy.
This illustrates a key concept to what we are working on at Mapawatt, which is: "People in different parts of the country use and conserve energy in different ways!". If you look closely at our name, you can figure that part out.
It seems that this concept is sometimes glossed over by the great folks at the DOE. For instance, on the DOE Energy site for kids on Using and Saving Energy in Homes they show the graph on the right (constructed with data from the EIA 2005 survey) illustrating how energy is used in homes. But what they don't do is explain how this energy consumption is going to vary over different parts of the country!
If I'm a kid in Phoenix, AZ or Miami, FL I'm going to be very confused as to why 41% of energy goes into space heating! And while many of you will think this is obvious (that different parts of the country use energy differently), you have to realize how ignorant society as a whole is on energy, not just kids!
As a country with one of the highest per capita use of energy, the United States needs all the help we can get in understanding how to conserve energy and taking the action to do it. Sites like Powering a Nation are helping to get us there!