Five reasons why we use a lot of energy

Canada is a big country with long, cold winters. So of course, we use more energy to get around and heat our homes. But when Canadians’ energy use is compared with some other countries, we don’t fare too well. Here are five reasons why we use a lot of energy in Canada:

Big PJ’s for a big country

Canada’s geography is important! A big country with many of resources to be extracted and transported, goods to be manufactured, and distant places to visit, means we use a lot of fuel and energy. In 2008, the total energy use in Canada was 8,720 petajoules (PJ). To put that in perspective, my last gas bill was for 2.9 gigajoules (GJ)— there are one million GJs in a PJ) — which is about the amount of energy you get from combusting half a barrel of oil. Put another way, a pair of PJ’s is approximately equal to the energy used by almost 18,000 households in one year (excluding transportation).

Lots of travelling

We like to travel! About 30 percent of our energy is used in transportation. Our urban centres are sprawling out and we commute long distances to work. We love road trips in the summer and its common to travel hundreds of kilometers for a weekend visit. Freight transport alone takes up 13 percent of the total energy use in the country.

Long, cold winters

Cold, dark and long winters compel us to spend more energy heating water, our homes and lighting our spaces. Residential space heating alone takes up about 10 percent of all energy used in Canada. But Canada uses more energy on a per capita basis than other large countries (like Australia and the US) and cold countries like Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Trees, metals and oil

Timber and forest products, minerals and oil and gas are key components of the Canadian economy. The production of these natural resources together with manufacturing makes the industrial sector the biggest piece (37 percent) of the Canadian energy use pie. Being a net exporter of energy brings important economic value, but the energy used in energy production, as well as greenhouse gas emissions, stay on the national ledger.

Lifestyle choices

Some people choose to live in smaller houses or in apartments, to buy more efficient cars or use public transit, and buy goods in returnable or recyclable containers, thereby using less energy. In general terms, North American lifestyles have tended to go in the opposite direction, towards “”conspicuous consumption”” although this may be changing.

Thinking about how energy is used to make material goods, bring them to market, use them, re-use or dispose of them is a great way to make smart lifestyle choices. I will take a look at “embodied energy” in another blog.

What’s your top five energy uses at home and travel?

Write back or just make up your own list of five energy uses and how you are reducing them. Check out our tips and tricks and go on an Energy Diet!