In Pennsylvania, energy is a 'necessity.' It furnishes a high standard of living, and provides power for heating, cooking, lighting, cooling, appliances, and manufacturing, as well as a myriad of other residential, commercial, and industrial purposes. Traditionally energy has been supplied by fossil fuels and fossil fuel/nuclear electricity, while renewable energy forms have only made modest contributions to the United States supply mix. This reliance on fossil fuels and electricity has had major social, economic, environmental, and political implications. For example, the need for petroleum has involved the United States in trade disputes such as the OPEC embargo, wars such as the Persian Gulf War, and environmental issues such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The continual use of cola has contributed to global warming while reliance on nuclear electricity has created problems of radioactive waste disposal. In addition, the continued dependence on fossil fuels and electricity has created scarcity because more energy resources are being used to generate energy than are necessary to provide particular end-use services. For every three units of energy utilized to create electricity, only about one unit actually reaches the end user. Two units are essentially lost since they are released into the environment as pollution, and create further scarcity of resources. Therefore, it is contended that reliance on fossil fuels and fossil fuel/nuclear electricity is no t sustainable. There are many alternative renewable energy forms that can be used for end-uses such as space heating, water heating, irrigation, and water pumping that are more environmentally benign, economically and politically more sustainable, and do not compromise the deliver of end-use services.
This section demonstrates the need for change in Pennsylvania's residential energy sector since residential energy consumption accounts for a significant proportion of Pa energy use. It will explain why matching energy sources to end-uses is the appropriate measuring stick for energy use. It will then call on this logic as it draws from DOE data and other discourse to rationalize certain trends in Pa energy consumption. It will compare residential energy consumption at four different scales, at the national, regional, state, and county-levels. Beginning at the state level, Pa, which ranks sixth in the nation for residential energy consumption will be analyzed, and the county level energy use in Centre County will be highlighted. At the regional level, energy use in the Mid-Atlantic, comprised of New York, Pa, and New Jersey, will be analyzed since this region accounts for 14% of the nation's residential energy use. The paper will also uncover competition with the connected politics between states surrounding Pa and will show that ………… Finally a local energy audit and interviews that were conducted will serve as less abstract evidence that Pa needs to change its residential energy habits. Such an examination into all of these areas will bring attention to factors that reify fossil fuels and electricity as primary energy sources. It is thought that having a good understanding of these factors is the cornerstone for assessing where renewable energies can make potential in-roads in the residential sector in the next millennium.
Matching Sources to End-Uses
In society, energy forms are paired with end-uses to provide energy services. The laws of thermodynamics can be used to explain this matching process. They suggest that energy has two properties, quantity and quality, which impact the efficiency of energy conversion from source to end-use. The first law of thermodynamics states that matter and energy can not be created, consumed, or destroyed. The amount in the universe is constant. Energy is transformed from one form to another, and the amount lost from one state is always equivalent to the energy gained by its surroundings. Therefore, the first law of thermodynamics measures energy quantity. It is calculated by dividing the amount of energy output by the amount of energy input. So if an oil furnace produces 65,000Btu of useful space heat from 100,000 Btu of heating oil, the first law efficiency is 65%. Note that no energy conversion is 100% efficient, and that energy not used for the end-use task is dissipated into the environment as pollution. Rifkin (1980: 35) suggests, "Many people think pollution is a byproduct of production. In fact, pollution is the sum total of all the available energy in the world that has been transformed into unavailable energy. Waste is dissipated energy." The first law of thermodynamics does not distinguish between heat, waste, emissions, pollution, and work. They are all considered equivalent energy forms, with no quantitative distinction. Despite this seeming equity, all energy forms are not the same. There are qualitative distinctions between various forms. The second law of thermodynamics takes up this distinction.
The second law of thermodynamics or the entropy law emphasizes energy quality. Energy quality is related to the energy's temperature above the ambient environment. Since various energies and fuels generate heat at various temperatures, some energies and fuels have greater ability to do work, even if they produce the same about of heat. Different energy forms have different qualities, meaning that particular sources are more suited for particular tasks, and create less byproducts during energy conversion processes. High-quality energies include electricity, coal, natural gas, nuclear, and petroleum, whereas low-quality energies include heat and solar thermal. When energy is converted to do work, its quality irreversibly degrades. High-quality energy is transformed into lower-quality energy. Georgescu-Roegen compares this transformation to the shuffling of playing cards, the beating of an egg, and the devastation of a library by an unruly mob. He suggests that, "Nothing is destroyed (the first law of thermodynamics), but everything is scattered to the four winds . . . In nature there is a constant tendency for order to turn into disorder." (1971: 142)
To minimize this disorder, it is necessary to match appropriate energy sources with end-uses based on quantity and quality. For any given activity, there are multiple energy sources that can be used to provide an end-use service. For example, home heating can be furnished with natural gas, electricity, coal, or solar thermal. The selection of heating source impacts the amount of energy used as well as pollution and scarcity created. Therefore, all sources are not equal even though there may be numerous sources for each end-use activity.
Table 1 shows the usefulness of different energy forms. Electricity is the highest quality source and freezing cold is the lowest quality source. High-quality sources can be matched with any end-use activity that falls below it on Table 1, however by not matching energy quality with its usefulness, unnecessary scarcity and pollution are created. While Table 2 illustrates how end-uses, such as space heating, can be satisfied with multiple energy sources: natural gas, coal-electric, or solar thermal. Natural gas and coal-electric are high-quality sources and solar thermal is a low-quality source. Therefore, the selecting of energy source has different implications on ecological degradation and scarcity. The next section will examine how mismatched energy sources and end-uses create ecological degradation and scarcity.
Mismatched Energy Sources and Ecological Degradation
When high quality energy sources are used for tasks, such as space heating (see Table 2) that do not require their extra quality, the extra quality or unused energy is released into the environment, creating ecological degradation. Ecological degradation can come in many forms. It can be radioactive waste, water pollution, air pollution, contribute to global warming, amount other ecological problems. Of these problems, global warming was the primary concern for this class. The residential sector contributes to the United States greenhouse gas budget by using high-quality energy sources for many end-uses that could be satisfied with renewable energy source or low-quality heat. In 1996, the residential electricity use emitted approximately 181 million metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Other contributors included natural gas and petroleum. The reason why coal is not a major contributor to the residential sector's greenhouse gas emissions is because it is not widely used fuel in this sector. Figure 1 illustrates carbon dioxide emissions from the residential sector and demonstrates how ubiquitous reliance on electricity and fossil fuels can lead to serious environmental problems.
Scarcity is another implication of using energy sources that are not matched in quality to a particular end-use. Scarcity occurs when there is more demand for a source than supply. According to neoclassical economics, it occurs because there are fixed resources and unlimited wants. However, it is argued that the notion of fixed resources and unlimited human wants is a social construction. Resources are defined within the nexus of relations and wants are defined within society. For example, in the 1940s coal was considered a primary energy resource, however starting in the 1960s environmental discourses pertaining to air and water pollution made coal an unpopular source. Its use was largely replaced by natural gas and oil which did not cause as much ecological degradation. Moreover, wants are temporal and variable. The need for computers and all kinds of electronic gadgets is not an inherent condition within humans, but rather constructed within society. Therefore, it is argued that scarcity occurs when demand outstrips available supply. Thus, scarcity is constructed by two events in society: a contraction of supply which occurs when renewable energy sources are not emphasized or precluded from energy mixes and an expansion in demand which occurs when particular non-renewable energy sources are used for multiple end-uses.
Residential Energy Use in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, there was even greater reliance on coal than in the United States and the Mid-Atlantic. In the 1940s, coal accounted for 85% of energy use. Its prominence precluded the large-scale use of other sources. Gas, oil, and wood all were used in quantities that were less than 5% of total energy use. Their proportion of Pennsylvania’s energy mix would grow after the 1940s, when reliance on coal shrank considerably (See Figure 6). In 1950, coal accounted for 60% of residential energy use, in 1960 in accounted for 30%, in 1970 for 10%, and in 1980 and 1990 less than 5%. Therefore, coal played an important, yet diminishing role in Pennsylvania’s residential energy landscape. Its contraction allowed the use of oil and gas to expand in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1960, gas use surpassed coal use for the first time. Gas amounted to 35% of Pennsylvania’s supply mix and oil amounted to 31% (See Figure 6). As coal use continued to contract over time, reliance on gas and oil further expanded. However by 1970 and 1980, gas and oil use had reached their peak, and electricity inched its way upward as an energy source. In 1970, electricity accounted for 3% of Pennsylvania’s energy use, in 1980 it accounted for 10%, and in 1990 it accounted for 15%. Despite electricity’s growth, it remained a secondary energy source compared to gas and oil (see Figure 6).
Pennsylvania’s reliance on gas is consistent with national and regional trends. However its adherence to oil differs from the national and regional scales, where oil plays a less prominent role. This shows that gas and oil are Pennsylvania’s primary residential energy sources, whereas oil plays a smaller role in other parts of the country. For renewable energies to be embraced in the residential sector in Pennsylvania, they will have to become competitive with gas and oil in terms of price, ease of use, reliability, and flexibility.
Nevertheless, Pennsylvania’s forty year residential energy history illustrates how their substitution is possible. In the future, gas and oil may contract being replaced by more benign renewable energies that minimize scarcity and degradation. However, that will only happen when renewable energies are perceived as viable residential energy resources.
Residential Energy use in Centre County
To evaluate associations between particular energy sources in Centre County, a factor analysis model was run of home heating fuels for 1990. When electricity, coal, natural gas, solar, wood, LPG, and oil were loaded into the model, two factors emerged: a modern fossil fuel factor and a renewable coal factor (see Map 1).
Electricity, LPG, gas, and oil were loaded high on facto 1 and low on factor 2 and coal, solar, and wood were loaded high on factor 2 and low on factor 1. This means that fossil fuels energy sources tend to cluster together and renewable sources tend to cluster together in use. Coal is associated with renewables because it is not a widely used energy source (see Figure 6) in the state of Pennsylvania. This statistical map shows that fossil fuels are widely used in Centre County and coal, solar, and wood are not. The rotated component matrix for the model is given below. Not the high loadings for the fuels associated with factor 1 and the low loadings for the energies associated with factor 2. Coal is the least well-explained energy form by this model, however 76% of the variance is explained.
Residential Energy use in the Mid-Atlantic