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Fossil fuels - the rate we use them


The world gets through a lot of fossil fuels:

• 7,896.4 million metric tons of coal in 2013 (21.6 million metric tons per day, 250 metric tons per second)

• 91,330,895 barrels of oil per day in 2013 (168 m3 per second)

• 3,347.63 billion m3 of natural gas in 2013 (9.2 km3 per day, 106,082 m3 per second)

This film tries to make those numbers physically meaningful – to make the quantities ‘real’; more than ‘just numbers’. All the graphics in the film are based on real quantities.

• The coal we use each day would form a pile 236 metres high and 673 metres across. We could fill a volume the size of the UN Secretariat Building with coal every 17 minutes.

• At the rate we use oil, we could fill an Olympic swimming pool every 15 seconds. We could fill a volume the size of the UN Secretariat Building with oil every 30 minutes.

• The rate at which we use natural gas is equivalent to gas travelling along a pipe with an internal diameter of 60 metres at hurricane speeds (135 km/h / 84 mph). We could fill a volume the size of the UN Secretariat Building with natural gas in under 3 seconds. We use a cubic kilometre of gas every 2 hours 37 minutes and a cubic mile of the stuff every 10 hours 54 minutes.

The world’s use of fossil fuels is increasing, not decreasing. Renewable energy will help, but it cannot keep up with the demand for energy. The International Renewable Energy Agency’s most optimistic road-map suggests that renewables will not displace fossil fuels for decades, which is a problem because we are adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at an increasing rate.

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