The Scale of Our Insanity

(11AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

So I spent a couple hours tonight researching oil and gas consumption rates when I stumbled across an amazing statistic: in 2005, according to this Los Angeles Times article, we used an average of 386 million gallons of gasoline per day. Wow, I thought. That’s insane. I wonder what 386 million gallons would look like in a great big tank. Surely it would be as big as a skyscraper.

So I surfed to the trusty conversion calculator and entered the data and found that 386000000 gal(US Liq) = 51600694.443 ft³.

That’s 51.6 million cubic feet of gas we burn every day, at the 2005 rate. So then I chose a skyscraper to compare it to: the Sears Tower. That’s a good one. I didn’t know it had been renamed the Willis Tower. WTF?

Anyway, to my amazement, and quite coincidentally, the Sears Tower, according to too many sources to cite, has 53.4 million cubic feet of space. That’s really close. So here it is in picture form, using Google Earth, a 3D modeling app, and Photoshop. I made the gas tank a bit bigger to extrapolate out the probable increase from 2005-2010. And I made the Sears Tower green.

We burn this every single day, just in the United States. Did we really think it wouldn’t have consequences?


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  1. this is interesting… gas consumption by state. Looking for the date… 2001? hmmm.

    Here’s by country 2007.

    • Eddie C on October 5, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    I’m not saying there hasn’t been an increase but less people are driving to work, less good are being transported across the nation and less Americans can afford to waste gas.

    That said, one change I’ve noticed in Americans is the inability to tighten the belt by giving up the car. I remember the traffic ease of the 70’s recession here in NYC and I did not really notice it on this go round. Sadly I happen to be one of the Americans  driving on credit but I’ve gone from around 8,000 miles per year to around 3,000 miles.

    But there’s always that war machine to keep the fires burning.  

    • Edger on October 5, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    a collaboration between the British medical journal The Lancet and University College London released the first UCL Lancet Commission report, assessing the impact of global warming on global health, and on populations.

    Titled Managing the health effects of climate change (.PDF), the year long study highlights the threat of climate change on patterns of disease, water and food insecurity, human settlements, extreme climatic events, and population migration. The report also highlights the action required by global society to mitigate the health impacts of climate change.

    “Climate change,” the report concludes, “is the biggest global health threat of the 21 century.”

    The report presents the two distorted maps shown below  – density equalizing cartograms depicting a comparison of undepleted CO2 emissions by country for 1950-2000 versus the regional distribution of four climate sensitive health consequences (malaria, malnutrition, diarrhea, and inland flood-related fatalities).

    expand image

    The first image shows the world in terms of carbon emissions. America, for instance, is huge. So is China. And Europe. Africa is hardly visible.

    The second map shows the world in terms of increased mortality — that is to say, deaths — from climate change. Suddenly, America virtually disappears. So does Europe. Africa, however, is grotesquely distended. South Asia inflates.

    In Barack Obama’s commencement address Sunday May 17, 2009 at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Obama exhorted the graduates to recognize that “that our fates are tied up, as Dr. King said, in a ‘single garment of destiny.'” and “Your generation must decide how to save God’s creation from a changing climate that threatens to destroy it.”

    But the peoples of the world are not bound equally.

    “Loss of healthy life years as a result of global environmental change (including climate change) is predicted to be 500 times greater in poor African populations than in European populations,” states the UCL Lancet Commission report bluntly.

  2. hard for me to keep up 🙂

    That being said, I love essays that illustrate the depths of the insanity our political discourse revolves around.

    You realize, of course, that changing this to something slightly less horrific would be discussed in Washington circles as if a proposal to fix it is the insane left wing radical proposition, and a proposal to make the little red bar not go up quite so much, the sane and rational and pragmatic proposal?

    Unfortunately, this is only ONE of quite a number of insanities of how America is consuming the last of our global resources.  It might be worthwhile to collect many of these insanities into a compendium; people will look at one of these insanities and cluck “my, my”, but when you start looking at the insanities as collections, it becomes truly awe inspiring.

    For example:

    Present and past military expenditures consume 3/5 of our yearly national budget.

    The United States maintains a stockpile of 5,800 nuclear weapons.

    By the most conservative estimates, not counting many things, there are more than 3,000 U.S. run oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, each one theoretically capable of generating a BP style disaster.

    Every week in this country approximately 1-5 LGBT people are beaten or killed out of hate, or commit suicide due to harassment.  That’s those we know about.

    Depending on how you count, the entire NASA budget for peaceful space exploration during the course of a given year is less than 1/40th the size of the annual military expenditures of the Pentagon.  Yet people continue to say we spend too much money on space exploration while staying mum about the military, so that we can “feed the poor” with it.

    Far more than 500 Afghanis, Iraqis and others our country deems to be expendable due to the “War On Terror” have been killed for every individual who died in the World Trade Center attacks.

    And, you could go on, and on, and on, and on……

    Obviously, these numbers would need to be researched and refined, but my point is, the insanity of how we do things in the world is far from limited to the colossal insanity you point out here.

    I love insanity essays, though.  We need more pointing it out…..

  3. that the figure for daily gasoline consumption is really that low.  It should be twice that.

  4. them die. Just like languages survive, as the people who speak them die. These are strange phenomena indeed, as if these languages and ideas are using us for their survival.

    These languages and ideas have talons that sink deeply into our flesh, the rotten flesh of [original] sinners and blasphemers of the divine. LOL. If only we could get a super dooper high resolution four dementional x-ray of the shroud of Turin.

    Now I don’t walk barefoot on glass or nails; or drink from bottles I just happen to see sitting on the curb, even, yes, even if I’m thirsty! So?

    Well, we’ve spent a million years or so getting this far.

    Humans have pretty good memories and can even size up their immediate environment pretty well. Solid tool makers. And seem to be pretty successful in avoiding the making of fatal mistakes. And then comes History?

    Oh boy, now we’ve done it! Got to tow the line even if it means martyrdom and sacrifice for pharaoh, pope and

    the glorious state. Yes, we got the vote, multiple erection drugs and bow and arrow with eye ball. But do we ever attempt to understand ourselves? Does history mean that it’s all autopilot now? We’ve finished the age of anthropology? We just follow the instructions and messages on the scoreboard? Relief from thought?

    As far as I can see, our depth/breadth of vision is not looking too good. It looks like education, advertising and propaganda have turned us into mushrooms. The task as I see it is close to overwhelmingly difficult if not nearing the impossible: How to search the depths of our Western ideological underpinnings as they’ve morphed, coalesced and morphed over 2,000-3,000 years at least for some insight. IMHO, man has used his brain successfully for 99.999999999999999% of his entire history on earth, so why with our advanced technology and artificial intelligence is man courting extinction now, in what is supposed to be modern happy times of leisure in the land of tomorrow?


    • sharon on October 6, 2010 at 5:19 am

    a collision course with unmitigated disaster?

    the green developer i want to work for doesn’t just build green buildings.  he builds green communities.  whether retrofitting an existing building or putting up a new one, the planning always involves extensive consultation with the community and the residents concerns are built into the design – ranging from jobs to security to health.  and when they finish a project, each of the residents receives a moving in package including info sheets are reducing your carbon footprint and green cleaning products.  this small gift inspires people to consider themselves stakeholders in their building and their environment, to learn and do more to live with respect for the earth and preserve our resources.

    from renters to government agencies he is reaching out to do what he can to change perspectives and habits.  his way to is build new habitats.  how can each one of us make a difference?

    tdv, how appropriate that you chose to compare the volume of oil consumed with a skyscraper. it is heating and cooling our buildings which uses the most energy.  i was reading tonight about green roofs and how they improve the air we breathe and minimize run off, and also about solar panels.  there are significant subsidies for installing both on our roofs.  dot commodity at dk has written a great diary about how money can actually be made by having solar panels installed: http://dotcommodity.dailykos.c…  here’s one article about green roofs in nyc with a reasonably good video: http://www.greenbuildingsnyc.c…  

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