Energy in Your Zip Code

While doing research for one of my recent internships, I came across an interesting page from the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels & Advanced Vehicles Data Center. It includes a calculator that takes in a zip code, reads out energy sources for electricity in that area (e.g. gas, coal, nuclear), and calculates the emissions of electric vehicles in that area based on the grid.

One of the arguments against electric vehicles is that since electricity is powered by non-renewable sources, these cars aren’t reducing emissions. Put a different way, is an electric car that’s receiving electricity from a coal plant any cleaner than a Hummer? According to the Department of Energy, the answer is yes.

The calculator is also a cool way to see how energy sources are used in your area. There are some obvious conclusions, such as more coal being used for my parents’ house in Pennsylvania than in my current Massachusetts area. But there are some other things I wouldn’t have predicted, such as a higher-than-average percentage of biomass in New England, and Illinois using a higher percentage of coal than Pennsylvania. Some areas have a diverse range of sources, while others are more dependent (Purdue is almost entirely coal and nuclear). Click here to visit the calculator and try your own zip code.

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