Quads–An Introduction

Picture a train car, filled with anthracite coal. Let’s be picturesque and go back to the 1970s, when smaller and weaker train cars held about 100 tons of coal. Back then, they typically formed trainsets of 100 cars, each holding 100 tons of coal, for 10,000 tons in total. One of the longest trains in history was on the Sishen-Saldanha Railroad in South Africa, operated in August of 1989. It used 7 diesels and 9 50-kV electrics to move 660 cars, a tank car, and a caboose. It traveled 535 miles in 22 hours and 40 minutes. It took a whopping 4.3 miles to stop the train. The train was over 6 miles long.

Now, picture a longer train. Imagine the longest train ever conceived of—one with 378,000 cars loaded with anthracite coal. Although coal cars vary in length, you can often estimate about 100 cars to a mile. So picture a train 3,780 miles long—the distance from Dublin to Kandahar, or from Albuquerque New Mexico to Anchorage Alaska. It is 1,500 miles longer than the tar sands oil pipeline from Alberta to Texas that is being so vigorously disputed as I write this in January of 2012.

If you burn all the coal in that train—each of the 100 tons in each of the 378,000 cars—you will have consumed 1 quadrillion BTUs. And we give the energy liberated from that incredible quantity of coal a cute little name. We call it a ‘quad.’

In 2010, the world consumed energy equivalent to the coal loaded onto 500 of those trains. The world as a whole consumed 500 quads. And despite progress in getting power from nuclear, hydro, wind and solar, in actual fact 143 of those imaginary trains filled with coal were not imaginary—they actually were filled with coal.

18 responses to “Quads–An Introduction

  1. Pingback: Welcome to 3000Quads | 3000 Quads

  2. Pingback: Welcome to 3000Quads | Cranky Old Crow

  3. A quad is 1×10^15 BTU. Why should one try and visualise these amounts? BTW comments do not appear below the posts – is this deliberate?

    • peter2108, a lot of people have trouble grasping abstract descriptions of quantity. Please check again on the comments–they do show up in my browser and yours is the only mention of this issue.

  4. I agree with peter2108. Why try to visualize the amount of coal. We could visualize all sort of things, Disposable lighters end to end could go to the moon and back x amount of times, Truckloads of gravel to the sun and back. The question should be “Has providing all that inexpensive energy to the people of the world, made life better for humanity and what was the impact to the environment?”

    • Hi Hyperzombie

      My personal answer to that question is yes, of course inexpensive energy has made life better for humanity. The impact to the environment was moderate to severe up until we got wealthy enough to start cleaning up after ourselves. And one of the reasons we got that wealthy was inexpensive energy.

      But the point of this blog going forward will be to make the case that our energy requirements are going to skyrocket and that past performance is no guarantee of future results.

      Hope you stick around and let me make my case.

  5. Pingback: We’re adding more capacity but changing little in fuel types and percentages | 3000 Quads

  6. Pingback: Transportation Fuel Consumption in the U.S., as it is today | 3000 Quads

  7. Pingback: Policy Implications of Increased Energy Consumption | 3000 Quads

  8. Pingback: Pointing Towards Energy Consumption Solutions | 3000 Quads

  9. Pingback: U.S. Energy Consumption in 2011 and DOE Predictions for 2012 | 3000 Quads

  10. Pingback: Recapitulation and Rededication | 3000 Quads

  11. Pingback: Single Stats Should Be Against The Law | The Lukewarmer's Way

  12. Pingback: Matt Ridley’s Ninth Test (Warning: Rant Follows) | The Lukewarmer's Way

  13. Hence, it is a challenging task for the designer to expose
    the inimitable beauty of every opal, and maintaining the integrity of its own pattern, design and style.

    The takeover of the jewellery industry by the machine made ornaments,
    had led to the fall in the charm of the artisan crafted jewellery in the past few years.

    Above all, these bracelets match perfectly with any outfit women wears
    and hence the craze for sterling silver bracelets is increasing
    day by day among the women of all classes. Apart from the color of pearl beads jewelry most popular and classic white designed by gray
    or black is also in great demand. In wake of the financial meltdown, small scale gems &
    jewellery units are consolidating their manufacturing units,
    and are also realigning their marketing and distribution strategies.
    Sterling silver is the kind of silver used for jewellery making and
    dinnerware. trying to find time in our busy lives to take a day out to walk around various shops, sitting in traffic jams,
    parking problems, queuing at tills, etc – is that the
    prices are often much less than buying in the High Street shops.

    If you are looking for an unusual silver bracelet then handmade silver jewellery makers UK will be
    able to create something memorable, beautiful and unusual for you.
    Online stores offer the facility of customizedsearches, sorted according to price range or even color, shape and designpreferences.
    It is a fact the chunky Celtic designs do look good, but they can drill a hole in your pocket too.

  14. Now, we will get a bit more specific as to what ores the Prospector deals with, and what Ingots they can produce from them.
    The stylish fashion jewellery can be availed in a wide range of varieties and designs.

    They are fit in trending styles, that’s why a lot of
    importance is given to a diamond jewellery design. Keep it away from products that containing
    sulfur as much as possible. From top to bottom like necklace, ring, eyebrow ring, chains are now designed exclusively for men by fashion industry.

    One of the greatest benefits is that your piece is one of
    a kind, especially if you are the bride. trying to find time in our busy lives to take a day out
    to walk around various shops, sitting in traffic jams, parking
    problems, queuing at tills, etc – is that the prices are often much less than buying in the High Street
    shops. These pieces are set with lovely semi-precious stones
    like Rose Quartz, Tigers Eye, Onyx, Jet, Amazonite and many more
    and these pieces were so much more affordable and could
    be seen being worn by the middle classes on a daily basis
    where before they may only have owned a few precious
    pieces that were only worn on special occasions and had generally been passed down through the family.
    There are some beautiful pendants available from this stone and these can look beautiful hung from simple silver chains
    or it could be a handcrafted design that has other semi-precious stones in the designs.
    Crystal jewellery is now seen as an affordable alternative to fine jewellery and women can now wear
    jewellery that makes them look a million dollars without having to break the bank.

  15. I think what you published made a tton of sense. But, what about this?
    suppose yoou were to write a awesome headline? I ain’t suggesting your information isn’t good., bbut suppose you added
    something to possibly grab people’s attention? I mean Quads-An Introdction | 3000 Quads is kinda boring.

    You might peek at Yahoo’s home page and see how they write post headlines to
    get people to click. You might add a video or a related picture or two to grab readers interested about what you’ve written. In my
    opinion, it would make your posts a little biit more interesting.

  16. I appreciate, result in I found exactly what I was looking for.
    You have ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice
    day. Bye

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s