Is it true that the average American uses more energy than a blue whale?


I thought this was a very salient little factoid. Is it accurate?

Interesting question. I’ll wait for an engineer to provide a comprehensive answer, but a simple conversion through an online tool using the Wikipedia figure 1.5 million kilocalorie per day diet of a blue whale showed about 72639 watts. The quote doesn’t specify a time unit for the human consumption though.

A watt is a joule per second. A Calorie is 4.2J. So 1.5GCal per day is 1.5G/(3600*24) or 17.4K Calories per second or 72.6KW. IOW, if our maths is correct, the article [del]is bollocks[/del] does not withstand scrutiny.


What an odd comparison.
But to make this less apples-to-oranges, consider that whales are intelligent creatures. Whales, IIRC, have exhibited play activities. It is then a fair assumption to make that in play, whales take advantage of their environment. As a human child will stick his hand out a car window to play with the rushing air (or roll down a hill, or jump out of an airplane), it’s likely that a whale too will frolic through the waves and currents of its environment. Therefore, to make an accurate comparison, one would need to include in the whale’s use column the average wave energy of a parcel of water it plays in (among other things).

Yeah but a blue whale doesn’t get any utility bills, so he can just run his air conditioning flat out 24/7.

And they’d need waterproof laptops. And let’s see them use them with those enormous flippers to type and control a mouse.

Of course Americans need more watts than a blue whale. I know of very few persons who actually need a blue whale in order to go about their daily lives. Do you know that not even one-tenth of one percent of American offices have a dedicated blue whale? Private home penetration is even lower.

Silly statement.

And an American that’s driving a big rig is using the energy of a big rig!

What you do in your home with a whale is none of my business.

This seems to be saying that energy and power are the same thing. Which suggests it has not been thought through especially well.

If he managed to do anything, it was a fluke.

Flipper? I hardly knew her!

In discussing blue whales, the correct unit is krillocalories, not kilocalories.

I should’ve known all of you would be spouting off about this…

The statement is definitely an inapt comparison of unlike entities. Running the air conditioner and the computer are factored in to a human’s life, but not lights or other electricity uses. Compared to a whale doing what? sitting at a computer with the air conditioning on? Swimming? Diving to the bottom of the ocean? They chose a terrible illustration for the point they were trying to make. I imagine the NYT will get tons of letters about the “scientific” approach to evaluating urban life. Readers need to use caution when trying to take a “factoid” from an article like that and using it in intelligent conversation.

Even if the allegation made sense and were true, so what?

I want to point

I think the conclusion of this article is obvious.

Let’s kill all the blue whales and stop global warming!

This is the dumbest comparison ever. Electrical and gas energy compared to food derived energy to move a whale body. Idiots! Dah!

They both need the sun to run the ecology so let add that into the equation. Look they both need about about same amount of energy when alive.