Ask the Superexpert about Electricity & Energy Efficiency

Have you ever wondered why shoes hanging on a power line don’t get fried? Or whether cars could someday run on cow manure? Now you can get answers to these and all your energy-related questions. Just Ask the Superexpert!

The Superexpert answers new questions regularly, so check back to see if YOUR question is up!

Shoes hanging on a power line don’t get burned for the same reason that birds standing on a power line don’t get shocked: they don’t give electricity a path to the ground, so electricity stays in the line and does not go through them. But if the shoes were to touch a power line and a power pole at the same time, they would provide a path to the ground and would get blasted with electric current. It wouldn’t be pretty!

By the way, if you ever see someone throwing shoes up onto a line, tell them to stop! The shoes can damage the power line, or someone trying to get the shoes down could be seriously shocked or even killed.

Yes! Manure can be made into a gas containing methane. (Methane is the same energy-rich gas found in natural gas.) Certain types of bacteria emit this gas as they consume manure collected in special air-free tanks. The mixture of gases produced in this way, called biogas, can then be used in some modified car engines instead of gasoline, or burned in a boiler to generate heat or electricity.

Organic waste emits methane as it decomposes—or rots—in the landfill. Landfills can collect and treat the methane and then sell it as a commercial fuel, or they can burn it to generate steam and electricity. Today, there are almost 400 gas energy landfill projects operating in the United States.

One lightning strike can carry 100 million to 1 billion volts. That’s the equivalent of between 8 and 80 million car batteries!”

Replacing one incandescent light bulb with an energy-saving compact fluorescent bulb prevents about 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted to the atmosphere from power plants, and saves about $67 dollars in energy costs over the bulb’s lifetime.
Ben Franklin’s famous key did give off an electric spark. But lucky for Franklin, the kite was just drawing small electrical charges from the air. If the kite had been struck by lightning, Franklin could have been killed!
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