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I once saw a pair of shoes hanging from a power line. Why didn’t the shoes get burned up by the electricity in the line?

Answer: 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.

Energy Science

How did people decorate Christmas trees before string lights?

Answer: In the mid-17th Century, people started putting lights on Christmas trees by attaching small candles to the ends of the branches with wax or pins. Usually trees were decorated on Christmas Eve to reduce fire hazards. The American custom of decorating using electric lights began in 1882 when an associate of Thomas Edison, Edward Johnson hand-wired 80 red, white and blue bulbs and wound them around a rotating evergreen tree. As holiday lights have evolved they have become more efficient allowing people to continue the custom while saving money and environment. LED lights are not only the most efficient holiday bulb we have today, they also have the lowest risk for fire since they are cool to the touch.

Do electric eels really create electricity?

Answer: Yes! An electric eel uses chemicals in its body to manufacture electricity. A large electric eel can produce a charge of up to 650 volts, which is more than five times the shocking power of a household outlet.

How many miles of natural gas pipes are there in the U.S.?

Answer: The interstate pipeline system contains over one million miles of pipe—enough to stretch to the moon and back twice. There are so many gas pipelines under the ground that it's super important to call 811 if you or anyone you know is planning a digging project. The 811 service will arrange to have the location of gas pipelines marked so people can dig safely away from them.

Energy Efficiency

What kind of a difference does it really make to replace a regular light bulb with an energy-saving one?

Answer: 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.

What is the greenhouse effect?

Answer: The greenhouse effect is created because certain gases sent into our atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, allow radiation from the sun to pass through the earth’s atmosphere, but prevent a portion of the infrared radiation from the earth’s surface and lower atmosphere from escaping into outer space. This process occurs naturally; without it our planet’s temperatures would be about 60 degrees cooler! Life as we know it simply would not exist without the natural greenhouse effect.

Who discovered natural gas?

Answer: The ancient Chinese were the first to discover underground deposits of natural gas. In 600 BC, Confucius wrote of wells 100 feet deep yielding water and natural gas along the Tibetan border. The Chinese piped the gas to where it was needed through long, hollow bamboo stalks.

Why is it important for people in the United States to save energy? Aren't we just a relatively small part of a large planet?

Answer: Although Americans make up only 5 percent of the world's population, we use about 25 percent of the world's energy! And we consume about 15 times more energy per person than does a citizen of a typical third world country.