America’s population and economy are both growing, yet its energy appetite is falling. That’s because of substantial energy-efficiency gains made in recent decades.
Those gains are helping the country reduce oil imports, save money on power bills, and move toward meeting a goal set by President Obama of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent between 2005 and 2020.
The news is laid out in a Natural Resources Defense Council report cheerily titled America’s (Amazingly) Good Energy News [PDF]:
[O]ver the past 40 years Americans have found so many innovative ways to save energy that we have more than doubled the economic productivity of the oil that runs our vehicles and the natural gas and electricity that runs almost everything else. Factories and businesses are producing substantially more products and value with less energy. …
[B]ecause increasing efficiency is far less costly than adding other energy resources like fossil fuels, this is saving the nation hundreds of billions of dollars annually, helping U.S. workers and companies compete worldwide, and making our country more energy-secure.
America’s energy use peaked in 2007 and has been falling ever since, the report says. Less energy was used by Americans last year than in 1999, despite 25 percent economic growth in the intervening years.
As shown in the following graph from the report, the “lockstep linkage between economic growth and total energy use” that once was normal in America ended in the 1970s:
Still, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made clear, the U.S. and the rest of the world must do much more if we’re going to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
But the efficiency news is obviously great, so we’ll pause to celebrate it. Hurrah!
Get Grist in your inbox