[Christian Science Monitor]: Efficiency could be the cheapest and easiest way to wean America from foreign oil.
Rather than comment, I’ve excerpted many of the highlights — a great collection of data points to use in building the business case with your company (or city) or the political case with your neighbor.
‘The United States is the Saudi Arabia of energy waste,’ says Amory Lovins. ‘Fortunately, what this means is that we can save energy – save oil – far faster than OPEC can pump and sell oil. The last time we exercised that power and became much more efficient, it broke OPEC’S market power for a decade.’
How much help does efficiency offer?
– by ‘consolidating and accelerating’ existing trends toward greater efficiency – at an estimated cost of $180 billion over a decade – the US could eliminate oil imports by 2040
– without big expenditures, the US could reduce its electricity use 24 percent by accelerating energy-efficiency programs
– Except for Canada, no other large industrialized nation uses as much energy per person [as the US ] – nearly double the amount used by the average Frenchman, 10 times that of the average Chinese.
– Without much fanfare, the nation has doubled the amount of economic output from each barrel of oil since 1975… thanks in part to improved motor, computer, and manufacturing technologies.
– Today’s best refrigerators… use a quarter of the energy they did a few decades ago,
– As much as 5 percent of residential electricity use is for TVs, VCRs, and DVD and CD players that are turned off, but waiting in standby mode to be used – at a cost of $3 billion annually
– Cars and light trucks… peaked at 26.2 miles per gallon in 1987…. Since then, their fuel economy has declined, reaching 25.1 m.p.g. last year.
– more efficient lighting, motors, insulation, and other consumer programs could save the energy equivalent of about 260 large 1,000-megawatt power plants… plus the costs of construction that would run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
– If the US could improve its average fleet mileage by just 3.25 m.p.g., the saved energy would replace the equivalent of today’s Persian Gulf imports.
– a 2 percent to 4 percent cut in [natural gas] demand could dramatically reduce prices by more than 20 percent.
– Efficiency has worked before: From 1977 to 1985, the nation’s gross domestic product rose 27 percent while oil use fell 17 percent, … net oil imports fell 42 percent and imports from the Middle East fell 87 percent. OPEC lost half of its oil market and its pricing power.
– California achieved a remarkable 6 percent electricity saving [during its 2001 ‘energy crisis’] – the output equivalent of more than two 1,000 megawatt power plants.
– Energy efficiency, however, is the Rodney Dangerfield of energy, routinely dismissed by policymakers as a tool for meeting US energy demand…. All this makes many politicians wary of taking a strong stand…. John Kerry seems to be downplaying the issue of late.
– Republicans, meanwhile, mention energy-efficiency measures in the party platform, but speak little about it. ‘Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy,’ said Vice President Dick Cheney in dismissing the idea two years ago.
– Penn State University√° was one of the first to replace the two tiny light bulbs in each of 2,800 ‘Exit’ signs on campus with light-emitting diodes. Besides saving $70,000 a year on electricity, the school no longer has to pay a janitor to replace each of those light bulbs twice a year.
– The school supplies energy data… to professors, who in turn frequently assign students to examine energy issues on campus… the many papers on the subject are funneled to the engineers, who sometimes implement their cost-saving ideas.
– the school replaced all its old washers and dryers with 357 new, more efficient machines that save $110,000 in electricity costs – and 11 million gallons of water
– The key is weaning a nation from its dependence on oil imports with a new generation of ultralight automobiles made from ultrastrong carbon fiber. Powered by hybrid and eventually fuel-cell technology, such vehicles would vault the US ahead of other nations technologically and help it ‘win the oil endgame.’
– Nations have generally improved their energy ‘intensity’ – how much fuel it takes to produce $1 of goods and services – from 1980 to 2002, but progress varies:
— The US saw dramatic progress, reducing its energy intensity 35 percent.
— China experienced the largest drop among large nations – down 66 percent – mostly because of its mushrooming economic growth.
— Saudi Arabia has gone the other direction, with energy intensity rising 130 percent.
Faites vos jeux, mesdames et messieurs. Faites vos jeux…

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