News Brief

Efficiency Gains Credited for Downward U.S. Energy Consumption

NRDC reports energy use has dropped below 1999 levels in a “remarkable turnaround” driven by efficiency innovations—but there’s more to do.

Economic and Energy Consumption Trends

NRDC found energy consumption has been dropping since 2007, even as the economy has grown; the two diverged from their lockstep increases almost 40 years ago.

Source: NRDC
A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) declares that United States energy use peaked in 2007 and continues to trend downward, primarily due to energy efficiency. Jubilantly titled “America’s (Amazingly) Good Energy News,” the analysis shows total U.S. energy use in 2012 was below 1999 levels even though the economy grew by more than 25% (adjusted for inflation) during that period.

Having more than doubled the economic productivity of oil, natural gas, and electricity in the last 40 years, the report finds, energy productivity gains have “exceeded the contribution from all new supply resources in meeting America’s growing energy needs.” Total energy used per dollar of goods produced, gasoline per mile driven, and the cost of energy services are all down, and for the first time in modern history, electrical usage is decoupled from population growth; from 2000 to 2012, the population grew at an average annual rate of about 1%, while the electrical consumption increased at half that rate.

The report does not address whether exported manufacturing processes could be influencing energy consumption figures, but it does say more cuts are still needed. The NRDC concludes that the U.S. is on track to meet President Obama's target of reducing carbon emissions 17% by 2020 relative to 2005 levels, but it calls on regulators to tighten standards for buildings and equipment, so further efficiency gains can be realized.

Published November 1, 2013

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