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Energy Conservation: Our Greatest Resource, Part 3

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       Comparison of World & US
Energy Consumption


In the last installment of this series I discussed the rising cost of energy.  As the era of cheap energy comes to a close we should realize that the cost of energy is not just monetary, there are many national security, health, and quality of life issues associated with high energy consumption.  Of course, it is hard for most people to think past their wallets as gasoline heads toward $5 per gallon.

In this installment I would like to provide an overview of world energy consumption and how the US compares.  I hope to point out that excessive consumption is not a requirement and that energy conservation is our greatest natural resource.

The graphs below show energy consumption projections for OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) and non OECD countries.  These projections show increasing consumption in the face of increasing costs as the rest of the world begins to catch up with our energy intensive economy.

Fig 1b

Figure 1 – World energy consumption trends[1]

The following graph shows projections for world energy consumption by energy source.

Fig 2

The bad news is that with consumption growing and limited supplies, costs will continue to rise.  The graph below shows projections for oil prices.  Notice that we are now on the “High Oil Price case” with the price at $126 per barrel at the time of this writing.

Fig 3

Consider that the US consumes about 25% of the world’s energy with about 5% of the world’s population. The following illustration shows how high our oil consumption is compared to other countries on a per capita basis.

Fig 4

The good news is that per capita consumption appears to have leveled off.  The bad news is that population continues to rise and therefore total consumption also continues to rise.  The dip in United States energy consumption in the 1970s as a result of the Oil Crisis shows that we can conserve if there is a good reason to do so.  We have done it before and we can do it again!

Skeptics might argue that the US economy demands such high consumption.  However, if we look at energy efficiency compared to per capita GDP of other countries we see that this is not necessarily the case.  The graph below[2] shows that we have a very productive economy in terms of GDP per capita but we are very energy inefficient compared to similar nations. 

Fig 5

 If you have ever spent time in Europe or Japan you will understand this immediately, they care about efficiency and take reasonable steps to conserve energy.  As a case in point, I entered my hotel room in Florida last week to find it freezing on a hot day with all the lights on.  Apparently the hotel believes that waste is some sort of luxury.  I know that when I enter my much smaller and more expensive hotel room in France next week I will have to insert my room key into a sensor just to enable power. 

What would happen if we just took some baby steps?  What if we took some relatively simple steps to move our economy from inefficient toward moderately efficient?  What if we did what we did after the last Oil Crisis? Could we actually improve our economy by conserving energy?  Stay tuned for future installments in this series.

Note: This series is based on a presentation I have given. I welcome opportunities to deliver it personally to groups of 20 or more. If your group is interested, please contact me through the Member email.

Dave Hauber is Director of Technology at Automated Dynamics in Schenectady, NY.  He has over 40 years of experience in advanced materials, composites, textile R&D, control systems, robotics, lasers, ultrasonics, and industrial automation.  BS Physics and MA Business. He lives in Troy, NY. He can be reached through Member email or commenting here.



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