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Energy Efficiency: Our Best Source of Clean Energy


Published: April 21, 2017

Increases in energy efficiency are an often-forgotten component of our shift to clean energy and reduced carbon emissions. Higher prices triggered by the 1973 oil embargo caused America to drastically change how it used energy. The ensuing gains in efficiency had more of an impact on America’s energy consumption than all of the growth in solar, wind, geothermal, natural gas and nuclear energy combined.

For more information, pick up a copy of Energy Efficiency: Building a Clean, Secure Economy, by James L. Sweeney.

Discussion Questions

  1. What can we continue to do to maintain or increase energy efficiency?
  2. How much of the United States’ shift to more energy efficient behavior occur because of the market and how much was due to government action?
  3. How could positive trends in energy efficiency falter?
View Transcript

Sometimes it takes a drastic event for us to see the need for major change.

That’s exactly what happened after OPEC’s oil embargo in 1973, and the ensuing energy crisis it created.

The government, businesses, and individuals all felt the effects of soaring energy prices.

Increased awareness and higher prices caused families and businesses to change their energy use behaviors.

Ultimately, this led to the development and use of less energy-intensive products, from appliances to automobiles.

In the years leading up to the OPEC embargo, energy intensity had been falling by merely a small fraction of a percent per year.

Since the embargo... energy use has been falling almost two percent per year for 40 years, right up to today!

This accelerated shift toward efficiency has had a greater effect on America’s energy consumption, energy security, and greenhouse gas emissions than all the growth in solar, wind, geothermal, natural gas and nuclear energy COMBINED!

Of course, pursuing renewable energy sources is ESSENTIAL for reducing carbon emissions, but since efficiency can make such a large contribution, it’s vital that we commit to BOTH approaches.