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The United States Congress is in the process of debating, and eventually passing some type of energy efficiency bill [1]. How effective this bill will be in improving energy efficiency, in the US, is still to be decided. What ever the outcome, the US will be playing catch up with the rest of the Developed World. As of 2011 the US was using close to twice the amount of energy per dollar of GDP, as other large developed countries[fig 1]. Only Canada, with a similar economy, too ours, and colder weather, uses more energy per dollar of GDP. However, things use to be worse. In 1980 the US was using more than twice the amount of energy per dollar of GDP. But between 1980 and 1885 the US began to close the gap at a rapid rate, until energy efficiency standards became less important politically. The bills currently being debated, in Congress, are focused on improving efficiency in buildings, appliances and industry. The passing of this bill, along with the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and recent improvements in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard, could again set the US on a path of increased improvements in the rate of change in energy intensity.

G7 Energy Intensity

The importance of this go far beyond just environmental improvements. It strikes at the core of our Global economic competitiveness. The link between energy efficiency and productivity gains, in industry, has been well established [1, 2]. William E. Simon, Secretary of Treasury under Gerald Ford, said “Productivity and the growth of productivity must be the first economic consideration at all times, not the last. That is the source of technological innovation, jobs, and wealth.” The era we are entering, where the importance of energy efficiency will be paramount, due to Climate Change, will be an era of great improvements in productivity and standards of living. If the US takes a back seat in the effort, it will feel the affects through slowed economic growth.

The potential scale of these changes are enormous. A recent study [4], estimated the world energy demand could be cut by 25% by 2030, if investments in renewable and energy efficiency are combined. The improved efficiency of cities will be a the core of the change, with potential savings of up to $22tn by 2050 [5]. according to the Global Commission of Climate Change[6], such changes would "spur economic growth and a better quality of life – at the sae time as cutting carbon pollution".

In heavy industries, such as steel production, combined heat and power technologies have the potential of greatly reducing cost and improving productivity. But it is not just areas where there are direct uses of energy. A good example is converting animal an human waste into energy. In this case a farmer or city would gain increased efficiency by exploiting a by product of the processes they are managing.

References

  1. http://aceee.org/blog/2015/09/will-congress-score-touchdown-or-drop
  2. Ernst Worrell, John A. Laitner, Michael Ruth, Hodayah Finman; Productivity benefits of industrial energy efficiency measures. Energy 28 (2003) 1081–1098.
  3. Konstantinos Kounetas, Ioannis Mourtos, Konstantinos Tsekouras; Is energy intensity important for the productivity growth of EET adopters? Energy Economics 34 (2012) 930–941.
  4. http://www.climatenewsnetwork.net/efficiency-drive-can-cut-a-quarter-off-energy-demand/?utm_source=Climate+News+Network&utm_campaign=4a79529ef1-Cutting_energy_demand9_11_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1198ea8936-4a79529ef1-38793921
  5. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/08/climate-smart-cities-could-save-the-world-22tn-say-economists?CMP=new_1194&CMP=
  6. http://newclimateeconomy.net/

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