I am very encouraged by recent under-reported news about a significant drop in the consumption of electricity and oil in the United States this last year. In a November article in the Wall Street Journal it is explained that "an unexpected drop in U.S. electricity consumption has utility companies worried that the trend isn't a byproduct of the economic downturn, and could reflect a permanent shift in consumption that will require sweeping change in their industry."
Apparently the demand for electricity has been increasing at a rate of 1%-2% annually for decades, but this last year various utility companies have reported a decline of between 3% and 9% across the country. This of course makes it difficult for the utilities to plan for future demand. While milder weather and economic slow-down obviously have their impact, some of this lessening demand must be attributed to a conscious desire on the public to curb energy use.
According to Index Mundi, the world-wide trend for electricity consumption has continued upward at a rate of nearly 3% over last year however, so we should not be too quick to congratulate ourselves as a species. Still the U.S. used nearly a quarter of all electricity generated in the world last year, so this figure would normally have been much higher.
Worldwide oil use, however, has actually declined by a quarter of a percent this year, and this trend is projected to continue in 2009. In the U.S. the decline has been 5.8% over last year. Some of this drop can be attributed to the fact that Americans have reduced the number of miles driven by 3.5% over the previous year, and this trend has continued despite the lower fuel costs lately.
A lot of the commentary about these declines is lamenting the fact that economies are faltering and projections for an upturn are bleak. I look at these trends as good news however. There is only one way to begin to address the much bleaker prospects of global warming and the loss of global resources, and that is to change to way we use energy and consume things in general…and that is beginning to happen. The cold fact is that economic reality drives much of what happens in the world, so while it is often hard to accept, in the end a slowing economy may be our salvation!
I think that Barack Obama's idea for jump starting the US economy through investment in green industry, especially for energy, is wise. If jobs can be created while developing an infrastructure that is less dependent on fossil fuel and more reliant on renewable energy, then everyone worldwide will benefit.
Comment by: PT (David Alexander) (Jan-10-2009) Web site
It should be noted, as this article's author does mention, that world electricity consumption still increased slightly in 2008, despite the recession. This is due to growth in China and other "developing" countries. Some energy sectors decreased globally while others increased in 2008, but the problem of increased greenhouse gas emission remains a stubborn one, and will continue to be so until major contributors (USA, China, India...) make significant commitments and take the corresponding actions to reduce greenhouse gas production.
Kelly Hart is the host of www.greenhomebuilding.com, and has been involved with green building concepts for much of his life. He spent many years as a professional remodeler, during which time he became acquainted with many of the pitfalls of conventional construction. He has also worked in various fields of communication media, including still photography, cinematography, animation (he has a patent for a process for making animated films), video production and now website development. One of the more recent DVD programs that he produced is A Sampler of Alternative Homes: Approaching Sustainable Architecture, which explores a whole range of building concepts that are earth friendly. Kelly is knowledgeable about both simple design concepts and more complex technological aspects of home building that enhance sustainable living. He designed and built a solar-electric car that he drove around his neighborhood. Kelly, and his wife Rosana, lived in an earthbag/papaercrete home that they designed and built in Colorado, and are now living in Mexico.