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U.S. Lags in Energy Efficiency

A new report puts the country's efficiency efforts near the bottom of the heap

Posted on Jul 21 2014 by Scott Gibson

The United States does less to conserve energy than most of the world's largest economies and is putting itself at a competitive disadvantage because of it, a new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy says.

The International Energy Efficiency Scorecard measured efficiency efforts in the world's 16 largest economies that together account for 81% of global gross domestic product and 71% of the global consumption of electricity.

The U.S. was ranked 13th, with a total of 42 of a possible 100 points — better than Russia, Brazil, and Mexico but behind the rest of the world. The U.S. scored 23 fewer points than top-ranked Germany.

"A country that uses less energy to achieve the same or better results reduces its costs and pollution, creating a strong, more competitive economy," the report from the nonprofit group said. "While energy efficiency has played a role in the economies of developing nations for decades, cost-effective energy efficiency remains a massively underutilized energy resource."

Scorecard measures efforts in 31 areas

The authors used 31 separate metrics in four broad categories: transportation, buildings, industry, and national policy. Roughly half of the score is based on policies and half on quantifiable performance.

The authors looked at such things as fuel economy standards for vehicles, efficiency standards for appliances, whether there was a national energy savings target, average miles per gallon for passenger vehicles, and the energy consumed per square foot of residential floor space.

Germany had the highest individual score. Top-scoring countries in individual categories were China (buildings), Germany (industry), Italy (transportation), and France, Italy and the European Union (tied, in national efforts).

"For every metric, at least one country (and often several) received full points," the report says. "However, every country also has serious weaknesses, and the average score was just 50 points."

The authors said that the U.S. has made progress toward greater efficiency in recent years in such things as building codes, appliance standards, fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, and in voluntary partnerships between government and industry. "However," they added, "the overall story is disappointing."

Progress here has been slow since the last scorecard was issued in 2012, they wrote, while efforts in Germany, Japan, China and other countries "are surging ahead."

"The inefficiency in the U.S. economy means a tremendous waste of energy resources and money," the report says. Countries with higher scores — such as Canada, Australia, India, and South Korea — have a competitive advantage over the U.S. because it takes less energy there to produce and distribute the same goods.

The report questions how the U.S. can compete globally if it "continues to waste money and energy that other industrialized nations save and can reinvest."

Among the report's recommendations:

  • Congress should pass a national energy savings target.
  • National building codes should be stronger.
  • The federal government should do more for education and training in manufacturing and industrial sectors.
  • More should be done to promote energy efficient modes of transportation for both people and freight.


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  1. ACEEE

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