Energy Need Rises; When Prosperity Flourishes

Article excerpt


Americans rely on plentiful supplies of energy to fuel our prosperity and the high standard of living we enjoy. As the global race for energy becomes more competitive, the good news is that America has made tremendous strides in energy efficiency. Technological innovations have allowed us to use less energy while providing the same level of energy power, particularly in cars, appliances and high-tech gadgets.

However, the bad news is that efficiency alone will not solve the energy challenges we face. Economic and population growth, in concert with cultural and social trends, show that we need an increasing amount of energy - especially oil and natural gas - in the decades ahead.

Most people think of transportation when they consider energy demand and efficiency. On a global scale, automobile use is skyrocketing and roads are becoming more crowded. For example, while the U.S. and European markets are expected to see vehicle use increase along with population growth, vehicle sales are expected to triple in non-OECD countries by 2030.

The number of cars in China more than doubled between 2000 and 2006, for example, though there remains just one car for every 40 people. The United States has one car for every two people.

About 3.3 million Americans travel 50 miles or more one way to get to work. In 2006, more than 105 million people drove to work alone, which is 20 million more than in 1990. Some might hear this and think we need to reduce the number of drivers in America, but this measurement is an indicator of progress at home.

Since 1970 the number of women with driver's licenses has more than doubled. Today there are just over 200 million licensed drivers in the U.S. Meanwhile, car ownership has increased substantially among African American and Hispanic households as the nation does a better job delivering on the American dream.

This increased mobility is expected to comprise 87 percent of the increase in U.S. oil demand over the next 25 years. Meanwhile, gains in efficiency have been overwhelmed by increases in vehicle weight, size, power and accessories.

Transportation is, however, just part of the energy puzzle. These upward trends can be found in every facet of our lives.

Despite great strides that have been made, per-capita residential energy use rose nearly 10 percent between 1985 and 2006 through a number of contributing factors. …