EDITORIAL; Energy Conservation
Sweltering weather continues lately. The rate of peak time electricity consumption sets a new record nearly everyday because of the rampant use of air conditioning or other electric cooling appliances at homes and offices. But few seem to pay attention to rising energy consumption in the face of the suffocating heat wave despite the worry that rising crude oil prices of late may invite another economic crisis.
The price of crude oil which stood at $10 per barrel early last year, is currently around $30. The price hike was touched off by the decision of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to reduce crude oil production in March last year. The amount spent on crude oil imports in the first three months of this year increased by some $5 billion over that of the same period last year. Some $22-24 billion is forecast to be spent on crude oil imports by the end of this year.
Some two million barrels of crude oil are consumed every day here. This amount could fill Changchung Gymnasium in Seoul five times. In consideration of our population and economic volume which respectively ranks 26th and 11th in the world, we use too much oil. Surprisingly, South Korea is sixth largest oil consumer among the nations in the world. It is surpassed in oil consumption only by the United States, Japan, China, Germany and Russia.
Despite the grim situation, energy consumption is still on the rise at a pace of seven to nine percent a year. Anyone will be astonished to hear that the annual increase rate between 1991 and 1997 stood at 11.4 percent, eight times higher than the average increase rate of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member nations. That is the reality of energy consumption in a country where not even a drop of oil is produced.
The waste of energy worsens not only the international balance of payment but also the environment by air pollution. Climatologists attribute global warming, one of the greatest causes for concern among world scientists, to excessive oil consumption. Scientists believe that rising levels of carbon dioxide from the burning of oil and other fossil fuels are warming the Earth's atmosphere by trapping heat from the sun, causing a greenhouse effect.
That prompted advanced nations to reach an agreement on the necessity of slowing the release of carbon dioxide, a toxic substance, in the hope of preventing rising global temperatures. They also decided at a meeting in Kyoto two years ago to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to 5. …