After OPEC tripled oil prices in 1973, consumers worldwide reduced their oil consumption. While the increase in the Gross Domestic Product in the United States since then has been close to 40 percent, the energy usage has risen only a small fraction. Much of the decrease of the use of energy has been due to conservation. A smaller part has been due to the United States economy becoming more of a service economy, rather than a manufacturing one.
While conservation was initially driven by purely economic considerations the United States Congress has intervened politically by passing legislation that provides efficiency standards for automobiles and appliances. States, California being the first, have set energy standards for new building construction that are part of the building codes. Legislative action seemed to be called for because in recent years energy use in general and the use of oil in particular has started to increase again. Thus the federal and state governments have now legislated energy conservation as a public policy. This recognition of the importance of conservation has been a partial step toward redressing a past misallocation of resources on the part of the entire society and the government. Traditionally, ten times as much money has been spent on research for increasing the energy supply than has been spent on conservation research. Yet a barrel of oil saved is equivalent to a barrel of oil taken from the ground, and is frequently less costly to come by.
The object of conservation is to have the world's principal stores