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“All of us must learn to waste less energy.”

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Nevelyn Black's picture
Writer, Independent

Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

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“All of us must learn to waste less energy.”  Those words were spoken by President Carter more than 40 years ago.  Ahead of his time, Carter also had solar panels installed on the White House in 1979.  However, they were removed some time later during Reagan’s administration.  Carter’s focus on energy conservation was spurred by the 1973 Arab oil embargo before he came into in 1977.  Experts were concerned the U.S. would run out of oil and gas.  Congress responded by establishing the Department of Energy in 1977 to diversify energy resources and promote conservation.   The U.S. also increased energy productivity to combat oil price shocks.

According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, “if energy productivity had remained constant since 1970 [when about 68 quadrillion Btu (Q or quad) were consumed], the U.S. would have consumed 207.3 quadrillion Btu in 2007, when it actually only consumed 101.6 quads.” Economists have estimated that the adoption of more efficient products and services is responsible for 60-75% of the increase in energy productivity since 1970, according to Applied Energy Services (AES). The Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations had policies that tended to focus on educational efforts, financial incentives, and national energy efficiency standards.

How much further along in the race toward energy efficiency and conservation would we be if it had continued to be a major priority?  Today, governmental officials, utility companies, policymakers and efficiency leaders are still focused on energy conservation and many are taking a lead-by-example approach.

Since the 1970’s California’s energy consumption has remained consistent.  However, the state has supported energy efficiency programs since 1977 with the first building and appliance efficiency standards.   Vermont had the nation’s first ratepayer-funded energy efficiency utility, Efficiency VT. Between 1975 and 1978, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA), and the National Energy Conservation Policy Act (NECPA) set the base for utility conservation and load management.

 According to Fatih Birol, Executive Director, IEA, there was a ‘historic slowdown’ in energy efficiency in 2018. “The historic slowdown …calls for bold action by policy makers and investors,” said Fatih Birol, Executive Director, IEA.  What ‘bold’ new policies or large investments are being made now, some 40 years later?   

President Carter may have been ahead of his time when he made those statements but they still apply today.  We need to waste and consume less and save more.

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