Efficiency of Energy Use in the United States

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Science  30 Mar 1973:
Vol. 179, Issue 4080, pp. 1299-1304
DOI: 10.1126/science.179.4080.1299


We described three uses of energy for which greater efficiency is feasible: transportation, space heating, and air conditioning. Shifts to less energy-intensive transportation modes could substantially reduce energy consumption; the magnitude of such savings would, of course, depend on the extent of such shifts and possible load factor changes. The hypothetical transportation scenario described here results in a 22 percent savings in energy for transportation in 1970, a savings of 2800 trillion Btu.

To the homeowner, increasing the amount of building insulation and, in some cases, adding storm windows would reduce energy consumption and provide monetary savings. If all homes in 1970 had the "economic optimum" amount of insulation, energy consumption for residential heating would have been 42 percent less than if the homes were insulated to meet the pre-1971 FHA standards, a savings of 3100 trillion Btu.

Increased utilization of energy-efficient air conditioners and of building insulation would provide significant energy savings and help to reduce peak power demands during the summer. A 67 percent increase in energy efficiency for room air conditioners would have saved 15.8 billion kilowatt-hours in 1970.

In conclusion, it is possible—from an engineering point of view—to effect considerable energy savings in the United States. Increases in the efficiency of energy use would provide desired end results with smaller energy inputs. Such measures will not reduce the level of energy consumption, but they could slow energy growth rates.