The International Decline in Household Oil Use

Science  06 Dec 1985:
Vol. 230, Issue 4730, pp. 1118-1125
DOI: 10.1126/science.230.4730.1118


In this article estimates are made of the permanent and reversible components of changes in heating oil use in major countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The components of the increase in oil use through the mid-1970's, and of the subsequent decline, are revealed. For seven countries, residential oil use decreased by 40 percent between 1972 and 1983, for a savings of about 1.2 million barrels per day (59 million metric tons of oil equivalent per year). One-third of this resulted from reductions in the number of homes heated with oil, the rest from reductions in oil use per oil-heated home. During that time, however, the size of these homes and the penetration of central heating increased significantly, so these figures underestimate the actual conservation achieved. Of the total oil savings, at least 46 percent are of a permanent nature, while the rest could be reversed with a continued slide in oil prices, although it seems likely that most of the savings will be maintained and may even increase.