IMPROVING EFFICIENCY

INCREASING SUPPLY IS NOT THE ONLY ANSWER TO A STABLE ENERGY FUTURE.

Reducing demand through the improved efficiency of devices and procedures achieves the same effect.


The use of electricity is a dramatic example. During the 1970s, total U.S. electrical consumption increased 4.2% per year. In the 1980s, it grew only 2.6% annually, dropping to 2.3% in the 1990s. Current projections are 1.3% per year. That trend is partly a result of ongoing improvements in efficiency.


Similar progress is visible in nearly every sector of the economy as a result of independent technological breakthroughs, directed research, government mandates and incentives, consumer education, or a combination of these elements.

CAFE STANDARDS

One of the most impressive efficiency successes in modern memory is the result of the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards established in 1975. CAFE standards stipulated that the average fuel economy for new passenger cars would be 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg) by model year 1985—up from 18 mpg for model year 1978, an improvement of more than 50%. The U.S. Department of Transportation later stipulated that the average for light trucks would be 20.7 mpg. Automakers



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INCREASING SUPPLY IS NOT THE ONLY ANSWER TO A STABLE ENERGY FUTURE. Reducing demand through the improved efficiency of devices and procedures achieves the same effect. The use of electricity is a dramatic example. During the 1970s, total U.S. electrical consumption increased 4.2% per year. In the 1980s, it grew only 2.6% annually, dropping to 2.3% in the 1990s. Current projections are 1.3% per year. That trend is partly a result of ongoing improvements in efficiency. Similar progress is visible in nearly every sector of the economy as a result of independent technological breakthroughs, directed research, government mandates and incentives, consumer education, or a combination of these elements. CAFE STANDARDS One of the most impressive efficiency successes in modern memory is the result of the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards established in 1975. CAFE standards stipulated that the average fuel economy for new passenger cars would be 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg) by model year 1985—up from 18 mpg for model year 1978, an improvement of more than 50%. The U.S. Department of Transportation later stipulated that the average for light trucks would be 20.7 mpg. Automakers 20

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complied, dramatically improving the fuel economy of the nation’s light-duty vehicle fleet, reducing dependence on imported oil, improving the nation’s balance of trade, and reducing CO2 emissions. Had the CAFE standards not been enacted (and had fuel prices not increased), America’s gasoline consumption would now be 14% higher than it is, or about 2.8 million barrels more per day. In December 2007, Congress passed an updated CAFE law mandating that new cars, SUVs, and light trucks together average 35 mpg by 2020, an increase of 40% from today’s 25 mpg average. This legislation will further push technology, leading to greater fuel economy and reducing fuel consumption in the fleet. computers. In addition, the ability to develop new Automotive technology also demonstrates how materials such as catalysts—substances that prompt developments and breakthroughs in fields unrelated chemical reactions—led to ways to cut down on to energy can have a profound effect on the energy the pollutants in automobile exhaust (and in power sector. The electronics and computer revolutions of plants). Putting these technologies together into the 1960s and 1970s, which continue to this day, systems on automobiles has led to more efficient led to the development of very small sensors and automotive drivetrains, more power, better control, and lower emissions. The continuing development of electronics, small electric motors, sensors, and computers is also contributing to the advancement of hybrid electric vehicles. Improved understanding of the combustion of fuels in the engine has led to more efficient engine technologies. At present, there are advanced technologies that have the potential to improve vehicle fuel economy substantially, but at a higher cost. 21

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LIGHTING Today there are still enormous opportunities for efficiency gains across a wide range of products and processes. One area regarded as particularly ripe for improvement is lighting, which accounts for 18% of all electricity use in the United States and 21% of the electricity for commercial and residential buildings. Major research efforts are in progress to reduce those costs by using the same technology that now creates the glowing lights on appliances: the light-emitting diode (LED). LEDs are “solid-state” devices made of materials similar to those in computer chips. They produce REFRIGERATION illumination by allowing electrons to flow across an Refrigeration provides another case in which targeted electrical junction (the diode) and drop into a lower research produced remarkable results: a reduction of energy state, releasing the difference as light. LEDs more than two-thirds in the energy consumed by the generate relatively little heat, last 100 times longer household refrigerator during the past 30 years. In than an incandescent lightbulb, and convert about 1974, the average consumption per unit was 1,800 25% to 35% of electrical energy to light, as opposed kilowatt-hours per year, and average sizes were to about 5% in a conventional incandescent bulb. increasing as well. At that point, a joint government- Additionally, they do not require bulky sockets or industry R&D initiative began looking for more fixtures and could be embedded directly into ceilings efficient compressors, as well as improvements in or walls. design, motors, insulation, and other features. The effort began to pay off almost immediately. By the early 1980s, electricity consumption per refrigerator had dropped by one-third and new developments kept coming. Even the changeover from ozone-threatening chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) did not impede progress. Further design enhancements and tighter government standards since 1990 have saved the nation an estimated $15 billion in total electricity costs for home refrigerators over the entire life of the appliances. 22

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At present, such systems are too expensive for broad One of the prime targets is the chemical industry, commercial use. But if they can be made affordable, which uses 19% of all fuel consumed in the U.S. the effect will be dramatic. By one expert estimate, industrial sector. In particular, processes used to widespread use of LEDs would reduce consumption separate chemicals and to enable chemical reactions of electricity for lighting by 50%—a savings of are being evaluated for possible savings. about $10 billion a year in the United States. And it would reduce worldwide demand for electricity A similar effort is under way in analyzing the energy- by 10%, an amount equivalent to about 125 large intensive forest products industry. Researchers have generating plants. identified enhanced raw materials, next-generation mill processes, improved fiber recycling, and wood processing as candidates for improvements in INDUSTRIAL EFFICIENCY efficiency. Other researchers are exploring ways to make industrial and manufacturing processes much more Nonetheless, improved energy efficiency alone efficient. Industry accounts for about 32% of all cannot solve all the nation’s energy problems. energy consumption in the United States, and seven Multiple parallel efforts will be needed, and that energy-intensive industries use three-fourths of that recognition has prompted intense interest in a wide power. As a result, public/private-sector partnerships variety of new technologies. and research programs are focusing on those areas. 23