Earth News Journal 46: International Energy Efficiency

An international energy efficiency report was issued this past week, with the United States arriving in at thirteenth place.

You might be apt to give the U.S. a courteous nod, hereby acknowledging that our sprawling nation has slid into the top fifteen, almost top ten. But then, you check the list – it only extends to sixteen economies in total, though encompassing eighty-one percent of the global output. Soon enough, that rating seems quite unfortunate for environmental-conscious Americans, at the very least.

Just what puts us so far behind the rest of the world, when it comes to energy efficiency? The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the supplier of such an international scorecard, deemed Germany as the nation ahead of its global peers in the four areas of its efficiency assessment: national efforts, buildings, industry, and transportation. Italy nabbed the second slot, with the European Union residing in third place.

Though the United States ranked thirteenth overall – even dropping to fifteenth place in the transportation sector alone – the country did see improvements from the previous ACEEE report. According to the Council, “building codes, appliance standards, voluntary partnerships between government and industry, and, recently, fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles and heavy-duty trucks” were among the areas of increase in terms of energy efficiency.

“I’m excited about this report, but not excited about the U.S. place in this report,” Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) commented.

Indeed, this report has increased discussion regarding the productivity of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who hope to finalize a ruling on state carbon emissions by next June. “Energy efficiency will get a lot more attention if EPA finalizes this rule,” ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel said.

And we so desperately need to see further action from the EPA, after suffering through one of the most land-locked Congresses in recent history. Even China, a nation infamous for its smog-cloaked cities, ranked higher than the United States in this international efficiency comparison, at spot number eight.

Though, as Nadel made note, “pollution and efficiency are related, but they’re not the same thing.” The ACEEE looks to increase each country’s awareness on its individual energy consumption, as opposed to arguing for/against climate change causes. Rather than citing global warming as a determining factor for a nation’s contributing energy efficiency, it defines energy efficiency as a way to “use fewer resources to achieve the same goals, thus reducing costs, preserving valuable resources, and gain a competitive edge over other countries.”

Reflection

I believe a report like this ACEEE global scorecard has the potential to awaken an environmentally-unconscious population from its slumber. Just because we’re America – a highly globalized, developed nation – doesn’t guarantee that we’ve succeeded in every aspect. In fact, we have quite a few lessons to learn about our energy consumption, which could therefore reduce our overall energy waste and increase energy efficiency. Several European nations have already shown incredible technological advancements, in terms of mass public transportation, creating ecologically-sound, alternative options for those who do not have to travel in singular-designed vehicles. If our report for the transportation sector (15 of 16!) says nothing to our often-idle government, I wholeheartedly believe that this report should drive a fire in the heart of  every American’s pride. It should make us want to reverse that horrendous insult on our environmental history and come out on top of the next global efficiency exam. Isn’t that the American way? Perhaps we can utilize this innate, stubborn desire to “be the best” and formulate a plan of attack – an attack on the American environmentally-unsound and convert these failings to future success stories. One can only hope, and speak out against the desecration of his environment. 

Danko, Pete. “Germany Tops Energy Efficiency Scorecard While U.S. Lags.” National Geographic. N.p., 17 July 2014. Web. 21 July 2014.

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