NRDC: Security and Affordability of U.S. Energy Services Never Better

Oct. 24, 2014
The NRDC’s second annual energy report shows optimization of energy use through efficiency contributes more to meeting U.S. energy needs than any other resource.

The United States is reducing its dependence on oil, slowing the growth of its electricity needs, and making energy services more affordable to all Americans, and smarter use of energy is the biggest reason why, a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reveals.

“Despite what you may be hearing from a final onslaught of negative campaign ads, the security and affordability of America’s energy services has never been better, and energy efficiency is the most important reason why,” Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the NRDC’s energy program, said. “The latest data confirms that our consumption of energy, including oil and coal, remains well below its peak levels from a decade ago.”

The NRDC’s second annual energy report, “Positive Energy Trends Bode Well for U.S. Security and the Economy,” is an extensive analysis of government data on 2013 U.S. energy consumption showing optimization of energy use through efficiency contributes more to meeting U.S. energy needs than any other resource.

“Efficiency helps America get more work out of less oil, natural gas, and electricity while pushing our economy forward and cutting residential, business, and industrial customers’ bills,” Cavanagh said. “Far less costly than adding other energy resources like fossil fuels that also create climate-changing pollution, efficiency saves the nation hundreds of billions of dollars annually, prevents millions of tons of carbon emissions, helps U.S. workers and companies compete worldwide, and increases our energy security.”

The report notes the nation is two-thirds of the way toward meeting President Obama’s goal of cutting 3 billion tons of carbon pollution by 2030 through his administration’s efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings, which also will lower customer energy bills by more than $4 billion.

Based on the nation’s positive energy trends, the report says, even larger reductions are feasible and cost-effective.

Other key findings:

  • Electricity: The national growth rate for electricity consumption has dropped below that for population for an extended period for the first time in modern history. From 2000 to 2013, electricity use rose by less than 7 percent, with an average annual growth rate of about 0.5 percent, while the population grew by about twice that rate.
  • Energy efficiency: The amount of energy required to produce an inflation-adjusted dollar of economic output dropped by almost 60 percent between 1970 and 2013.
  • Renewable energy: Wind power continues to dominate the nation’s renewable-energy growth, with a thirtyfold increase since 2000. In 2013, for the first time, wind provided more than 4 percent of all U.S. electricity. Meanwhile, non-hydro renewables (wind, solar, and geothermal) have surpassed total annual hydro generation.
  • Oil: Although the amount of oil used in America rose by about 1.5 percent in 2013, the total is down almost 12 percent from its 2005 peak. Because of fuel economy and clean-car standards, the government projects U.S. oil consumption will decrease by 2.1 million barrels per day—more than the nation currently purchases from any OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) country—by 2025.
  • Coal: U.S. coal use has dropped from 1990 levels and is down more than one-fifth from the peak year of 2005, primarily because of the movement of utilities away from aging and uneconomic coal-burning power plants.
  • Natural gas: Although natural gas raised its market share to a 40-year high in 2012, exceeding 30 percent of electricity generation, the figure dropped back to 27.5 percent last year. Natural gas generally has displaced coal for electricity production, but coal recovered some market share in 2013 after natural-gas prices rose.
  • Nuclear: Nuclear generation remained below 19 percent of total electricity generation for the second consecutive year and remains below the five-year average for 2006 to 2011.

To read the full report, go to

About the Author

Scott Arnold | Executive Editor

Described by a colleague as "a cyborg ... requir(ing) virtually no sleep, no time off, and bland nourishment that can be consumed while at his desk" who was sent "back from the future not to terminate anyone, but with the prime directive 'to edit dry technical copy' in order to save the world at a later date," Scott Arnold joined the editorial staff of HPAC Engineering in 1999. Prior to that, he worked as an editor for daily newspapers and a specialty-publications company. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Kent State University.