Energy consumption from 2008 to 2009 declined slightly, as did our efficiency:
The estimated U.S. energy use in 2008 equaled 99.2 quadrillion BTUs (“quads”), down from 101.5 quadrillion BTUs in 2007…. Of the 99.2 quads consumed, only 42.15 ended up as energy services.
That’s a gross efficiency of 42.49%. We waste more energy than we use.
Electricity production operates at 31.63% and transportation at 24.98% efficiency. Tell me again why energy efficiency isn’t the top priority in our energy debate.
According to [Thomas] Casten [of Recycled Energy], energy waste is pervasive and endemic throughout our electrical system but invisible in our policy discussions. The average US power plant operates at 33% efficiency and throws away 66% of the energy it produces through waste heat, transmission and distribution losses, and other inefficiencies. There are even greater losses before you get to the end use of that electricity. For instance, an incandescent light has an end use efficiency of about 3% [somebody should tell Rand Paul]. Furthermore, the level of electricity efficiency stagnated in 1960. For the last 50 years, there has been no growth in average efficiency in our power plants and the conversion of energy to useful work (exergy, exergy, exergy) actually began declining in 2000.
There is some good news in this chart in that the residential, commercial, and industrial uses of energy operate at about 80%.
Plus, if we look back to Amory Lovins’ 1976 Foreign Affairs article “The Road Not Taken,” we will see that the projections then were for the US to use about twice the energy that we do now. We have grown our economy enormously (believe it or not) since 1976 but we haven’t been as wasteful of energy as we thought we would be.
These are just gross numbers, a first cut at basic analysis, but what they reveal may be useful.