In 2007, Americans paid about $700,000/minute to the foreign countries that supplied their oil. The American Physical Society convened a blue-ribbon panel to investigate energy security and global warming. Their answer – energy efficiency. From the press release accompanying the report:
Eliminating wasted energy from automobiles, homes and businesses is equivalent to tapping a hidden energy reserve that will help the United States improve its energy security and reduce global warming, an American Physical Society (APS) study panel concluded in a major report released today.
The report, Energy Future: Think Efficiency, reaches three overarching conclusions:
- Improving energy efficiency is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to significantly reduce the nation’s demand for imported oil and its greenhouse gas emissions without causing any loss of comfort or convenience.
- Numerous technologies exist today to increase the efficiency of U.S. vehicles and buildings in ways that could save individual consumers money. But without federal policies to overcome market barriers, the U.S. is unlikely to capitalize on these technologies.
- Far greater increases in energy efficiency are available in the future, but realizing these potential gains will require a larger and better focused federal research and development program on energy efficiency than exists today.
The report concludes that the average light-duty vehicle should have a mileage of at least 50 miles per gallon by 2030 and that widespread construction of homes that require no fossil fuels should be possible in most areas by 2020.
Among its key findings and recommendations for the transportation and building sectors:
- Technologies are available to safely move beyond the 35 mile per gallon Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard mandated by law by the year 2020. The federal government should establish policies to ensure that new light-duty vehicles average 50 mpg or more by 2030.
- Plug-in hybrids require more efficient and more durable batteries able to withstand deep discharges that are not yet in commercial large-scale production. Given the technical difficulties, plug-in hybrids will not replace the standard American car in the near future.
- Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have the potential to eliminate gasoline usage, but they also require scientific breakthroughs, including advances in fuel cells, catalysts and on-board hydrogen storage systems.
- Energy use by buildings could be no higher in 2030 than it is today if technologies that are available or in the pipeline are installed in a cost-effective manner.
- Widespread, cost-effective construction of residential zero energy buildings (ZEB)—buildings that use no net energy—is feasible by 2020, except in hot, humid climates.
- Widespread, cost-effective construction of ZEB commercial buildings by 2030—a current goal in law and of many groups—will not be possible without an intensified federal program of research, development and demonstration.
- Current green building rating systems such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) do not appear to give sufficient weight to energy efficiency.
Which is what I’ve been saying for years… the amount of fuel we burn in our vehicles each day is roughly the same as the amount of oil we import from Saudi Arabia each day. From the APS website:
The U.S. can substantially increase the fuel economy of its cars and other light vehicles. The cars, SUVs, minivans and pickup trucks on the road today consume about 9.3 million barrels of gasoline each day. If the amount Americans drive remained the same, moving from a fleet that averages about 28 miles per gallon — the average today — to one that averaged 50 miles per gallon — which is possible after 2030, that would cut U.S. gasoline consumption almost in half. All electric vehicles or hydrogen vehicles would eliminate entirely the need for gasoline for the light-duty fleet. If the entire fleet were plug-in hybrids with an electric range of 40 miles without a recharge, that would cut gasoline consumption by about 6 million barrels a day.