(Less) Power to the people
One of the great developments since the turn of the century has been the growth in American fuel production, which has positive implications for consumers, the economy, national security and the environment.
A report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration demonstrates that the flip side of energy production, conservation, is just as valuable in securing the future.
Residential energy use in 2013 fell in 2013 for the third straight year, to 10,819 kilowatt-hours per household, the lowest level since 2001.
That is an extraordinary achievement, resulting from many converging factors. Technology has produced devices that do more with less power - a modern flat-screen TV uses about 80 percent less power, for example, than televisions that were prevalent just a decade ago. Consumers have switched from incandescent lighting to compact fluorescent bulbs that use about 80 percent less power. Major appliances such as refrigerators and dishwashers are far more efficient than in the past.
All of those developments are marketplace successes with a boost from government policy requiring greater efficiency.
Likewise another component of the trend. Building codes now address efficiency in several ways, while the materials to accommodate those requirements have stabilized in price.
The trend is truly remarkable because electricity use has fallen even as use of electronic devices has increased. Yet the Energy Information Administration predicts another 1 percent decline in power usage in 2014.
Declining electricity usage demonstrates that public policy and the markets can work together to produce long-term, positive results.