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Americans hungry for power
1 January 1999
Despite concerns about global warming, Americans have almost returned to using energy as greedily as ever before. Electricity prices in the US are one-third of the average in Europe and a half of Japan's -- and in real terms lower than in a quarter century. Petrol prices are proportionately even lower. Not surprisingly, energy consumption is back to the levels of before the oil crisis a quarter century ago, when the concepts of promoting renewables and energy conservation got a jump-start. In 1999, Americans are expected to use within 2% of the energy they used in 1973 per head of population. Cars and homes are larger and industry is using almost as much energy as it used to -- even though the nation has moved away from heavy industry to services and entertainment. Utility support for efficiency measures has been cut, from $2.7 billion in 1994 to $1.9 billion in 1996, which the electricity companies say is necessary because of deregulation. Unless the use of fossil fuels is decreased, carbon emissions are expected to rise one-third from 1990 to 2010, says the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). President Bill Clinton has pledged to reduce emissions by 7% by 2010. Emissions will not be reduced, says the EIA, because renewable energy use will only rise by an average of 0.8% yearly through the year 2020. And retail electricity prices will drop from $0.069/kWh last year to $0.056/kWh in the same time period, because of deregulation and cheaper domestic coal prices.x
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