United States

United States

Americans hungry for power

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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