US Energy Consumption - What Does It All Mean?

energy consumption by sector image

Image credit:USDOE, EIA

If the US had not out-sourced a big chunk of its manufacturing base to Asia over the last 30 years, industry sector energy consumption history - indicated by the green line presently hovering around the 30 Quadrillion Btu's per-year mark - would be tracking, now, closer to 40. How will industrial energy consumption shift between Asia and North America if climate action is taken?If China increased manufacturing efficiencies, but kept costs on the same path, energy consumption by the US industrial sector wouldn't be much affected.

However, if Chinese manufacturers, in the course of becoming vastly more energy efficient, also became more cost-efficient, this would cause US corporations to increase their outsourcing (assuming all other variables held constant). The green line for the US industrial sector would slope more rapidly downward.

Turn that scenario around. Assume US industries improve their energy efficiencies dramatically; but, the Chinese are slow to respond. There could be a slow return of manufacturing to the USA; and that would leave the Chinese poorer. Hardly a "win-win."

Only by dramatically increasing the manufacturing energy efficiencies of both Asian and US industrial sectors can there be a global gain for both climate and people.

Effective climate action also requires reduced population growth. (More consumers per nation means more consumption of energy and materials in all the sectors shown on the chart.)

This gets into dangerous territory, I know. But, I'll say it anyway. Millions of new consumers immigrating every year to the USA, the place with the highest per-capita consumption, means more energy used in all sectors and especially in the largest sector of all: industry. China, emulating the North American model of economic development, amplifies this problem.

The struggle for the future has only just begun. US popular culture continues to race in the most unsustainable directions possible. Reality TV features a family with over a dozen kids. Muscle cars are selling again. Bankers get million dollar bonus' while unemployment rises....

Buckle your seat belts. It's going to be a rough ride.