EPIBuilding a Sustainable Future
Lester R. Brown

Chapter 11. Raising Energy Efficiency: The Energy Savings Potential

The goal for this chapter was to identify measures that will offset the 30 percent growth in energy demand projected by IEA between 2006 and 2020. We are confident that the measures proposed will more than offset the projected growth in energy use. Shifting to more energy-efficient lighting alone lowers world electricity use by 12 percent. 91

With appliances, the key to raising energy efficiency is to establish international efficiency standards for appliances that reflect the most efficient models on the market today, regularly raising this level as technologies advance. Given the potential for raising appliance efficiency, the energy saved by 2020 should at least match the savings in the lighting sector.

With transportation, the short-term keys to reducing gasoline use involve shifting to highly fuel-efficient cars, restructuring urban transport systems, and building intercity rapid rail systems modeled after those in use in Japan and Europe. This shift in focus from car-dominated transport systems to more diversified systems is evident in the actions of hundreds of mayors who struggle with traffic congestion and air pollution every day. They are devising ingenious ways of restricting not only the use of cars but the very need for them. Neither the nature of the city nor the future role of the car will be the same, as nearly all public initiatives are diminishing the car’s urban presence.

Within the industrial sector, there is a hefty potential for reducing energy use. In the petrochemical industry, moving to the most efficient production technologies now available and recycling more plastic can cut energy use by 32 percent. With steel, gains in manufacturing efficiency can cut energy use by 23 percent. Even larger gains are within reach for cement, where simply shifting to the most efficient dry kiln technologies can reduce energy use by 42 percent. 92

With buildings—even older buildings, where retrofitting can reduce energy use by 20–50 percent—there is a profitable potential for saving energy. As we have noted, such a reduction in energy use combined with the use of green electricity to heat, cool, and light the building means that it may be easier to create carbon-neutral buildings than we may have thought.

One easy way to achieve these gains is through the imposition of a carbon tax that would help reflect the full cost of burning fossil fuels. We recommend increasing the carbon tax by $20 per ton each year over the next 12 years, for a total of $240. High though this may seem, it does not come close to covering the indirect costs of burning fossil fuels.

In seeking to raise energy efficiency, as described in this chapter there have been some pleasant surprises at the potential for doing so. We now turn to developing the earth’s renewable sources of energy, where there are equally exciting possibilities.

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91. IEA, op. cit. note 2, p. 492; IEA, op. cit. note 6.

92. Mandil et al., op. cit. note 67, pp. 39, 59–61, 95–96, 139–42.


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