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RATIO OF US. S UV SALES 70 more efficiently, then consumption will fall and everything will be better. There’s no doubt that efficiency is a marvelous thing. It allows consumers to get more work out of the same pound of coal, or gallon of gasoline, or windmill blade, or photovoltaic cell. And the more efficient a given process becomes, the more profitably it can be used. A car that gets 30 miles per gallon can effectively deliver much of the same value as one that gets 15 miles per gallonand do so at half of the fuel cost. A compact fluorescent light bulb that consumes 18 watts of electricity and yet delivers the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb using 60 watts makes a great deal of economic sense. But efficiency alone won’t deliver energy salvation. Proof of that can be had by looking at other technological innovations. In the early days of the personal computer, there were claims that the computer would result in the advent of the paperless office. That didn’t happen. Instead, whole new industries, like desktop publishing, were born, resulting in ever greater amounts of paper consumption. Likewise, predictions that greater efficiency would result in lower energy consumption have proven utterly and completely wrong. For decades, energy maven Amory Lovins has been claiming that greater efficiency would lower energy demand. For instance, in 1984, Lovins told Business Week magazine that, “we see electricity demand ratcheting downward over the medium and long term. The long-term prospects for selling more electricity are dismal….We will never get, we suspect, to a high enough price to justify building centralized thermal power plants again. That era is over.” Except that it isn’t. America’s electricity production has jumped by about 66 percent since Lovins made his declaration, rising from 2,400 billion kilowatt-hours in 1984 to just over 4,000 billion kilowatthours in 2005. And to meet that demand, utilities have built dozens of centralized thermal power plants. In fact, Lovins has repeatedly been proven wrong when it comes to energy trends. In 1976, he predicted that renewable energy would be supplying 30 percent of the total energy demand in America by 2000. The reality was closer to 1 to 2 percent. And yet, “inexplicably” notes Vaclav Smil, of the University of Manitoba, “Lovins retains his guru aura no matter how wrong he is.” Just as Lovins wrongly predicted that efficiency would quell electricity demand, there is a widespread belief that federal mandates for higher-mileage cars will result in less fuel consumption. In September 2005 after Hurricane Katrina caused fuel supply problems in the southern U.S., the New York Times published an editorial which concluded that the U.S. cannot drill its “way out of oil dependency and high prices. The only sure relief will come through improved fuel efficiency.” The Times’ editorial board may be convinced, but there’s precious little evidence to prove that fact. History shows that as the U.S. economy has grown more energy efficient, energy consumption has con tinued climbing. In 1980, the U.S. was using about 15,000 Btus per dollar of GDP. By 2004, the energy intensity of the U.S. economy had improved dramatically so that just over 9,000 Btus were required for each dollar of GDP. The EIA expects those efficiency gains to continue. By 2030, the EIA projects that energy intensity will fall from about 9,000 Btus per dollar of GDP to about 5,800 Btus per dollar of GDP. But even with that dramatic increase in efficiency, overall energy consumption in the U.S. will rise by more than 30 percent, going from 100.1 quadrillion Btus in 2005 to 131.1 quadrillion Btus in 2030. \(A quadrillion Btus is equal to about 172 million barWhat’s true for the broad economy is also true for automo biles. Toyota Priuses and other hybrid cars are cool. But they are, as one Houston-based oil industry analyst put it, a “Band aid on an amputee.” Even dramatic increases in America’s automobile fuel efficiency will likely only slow the rate of growth in the amount of oil we are importing from abroad. In late 2004, a group of Washington power brokers and insiders calling themselves the National Commission on Energy Policy, looked at the Corporate standard, the federal mandate that requires the automakers to meet certain efficiency targets. The group determined that even if Congress mandated that the domestic auto fleet increase its average fuel economy to 44 miles per gallona major increase over the 27.5 miles-per-gallon standard in effect in 2007America’s motor fuel consumption will still increase by 3.7 million barrels per day by 2025. Indeed, America’s motor fuel consumption continues ever upward. For instance, in February 1983, the U.S. was using about 259 million gallons of gasoline per day. By February 2007, that figure had jumped by 44 percent to nearly 373 million gallons per day. There are a number of reasons why American motorists are using more fuel. First and foremost among them: Americans have a lot of machines that burn motor fuel. In 2005, \(the last year for istered motor vehicles. That’s more than double the number of vehicles that were on American roads in 1970. In addition to the huge number of vehicles, Americans owned over 224,000 general aviation aircraft and 12.9 million recreational boats. And of course, those numbers don’t count the proliferation 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 2, 2008