Use Less Energy, Need Less Fuel

Use Less Energy, Need Less Fuel

In response to a worsening energy crisis and rising prices, countries are "stepping on the gas” and ramping up fossil fuel production. But there’s another way to reduce energy costs: Use less of it. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), reducing the thermostat by one degree Celsius in European buildings during winters would save 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year, almost equivalent to the amount of energy Biden plans to export to Europe. If nations strategically cut their energy use, the excess supply could help countries cope with shortages and avert dependence on Russian oil. Moreover, energy efficiency is cheaper and more accessible than revving up oil production.

While Europe has embraced energy efficiency, Germany, Austria, Italy, and the Netherlands have made plans to restore old coal plants as stopgap solutions -- a better bet than building new gas infrastructure that lasts decades -- but still suboptimal. Meanwhile, the US has agreed to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe, and President Biden met with oil industry executives last week to jawbone them to lower gas prices.

BBC: EU told to prepare for Russian gas shut-off, July 20, 2022.

IEA: A 10-Point Plan to Reduce the European Union’s Reliance on Russian Natural Gas, March 3, 2022.

IEA: Playing my part | How to save money, reduce reliance on Russia, support Ukraine & help the planet, April 21, 2022.

CBC: Europe returns to coal over concerns Russia will halt gas supply, July 6, 2002.

Why This Matters

Reducing energy consumption is an effective, but under-discussed way of decreasing reliance on expensive, emissions-intensive fossil fuels. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) put out a study suggesting that reducing energy use is integral to limiting climate change. More specifically, the world must reduce its energy use by 11% by 2050 to keep warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But when it comes to energy efficiency, the world is falling behind. According to the IEA, the 2022 growth rate of investment in energy efficiency is slowing, and won’t be enough to reach the climate goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

DW: Time is running out | WMO warns 1.5 degree threshold could be topped by 2026, May 18, 2022.

The Economist: See what three degrees of global warming looks like, October 7, 2021.

How Much Energy Do We Really Need?

The US is more responsible for climate change than any other country. It needs to cut down its energy use. The good news is that it doesn’t take that much energy to lead a fulfilling and healthy life. A study from earlier this year found that a person can live well on 75 gigajoules (GJ) a year and Americans use almost four times that amount on average at 284 GJ a year. Though researchers found a link between greater energy use and better quality of life, these benefits plateau after 75 GJ.

CNN, November 3, 2021.

There are a number of ways to bring down individual use, including cooling homes using zones, washing dishes in cold water, and hanging clothes to dry. Also, walking, biking, and using public transportation but taking fewer plane flights can make a difference.

Policy packages like the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which includes strategies to reduce consumption, increase efficiency, and expand access to renewable energy sources, will also help implement the proper infrastructure to improve energy efficiency.

IEA: A 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use, March 18, 2022.

TED: How to Realistically Decarbonize the Oil and Gas Industry | Bjørn Sverdrup, March 3, 2022.

TED: How Wind Energy Could Power Earth ... 18 Times Over | Dan Jørgensen, March 12, 2022.

WW0: Creating Jobs While Decarbonizing the US Economy, June 28, 2022.