Reporting focuses on booming domestic oil and gas production, but the biggest energy story of our times may well be the stunning drop in America's thirst for energy. Americans are using less and less energy, even though our population and economy grows.
Though record levels of natural gas, wind, and solar were produced in 2012, and though domestic oil production is at its highest level in 20 years, America in fact consumed about as much energy in 2012 as it did in 1999. Stunning, indeed! Last year total energy consumption was about 96 quadrillion BTUs. http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/mer.pdf.
Back in 1999, America's population was just 272 million or 40 million less than today.
http://www.demographia.com/db-uspop1900.htm. But today we use less energy than then.
Back in 1999, America's Gross Domestic Product was about $8.6 trillion but more than $15 trillion in 2011. But today we use less energy than in 1999.
The drop in total energy is a result of a structural shift downward in energy demand. Policies requiring more energy efficient cars, homes, appliances, motors, lighting are working and gathering momentum. Policies requiring more and more utilities to invest in energy conservation so their consumers can reduce consumption and save money are working and gathering momentum. Policies putting energy efficiency and demand response on more equal footing with building new power plants in wholesale energy markets are working and gathering momentum.
The icing on that policy cake is a growing ethic of saving energy among more and more Americans. Americans are becoming frugal about energy use to save money and to protect our environment. When it comes to energy, more Americans are remembering Benjamin Franklin's wisdom that "a penny saved is a penny earned."
All that adds up to Uncle Sam's successful energy diet, the biggest energy story that remains little noticed.