US energy spending lowest in 60 years

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CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Green Energy Futures

When I wrote about the possible closure of a gigantic Arizona coal plant, at least one commenter had concerns:

Seems like some of the elite greenies won't be happy till only the rich can afford electricity, and the rest of us won't be able to use petroleum to heat our house or fill our lanterns. Some of us won't be able to cut our wood to heat our houses or cook. When will this all end? What is the end game, all the people off the planet?

Now, let's leave aside for a moment that I was explicitly calling for a just transition that takes workers' needs into account—hardly an "elitist" play—and focus on the crux of this comment:

Closing down coal plants apparently hurts our pocket books.

Actually, the reverse is true. As reported by Nasdaq recently, Americans' spending on energy is actually at a 60 year low, and the drop in spending has coincided with a precipitous collapse in coal consumption and a gradual decline in CO2 emissions too. In fact, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance which compiled these figures, CO2 emissions are now at their lowest level since 1990, and 24% below what they were in 2005.

So tell me again about how greenies are breaking our pocket books.

True, not all of that decline in costs can be attributed directly to coal's collapse. The low cost of natural gas is having a significant impact, for example. But between energy efficiency improvements, more fuel efficient gas cars, the increased availability of affordable electric vehicles and the rapidly declining costs of wind, solar and battery storage, we're on the verge of a revolution that will not only reduce emissions—but cut costs too.

The US Army is already saving $1bn from energy efficiency improvements, and we all have the potential to save money too. We just need to kick our expensive fossil fuel addiction first.

Tags: Economics | Energy Efficiency | Renewable Energy

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