Energy + Environment

Saving Electricity Will Not Get Us Off Middle Eastern Oil

It’s a myth that reducing electric energy consumption by installing energy-efficient lighting will have a significant impact on oil consumption.


According to the Energy Information Administration, oil accounted for only 1.6% of electric power generation in the United States in 2007.

Coal is the largest producer of electric power in the U.S. at 48.5% of electric power generation, followed by natural gas (21.6%) and nuclear (19.4%).

Energy-efficient lighting and controls offer numerous benefits, but unfortunately reducing America’s oil dependence is not one of them.

  • James Bedell February 14, 2009, 3:08 PM

    Well, thats not really true. As autos move away from gasoline and toward plug-in technology, we’ll need to reduce home energy consumption to mitigate the increase. Energy efficient lighting in that context does help with oil consumption. Bottom line, we have to start thinking about energy use holistically.

  • Steve Heising February 24, 2009, 11:53 PM

    But it will help us get off of Wyoming coal…..

    Here in Colorado, our fuel mix is 81% coal. Energy efficient lighting can easily cut lighting energy, power plant GHG emissions: CO2 and NOx by 15%. In addition it reduces SOx (acid rain)and Mercury… and total utility bills by 15%. (30% of all electricity use is lighting, and 50% savings from the current Incandescent/ T12 Fluorescent/ Pulse Start Metal Halide baseline is easy, even encouraged.)

    What’s too good to be true is that utilities offer significant rebates for energy efficient lighting retrofits that help us all consume less electricity. The simple paybacks are 2 years or less, and there are multiple paybacks. So an investment of $1000 earns back $500 the first year, $500 the second year, $500 in the third year, $500 in the 4th and so on.

    One could use the savings to pay the incremental cost for a plug in Prius. (or an ESCAPE or EV1 for that matter.) If everyone did this, it would indeed reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

    So when will I get a rebate from the oil company for buying a plug in hybrid? Or even an electric bicycle, which will allow me to ride right past the gas station, burning less gas. (And I get a workout too if I want to go faster than 20 miles per hour.

    So what if energy efficient lighting won’t reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Only a significant increase in the oil and gas tax and a higher price at the pump will do that.

    So, upgrade your lighting, save money, save energy, save carbon, then figure out how to start thinking in terms of dollars per mile and then drive less as those $4.00/gallon prices will be back soon enough.


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