A New Energy Future: The Benefits of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for Cutting America's Use of Fossil Fuels

Released by: Environment Texas

America has the technological know-how and the resources to move away from dependence on oil and other fossil fuels and toward a cleaner, more secure New Energy Future.

America’s dependence on fossil fuels poses challenges to America’s environment, economic health and national security. Each of those challenges is likely to become more critical in the years to come if we continue along our present path of increasing energy use and increasing imports of energy from abroad.

A New Energy Future in which America is smarter about how we use energy and in which we tap our abundant supplies of clean, renewable, homegrown energy can address many of those challenges. Achieving that future will require America to set clear goals to guide our energy policies and to mobilize the scientific, economic and political resources we need to meet them.

This paper examines the benefits, in terms of fossil fuel savings, of achieving a New Energy Future guided by the following goals:

• Reduce our use of energy in our homes, businesses and industry by 10 percent by 2025.

• Save one third of the oil we use today by 2025.

• Harness clean, renewable, homegrown energy sources for at least a quarter of our energy needs by 2025. There are many ways that America can achieve these goals.

This paper lays out one plausible pathway, which we call the “New Energy Future scenario,” by which the United States could achieve – and in some cases go beyond – the goals and save vast amounts of fossil fuels. By 2025, for example, the United States could:

• Save 10.8 million barrels of oil per day, equal to four-fifths of the amount of oil we currently import from all other nations in the world.

• Save 9.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year, nearly twice as much as is currently used annually in all of America’s homes.

• Save 900 million tons of coal per year, or about 80 percent of all the coal we consumed in the United States in 2005.

• Save 1.7 billion megawatt-hours of electricity per year, 30 percent more than was used in all the households in America in 2005.

Achieving the energy savings and renewable energy targets listed above will not be easy, but it can be done. Reduce our use of energy in our homes, businesses and industry by 10 percent by 2025.

• Cutting our use of energy in homes, business and industry by 10 percent would require reducing the amount of energy we are projected to use in 2025 by 27 percent. Taking advantage of America’s cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities could reduce our consumption of electricity by as much as 20 percent and natural gas by about 22 percent. Similar savings are possible for petroleum use.

• A combination of new technologies (spurred by more robust federal investment in energy saving technologies and tax incentives) and energy conservation measures could provide the remainder of the savings needed to achieve the 10 percent energy savings goal. Save one third of the oil we use today by 2025. Sensible steps to improve the fuel economy of our vehicles, reduce the rate of growth of vehicle travel, and replace some of the oil we use with plant-based fuels could take us well beyond the goal of saving one third of the oil we use today by 2025, providing total savings of 10.8 million barrels of oil per day.

• Increasing fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks to 40 miles per gallon by 2018 and to 45 miles per gallon by 2023 would yield oil savings of 2.4 million barrels per day.

• Setting fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks would save 1.1 million barrels of oil per day by 2025.

• Changing our transportation priorities so that the average American drives no more in 2025 than he or she does today could save 3.6 million barrels of oil per day versus projected use in 2025.

• Replacing a share of transportation fuels with plant-based fuels like ethanol and biodiesel would save about 1.5 million barrels of oil per day.

• Realizing 10 percent energy savings from homes, business and industry would produce another 2 million barrels per day in oil savings. Harness clean, renewable, homegrown energy sources for at least a quarter of our energy needs by 2025. A variety of studies and industry projections suggest that tapping America’s abundant supplies of clean renewable energy could fulfill 22 percent of our energy needs by 2025 – and we could reach 25 percent renewable energy with technology advances that would enable us to fully tap our renewable potential.

• Using plant-based fuels to substitute for oil in transportation and industry could supply about 4.5 percent of our total energy use in 2025.

• Wind power could provide as much as 30 percent of America’s electricity by 2025 and possibly more as new technologies and practices allow for us to successfully integrate more wind power into America’s electricity mix.

• Solar and geothermal power can combine to produce another 12 percent of America’s electricity, while an assortment of other renewable technologies – ranging from solar hot water heaters to geothermal heat pumps – can also make an important contribution.

• Additional renewable energy could be generated using new technologies such as wave and tidal power or by achieving technological improvements that would enable us to expand our use of other renewable energy sources.

To achieve the benefits of a New Energy Future, the United States must adopt policies designed to increase our use of renewable energy and tap America’s vast potential for energy efficiency improvements. America must also increase its investment in research and development of the next generation of clean energy technologies, as well as make the investments necessary to bring those technologies into wider use.