Listed below are all documents and RMI.org site pages related to this topic.
The U.S. electricity sector has seen tremendous growth in the past 60 years. From 1949 to 2009, U.S. electricity consumption increased by a factor of 13. To meet this rising demand, the U.S has built vast amounts of new electricity generating infrastructure. The total U.S. installed capacity in 2009 was 998 GW, compared with just 65 GW in 1949.
Electricity is 75% of primary energy consumed by U.S. buildings, but 68% of that electricity is lost in conversion and delivery. Oil and natural gas are almost 10 quads of energy, or 25% of total primary energy.
Humans have consumed roughly one-third of the planet’s technically and economically recoverable stock of fossil fuels. Projections from resource experts, although quite approximate, suggest that we are approaching peak consumption for oil (some assert the peak has already passed) and perhaps even for coal.
Automakers' profit margin typically hangs around 1% (in the U.S., 0.4%), far below the oil industry’s. The 2007–2008 global financial crisis sharply cut sales of new vehicles and the financial stability of the U.S. Big 3 auto manufacturers (Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler).
Americans spent more than 3% of the nation's GDP in 2008 on building heating, cooling, and lighting—almost two-thirds of the entire defense budget and more than federal government spending on Medicare.
In Reinventing Fire
, natural gas consumption in 2050 is reduced by 36% relative to business-as-usual. This reduction is primarily enabled by improved efficiency in commercial and residential buildings and less reliance on natural gas in the electricity sector.
Despite large aggregate expenditures on buildings, average U.S. consumers spend only ~4% of their total budget on fuel and electricity bills. Consumers have little incentive to reduce their energy bills, despite a variety of ways to do so profitably.
While U.S. demand for electricity has risen in all but four years since 1949, the rate of increase has been steadily trending down. The Energy Information Administration predicts an annual growth rate around +1% to 2030 (which RMI extrapolates to 2050). Successfully implementing the energy efficiency improvements in buildings and industry discussed in Reinventing Fire
could reduce this to a steady –1%.
For commercial buildings, energy and water are 22% of total operating expenses.
The 16 quadrillion BTU of biomass used in 2050 in Reinventing Fire is supplied by agricultural residue, mill residue, dedicated energy crops, municipal solid waste and forestry residue. No cropland or edible feedstock is required.