In the 10/08 edition of the Greenies segment of the online Natural Choice Directory, I provided some facts about energy prices and consumption trends. A lot has changed since then.
Energy prices have come a full circle. Gasoline and heating oil prices dropped about 40% over the past year and crude oil prices dropped over 50%. Prices are now back to where they were 4 years ago. This is excellent news, especially in this tight economy. However, as President Obama reminded us, we cannot be complacent. We cannot afford to move our focus away from developing a long-term sustainable energy solution until the next energy crisis hits.
To find a sustainable solution, we need to tackle both ends of the equation - the possible sources of energy, as well as the potential ways to conserve usage. The "Alternative Energy" article in this edition is a good introduction on the different types of alternative sources.
The total world energy consumption is accelerating rapidly according to the latest report from the Energy Information Administration (with data through 2006). For example, the rate of consumption increase ranged from 7-10% in each of the 5 years from 1986 to 2001. However, in the last 5 years covered by the report (from 2001 to 2006), consumption increased by 17%. In 2006, we used one and half times the amount of energy we used in 1986.
Based on the same report, the United States, China, Russia, Japan, and India continued to be the top five energy consumers, accounted for over 50% of total world consumption. The consumption in China and India had a notable year-over-year increase of 10% and 8% respectively. The consumption of the other three countries stayed relatively flat. The increase in the Asian countries did not come as a surprise. This is due to the increase in prosperity locally, as well as the increased demand from other countries that have "out-sourced" the production, and hence energy consumption, to these Asian tigers.
Regarding carbon dioxide emission, these five top energy consumers accounted for over 55% of the total emission. China surpassed the United States, for the first time, as the number one emitter. The United States trailed slightly in the second place. However, from a per capita perspective, the United States is still way ahead of China, measured at 19.8 metric tons compared to 4.6 metric tons in China.
It took many generations and collective manpower to discover fire. The quest for energy has since been born. It will take the whole mankind to contain this quest. Everyone of us can, and should, do our part. Did you turn off your lights when you headed out this morning?