The short-term news on energy in the USA was very encouraging in 2014, and energy experts expect more good news in 2015.
During 2014, crude oil prices plunged from nearly $110 per barrel in the summer to below $50 per barrel as the year ended. Lower prices often spur oil companies to produce less oil, but U.S. oil production increased to almost 9.1 million barrels per day at the end of 2014 from about 8.1 million barrels daily at the end of 2013.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that the lower oil prices will continue to translate into lower prices at the pump with 2015 prices 91 cents per gallon less than they were in 2013. The EIA also projects that the USA will produce 9.3 million barrels of oil daily in 2015 and 9.5 million barrels of oil daily in 2016.
The USA, in fact, is now the No. 1 oil producer in the world. It has replaced longtime No. 1 producer Saudi Arabia. The USA’s new status has spurred the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to announce it will not increase short-term production, a decision that means that prices will continue to be low in the short term.
The short-term positive news on energy gets all the headlines, but there has been positive news on prices and production before. The positive news is often followed by negative news on soaring prices and the USA becoming more dependent on the oil production of foreign nations.
The more important news in the world of energy is the news on energy efficiency because changes in how energy is utilized has more of a long-term impact than the ups and downs of oil prices and production. Fortunately, there was a lot of good news on energy efficiency in 2014 and 2015 could be a good year as well.
The good news on energy efficiency in 2014 is highlighted by the fact that new federal energy efficiency standards will save American consumers more than $50 billion, according to the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. The new standards on electric motors will save Americans nearly $20 billion by themselves, while the new standards on furnace fans will save Americans nearly $16 billion.
Federal energy regulators also completed new energy efficiency standards for commercial refrigeration equipment (almost $10 billion), walk-in coolers and freezers (more than $6 billion), metal hallide light fixtures, external power supplies, and commercial clothes washers.
Other advances in energy efficiency in 2014 include:
- President Barack Obama’s decision to order new fuel standards for heavy-duty trucks. The standards will reduce the amount of greenhouse gas pollution emitted from trucks. Altogether, rules changes in recent years on heavy-duty trucks, light trucks, and passenger cars mean that carbon pollution in 2020 will be 17 percent lower than it was in 2005, according to The New York Times
- A 2013 decision by Obama to regulate greenhouse gas pollution from power plants resulted in “significant, cost-effective greenhouse gas emission reductions from the electric power sector” in 2014, according to a American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy report.
- LED (light-emitting diodes) became a more popular source of light in 2014. There are now approximately 70,000 LED lighting products. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that LED lighting will constitute about 48 percent of lighting sales by 2020. “The market penetration of LEDs is projected to drive a 40% reduction in energy consumption, or a total energy savings of 3.0 quads, in 2030 alone, which is nearly the total energy consumed by 24 million United States homes today,” the DOE report says.
- The energy industry made significant progress in identifying sources of energy waste via controls, sensors, and software in 2014. The process is called “intelligent efficiency.” Numerous companies are selling products that help their commercial clients reduce energy waste and, thus, expenditures. “If the United States were to take advantage of currently available information and communications technologies that enable system efficiencies, we could reduce energy use by about 12-22% and realize tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in energy savings and productivity gains,” reports the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
- * Utilities in states all over the USA have made energy efficiency a priority. They reported that they invested $7.7 billion on energy-efficiency programs in 2013. Figures for 2014 aren’t available, but the trend has been positive for several years.
Peeking into a crystal ball to try to ascertain the energy efficiency outlook for 2015 is difficult, but there are signs that the year could be just as good or better than 2014.
The signs include:
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to finalize the new fuel efficiency standards for trucks that Obama ordered in 2014.
- The Department of Energy plans to adopt new efficiency standards for commercial rooftop air conditioners and numerous other products. These standards will save businesses tens of billions of dollars.
- Democrats and Republicans are working together on energy efficiency legislation.
- Businesses and governments are showing more interest in zero net energy buildings — buildings that produce as much energy as they use. New building codes could compel businesses to use renewable technologies and become more energy efficient.
Energy efficiency is becoming a more popular issue that is increasingly resonating with businesses and people who want to simultaneously save energy and reduce their energy bills. This consciousness could make 2015 an excellent year in energy efficiency in the USA.