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U.S. Slips Behind Other Nations in Energy Efficiency Ranking

The U.S. lags behind three-fourths of the world’s 16 largest economies in measures of energy efficiency, clocking in at No. 13 behind Australia, India, and South Korea, according to a new international scorecard.

Countries at the top of the list, such as No. 1 Germany, are positioned with stronger, more competitive economies that use less energy to achieve the same or better results than other nations, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, which released the scorecard last week.

Combined, these 16 nations produce more than 80 percent of the global gross domestic product and consume about 70 percent of the world’s electricity.

“These scores suggest that this list of countries may have an economic advantage over the United States because using less energy to produce and distribute the same economic output costs them less,” the report noted. “Their efforts to improve efficiency likely make their economies more nimble and resilient.”

In addition to Germany, the council identified Italy, the European Union, and China in the top 25 percent of global economies with the most effective energy efficiency policies. The U.S. was joined at the bottom of the rankings by Russia, Brazil, and Mexico, which ranked dead last.

Engineers continue construction on the Wendelstein 7-X nuclear fusion reactor in Germany. The German government hopes this plant, due for completion next year, will be a successful experiment in revolutionary clean energy.

“The United States—long considered an innovative and competitive world leader—has allowed other nations to surpass it,” the report notes.

The report’s methodology assigns each nation a score from 0 to 100 based on metrics determined by the council. The council took into consideration factors such as the presence of a national energy savings target, fuel economy standards for vehicles, and energy standards for appliances. These were distributed across three main sectors: buildings, industry, and transportation.

The average score was 50 points. Germany claimed the leaderboard with 65 while the U.S. was relegated to the bottom quarter with 42 points.

“There’s really no excuse for the U.S. lagging behind other nations on energy efficiency,” Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said in a press release. “And, in an environment of gridlock, there is bipartisan common ground on this issue in Congress. I hope the 2014 International Scorecard is a wakeup call that it’s time for America to step-up and lead on energy efficiency.”

While the U.S. has demonstrated progress toward energy efficiency, it has not kept pace with other nations, the council notes. Areas of improvement include building codes, appliance standards, voluntary partnerships between government and industry in addition to fuel economy standards. However, these gains have not been sufficient to propel the country from its position in the rankings the last time this measure was taken, in 2012.

Efforts to curb carbon emissions and tighten energy efficiency standards have recently floundered in Congress. A bipartisan bill that would have incentivized new energy efficiency goals was met with gridlock in the Senate and was killed in May, despite the bipartisan stance of its co-sponsors: Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire). Since the bill’s failing, President Obama has taken executive action in tandem with the Environmental Protection Agency to create new environmental standards.

The report noted that the U.S. would lose a competitive edge if it doesn’t gain its footing among major economies with highly efficient energy standards,

“Looking forward, how can the United States compete in a global economy if it continues to waste money and energy that other industrialized nations save and can reinvest,” the report’s authors ask.

 

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