Thursday, April 22, 2010

All Your Energy Are Belong To Us

Suck it, Yankees! Watch this, you stolid Midwesterners and effete West Coast elites! We Southerners are hongry and we will be satisfied:
Thirty-six percent of Americans live in the study region, which consumes an outsized portion—44 percent—of American energy. The area supplies 48 percent of the nation’s power.

Got that, y’all? In a recent study it was discovered that the “South,” a 17 state region which included Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and the District of Columbia, contains 36% of the country’s population but consumes 44% of American energy. Because the South produces 48% of the nation’s power it looks like we are a little greedy with the rest of the nation. Even worse, energy consumption in the South is expected to increase by 15% over the next 20 years.

But even worse from an energy consumption standpoint is our own State of Tennessee:

With a population of 6.3 million people, the State represents about 2.1% of the U.S. population, 1.8% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and 2.3% of U.S. energy consumption (Figure 1). 3 Thus, compared to the rest of the nation, Tennessee has a higher-than-average level of energy intensity (that is, it consumes more energy per dollar of economic activity than most other states).

Unlike most states in the South that account for a disproportionately large amount of the nation’s industrial energy use, industry accounts for only 32% of Tennessee’s overall energy consumption. In contrast, its residential energy consumption as a percentage of its overall energy use exceeds that of the South and that of the nation (Figure 2).

Of course we do! Again, don’t blame us, blame the cheap energy we got courtesy of TVA. Houses were built leaky as sieves back during the post-WWII housing boom; no one bothered with something as silly as conservation back then, and why should they? Today those 1940s houses are charming but they’re also energy hogs (I live in one, trust me, I know.)

Although Tennessee has several important energy efficiency policies in place, we still lag far, far behind other states--indeed, we rank 38th for the adoption of energy efficiency policies, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

The reason this is important is not because saving electricity is a nice thing to do and we can all pat ourselves on the back and feel virtuous and self righteous. The reason it’s important is because, I repeat, we rank 38th out of 50 states and D.C. which means most of the rest of the county is leaving us behind. If we want to lure jobs and have nice communities and maintain a nice standard of living in this state then we need to be competitive, or the next Hemlock Semiconductor or Volkswagon will decide to locate its plant somewhere else. Someplace which has energy incentives in place, where cost of living doesn't reflect high energy costs, and where workers can actually take a weekend fishing some place where the streams aren't polluted with surface mining tailings.

Folks, the era of cheap energy is over. We now live in a world where demand is such that we are going to greater and greater lengths to generate the juice we need. At the same time we are living with a legacy of energy inefficiency and wastefulness from past decades. It's all going to catch up to us in the next 20 years, unless we take action.

It’s time to get on board. As we become more energy efficient we can create jobs, boost the state’s economy, and protect our environment. None of that is going to happen if we keep sticking our head in the sand and acting like it’s 1965.

(h/t mistermix at Balloon Juice)