U.S. Falls Short in Global Energy Efficiency Rankings

By Alex Kasin

The nonprofit American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released a report this week ranking the top 12 global economies in terms of their energy efficiency. The U.S. was 9th, trailing not only the United Kingdom, which ranked 1st, but also behind the European Union and China.

The report, called the “International Energy Efficiency Scorecard,” analyzed the efficiency of the 12 largest global economies, which included Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. These 12 economies consume 63 percent of the world energy and are responsible for 62 percent of its carbon dioxide emissions.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, the ACEEE used 27 metrics to produce the rankings. Those metrics were organized into four categories – buildings, industry, transportation and national effort—in which the economies were also ranked. The U.S. was last in transportation.

The 2012 ACEEE International Energy Efficiency Scorecard, showing how the U.S. ranks compared to other nations. Click image to enlarge. Credit: ACEEE

The LA Times said that instead of expanding public transportation, the U.S. “focuses on road construction” and “has been slower to adopt fuel-efficient vehicles,” possibly leading to its low ranking. In total, the U.S. scored a 47 out of 100, leading to its 9th-place finish, while the U.K. had a 67 out of 100.

The report said that the U.S. has made “limited or little progress toward greater efficiency at the national level,” in the past 10 years, according to the press release. “The U.K. and the leading economies of Europe are now well ahead of the U.S. when it comes to energy efficiency,” said Steven Nadel, executive director of ACEEE, “This is significant because countries that use energy more efficiently require fewer resources to achieve the same goals, thus reducing costs, preserving valuable natural resources, and creating jobs.”

The report listed a number of ways the U.S. can improve its energy efficiency, including adopting a “national energy savings target,” instead of having varied state goals, and increasing funding in public transit.

“Unfortunately, our results show that nowhere is the vast potential for improvements in energy efficiency being completely realized,” said Nadel in the ACEEE’s press release. While many countries achieved notable success, none received a perfect score in any category – proving that there is much that all countries can still learn from each other. For example, the U.S. scored relatively high in buildings, but was at the bottom of the list in transportation.”

Alex Kasdin is an intern at Climate Central and at the time of this post, a rising Junior at Princeton University, majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.