Rick, my thoughts on your questions of missing energy conservation:
1. Why do we need to light-up the Solar System? The classic reason or excuse is ‘safety’. Those who live in densely populated cities often claim that night lights in neighborhoods and downtown areas and most road intersections require strong lighting to maintain safety. This helps avoid the intercity risks/hazards including personal assaults and robberies or vehicle/ pedestrian accidents. Some of these concerns are definitely reasonable in higher at risk communities, but not all. Probably most of wasteful lighting is due to retail, food and entertainment industries' stores, buildings, bill-boards, etc. to attract customers.
2. Why are there so many speeding SUV’s, fast Sports Cars or large/heavy family vehicles? Following the energy crises of the 1970’s the Federal government reduced maximum speed limits to ’55 mph’. Although highly unpopular with the general Public, the purpose was to increase fuel efficiency of those relatively heavy and inefficient 1960’s-1970’s cars & trucks on the roads at the time. The 55 mph speed limit was replaced by new CAFE standards, which unfortunately have been compromised over the years with numerous compliance credits or loopholes (Re. a past TEC Post: ‘actual vs. lab mph’ graph) created by Politicians over the years. As a result of these loopholes and successful marketing campaigns for SUV’s and other large, fast and lower mileage vehicles (including 4,000+ lb. 'hybrid' SUV’s) compared to lighter, smaller and higher efficient vehicles.
Another curious factor that has prevented increased U.S. vehicle fuel efficiency performance has been allowing nearly uncontrolled speeding. This lawless behavior was recently addressed by installing numerous ‘speed cameras’. Many have since been constrained or removed due to guess what? Public safety concerns.
3. How does the U.S. expedite increased petroleum efficiencies and reduced future consumption? Other then implementing truly effective increased efficiency mandates or incentives such as CAFE, SEER, building efficiencies, renewable heat/fuel/power, etc. standards (without continuously allowing political/wasteful loopholes) the question is definitely one of ‘needed consumer-behavioral changes’. If you use the EU as an example, there is possbily an argument for VAT or possibly carbon taxes since EU per capita energy consumption is significantly less than the U.S.; largely due to fuel and power costs being twice what U.S. Residents typically pay. The behavioral solution may be better educating the Public on how to stop wasting energy and the potential implications including potentially funding terrorist groups in the Middle East by Persian Gulf imports.
The solutions to reduced petroleum consumption are numerous, complex and will take possibly decades to achieve. In the meantime, the U.S. relies on petroleum to supply about 35% to total primary energy to support the general populous, economy and current standards of living. A large percentage of these supplies are at growing risk to disruption from growing terrorist threats in the Middle East. We need to better secure these required energy supplies to avoid a future major oil supply disruption and energy crisis. Until we can more successfully reduce petroleum consumption to avoid or mitigate the impacts of lost Persian Gulf oil imports in the future, eliminating the source of these imports is a more effective strategy. Unless the current Administration recognizes this risk and more effectively addresses this risk (politics aside) the U.S.’s risk of a near future energy crisis and the next Great Recession continues to grow.