US Energy WasteThe United States has taken the lead yet again, but this time, we may not be so proud.  We have surpassed every nation, including China, in the category of energy waste.  Yes, our country wastes the most energy in the world.  The U.S. has an energy efficiency of 42 percent, which means 58 percent of all the energy we produce is wasted!  How can this happen?!

No single person or enterprise is responsible for our latest “achievement.”  Every industry (manufacturing, transportation, residential, commercial, etc.) has aided in the wastefulness of this country, some more than others.  According to the U.S. Energy Administration, estimates show that the industrial sector consumes more energy every year than any other U.S. entity.  It has also established that energy use by the residential, transportation, and commercial sectors has drastically increased each year for the past 60 years, and it continues to rise.

Despite the growth of renewable energy sources, the bulk of our power is still produced using coal, petroleum, and natural gas, which tend to lead to inefficiency.  The New York Times published a study in 2008 that calculated the main causes of energy waste.  It estimated that 71 percent of energy generated for transportation is wasted, 66 percent is wasted in electricity, 20 percent is wasted in commercial and residential buildings, and 20 percent is wasted in industry or manufacturing.

A major culprit across all industries is heat waste, the byproduct of inefficient technology.  As a relative example, think of a traditional incandescent light bulb.  When left on for hours, we notice that the area around the bulb is extremely hot, which indicates that the bulb is not only producing light, but heat as well.  Since the sole purpose of a light bulb is to produce light, all of the energy that goes into producing the heat is a complete waste.  This is part of the reason why our government is slowly phasing out incandescent bulbs and encouraging the purchase of more efficient bulbs, like CFLs.  Although this is a small scaled example, the same concept can be applied to inefficient machinery in a manufacturing plant.

So how do we tame our inefficient tendencies?  We’ve all heard of ways to make our homes more energy efficient, but have we actually made any changes?  Adjust the thermostat at night or when no one is home, upgrade to more efficient lighting, wash your clothes in cold water when you can, make sure your air filters are clean, and for goodness sake, turn off your lights when no one is using them.

When it comes to transportation, we all know public is the way to go in terms of energy efficiency.  But when public transportation is not an option, carpool with your neighbors, ride your bike or walk, and combine shopping trips to limit drive time.

Businesses and industrial facilities have the opportunity to make a big difference, since they are the ones who consume (and waste!) most of our country’s energy.  Investing in lighting upgrades and adjusting thermostat temperatures are two methods that still apply.  Other small changes include limiting the time air conditioners run, installing a smart meter to monitor energy use, and shutting off computers, printers and other energy vampires at the end of every day. On a larger scale, businesses are encouraged to enroll in a demand response program to help limit wasted energy and assist the electric grid in times of excess demand.

The fact that the U.S. is the least energy efficient country in the world may be unbelievable, but it must not be ignored.  Each one of us is able to make at least one change in our daily lives.  Whether it be carpooling, switching to better light bulbs, or looking for additional ways to reduce heat waste, each change will add up to make a huge difference.  If your business is interested in gaining information on ways to become more efficient, look into working with an energy consultant.  They will be able to customize a plan for your facility.  Energy waste has been present in the U.S. for quite some time, so let’s be polite and let another country take the lead in this category.