NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Conservation Wastes Energy

May 17, 2001

Despite eight years of Clinton administration energy policies that put conservation above production, energy consumption hasn't gone down. In fact, it has risen by an average of about 1.7 percent a year since the early 1980s.

Some experts contend forced conservation distorts supply and demand, and actually causes people to use more energy -- not less. Making a product more efficient makes it cheaper to use.

  • Since 1970, the U.S. has made cars almost 50 percent more efficient -- with the result that the average number of miles a person drives has doubled.
  • Studies show that when consumers buy more energy-efficient air conditioners, they run them longer because it still costs the same amount.
  • Energy economists recognize that the only tool which effectively promotes conservation is market prices -- which go up as demand increases and supplies contract.

Some political analysts contend that promoters of conservation recognize this flaw in their arguments. So they have joined with environmental extremists to demand a freeze on development -- for the sake of "nature."

Source: Kimberley A. Strassel, "Conservation Wastes Energy," Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2001.

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