40 Years Back, 40 Years Forward  

Posted by Big Gav

RMI Outlet has a look back at the 1970's oil crisis - "What the 1973 Arab oil embargo taught us about energy efficiency, innovation, and moving to a fossil-free future" - 40 Years Back, 40 Years Forward. There is an accompanying article from Amory Lovins - What Did the 1973 Oil Embargo Teach Us?.

Today, in 2013, we are approximately halfway between the Arab oil embargo of 1973 and the fossil-free future RMI envisions by 2050 in Reinventing Fire. There are both similarities and differences in what happened in the 70s and what is happening today. The main impetus for conserving energy four decades ago was our lack of access to oil and the realization we should not depend on foreign imports. Now, forty years later, instead of a fuel crisis, we have a climate crisis. We recognize the environmental urgency of curbing our fossil fuel use as we never have before. Hopefully, we can learn from what we went through 40 years ago to help us get to where we want to be 40 years from now. ...

Yet we learned that in a crisis, the nation can do what it takes to reduce our energy consumption. Today, while we no longer have an artificial shortage of imported fossil fuels, we have melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and a warming planet. It’s time to take the innovation that occurred in the 1970s to a new level as we face today’s crisis—climate change.

We’re already on the way, thanks in part to some of the efficiency initiatives and innovation that came out of the 70s. Today’s appliances require less than half the energy they did four decades ago. Heating systems are now 20 percent more efficient. The past couple of decades have seen a renewed interest in solar and wind power. Global wind power capacity has grown from 18 GW in 2000 to 282.5 GW today. Over the past five years alone, global installed PV capacity grew by 900 percent.

U.S. car manufacturers, who were being outdone by Japanese companies faster to bring fuel-efficient cars to the American market in the late 1970s and early 1980s, are making not only more fuel-efficient cars, but a plethora of electric cars. And some of today’s American-made fuel-efficient cars are modeled after the unsuccessful 1970s cars Detroit produced in response to the oil crisis (with some improvements, of course!). Yet we still have a way to go.

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