“There is an urgent need to consider ways to accelerate the decoupling of energy and CO2 emissions from economic growth,” said Claude Mandil, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency
(IEA) at the launch in Brussels of Oil Crises and Climate Challenges: 30 Years of Energy Use in IEA Countries.
This new publication examines how energy efficiency and factors such as economic structure, income, lifestyle, climate, prices and fuel mix have shaped developments in energy use and CO2 emissions in IEA countries since the organization was founded 30 years ago. It looks at developments sector-by-sector in detail and provides energy policy-makers with data and insights that will help them find ways to use energy efficiency and lower-carbon fuels to achieve a more sustainable future.
One of the major findings of the report is that IEA countries have significantly reduced the need for energy to fuel economic growth. Compared to 1973, it now takes one-third less energy to produce a unit of GDP in IEA economies. An important reason for this development is the considerable energy savings that have taken place in the various branches of manufacturing, in different end-uses in households and commercial buildings, and for different modes of passenger and freight transportation. The IEA analysis shows that without the savings achieved since 1973, IEA energy use at the end of the 1990s would have been 50% higher than what it actually was.
Oil continues to dominate the IEA fuel mix. Yet since 1973 oil consumption declined in all sectors except transport. The fall in oil consumption was particularly strong in manufacturing, a result of both switching to other fuels and a strong decline in energy per unit of output. The gains in manufacturing resulted
from improved energy efficiency and shifts to a less energy intensive
structure (“more chips, less steel”). The decline in oil demand was offset by the growth in transport oil demand, so that IEA oil
demand levels in 2001 were comparable to those in 1973. The most important reason behind the growth in transport demand is the increased use of cars for passenger travel. Car ownership levels have risen by 100% or more in many countries since 1973, and while car engines have become more efficient over the years, cars have also become bigger, heavier and more powerful. This has served to limit improvements in average fuel efficiency.
As a consequence, oil use for cars grew almost 50% between 1973 and 1998. Furthermore, oil use for freight increased by 80% over the same period, a result of strong growth in freight haulage and by a steadily increasing share of trucking which is much more energy intensive than rail and shipping .