The president's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), in a report contradicting the views of some administration officials, yesterday said that the United States can achieve a high economic growth rate while reducing energy consumption.
Issuing a report that could lead to a redirection of the administration's long-range energy planning, CEQ said that with "a determined effort," the United States could increase its economic growth by from 60 to 90 percent by the year 2000 while increasing energy use by only 15 percent.
"The energy reductions we are talking about do not require substantial changes in lifestyle," said Gus Speth, one of CEQ's three members.
While warning that reducing the rate of energy growth "will not be easy or cheap," CEQ's 49-page study says that "it will be far easier and less costly" than maintaining a high rate of energy growth. The CEQ report proposes a wide range of policies to raise energy prices, to stiffen conservation measures (such as requiring more efficient autos) and, to use off-the-shelf technology to boost energy efficiency.
A CEQ report issued last year called for increased reliance on solar energy. It spurred a formal domestic policy review of federal solar energy programs upon which President Carter is expected to act in the next weeks.
Until 1975, the growth in energy and the gross national product -- a measure of economic productivity -- rose at near identical rates.
Since 1975, however, the growth rates for energy consumption and gross national product have begun to "uncouple," as Energy Secretary James R. Schlesinger says. Many economists believe that there is a limit to how much energy consumption can be reduced without a sharp cutback in economic growth.
CEQ disagrees, citing as examples the western industrial countries of Sweden, West Germany, and Switzerland, which have high economic growth with low rates of energy use.
Last week, Deputy Energy Secretary John F. O'Leary said that the future rate of energy growth could be cut in half, but that it was unlikely that the country could do so and still maintain a high economic growth rate.
CEQ's analysis draws on results of 44 recent conservation studies and finds that by pressing conservation programs, the United States could forgo rapid expansion of nuclear power. The advisory council also said that by limiting the growth of energy demand, the United States would not have to meet President Carter's goal to double coal production by 1985. According to Speth, if the United States does not lower energy demand, it will have to build new power generation plants at the rate of nearly two a month until the end of the century.
The CEQ study, entitled "The Good News About Energy," states that by turning to available technology, the consumption by 30 to 40 percent.
CEQ says that the United States' energy requirements, projected to amount to 120 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs) in the year 2000, could be held to 85 quadrillion BTUs by that time. U.S. energy consumption in 1977 amounted to 77.5 quadrillion BTUs. (Two quadrillion BTUs are equivalent to 2 million barrels of oil a day in consumption.)
To improve energy efficiency CEQ calls for raising energy prices to "replacement costs" -- the price set by the oil cartel -- by enacting a variation of the crude oil equalization tax Congress rejected last year. CEQ also recommended removing or cutting energy production subsidies and reforming utility rates.
In addition, CEQ calls for new auto efficiency standards above 27.5 miles per gallon set for 1985; encouragement to the states to limit parking; a rise in gasoline taxes; and pressure for recycling efforts.