The Pew Center on Global Climate Change has just published a few interesting charts on energy use in residential buildings. Here, for instance, is what we tend to use electricity (and, in some places, gas) for in our homes:
And how has energy use changed over time? As the second chart below illustrates, our appliances have become more efficient over the past 20 years. Air conditioners, for instance, which account for a particularly large fraction of summer electricity bills, are getting sleeker. Overall, we’re using less energy per square foot. But that’s been counteracted by the fact that houses and apartments in the United States have kept getting bigger, which means that overall energy use continues to climb:
Either way, those are the trends. As Barrett notes, “The even more interesting question is whether efficiency growth can ever overpower the effect of income growth and start reducing energy consumption in absolute terms.” So far, it hasn’t happened.