The search for greener, less polluting energy supplies has dominated discussions of u.s. climate change strategy, but we often overlook cheaper and faster greenhouse gas emissions reductions achievable through energy efficiency and conservation. In this article, I outline a decade-long "greening demand" agenda to reduce the amount of energy consumed in the United States. The federal government should aim to reduce U.S. energy consumption by fifteen percent by 2016 and twenty percent by 2020 to achieve needed reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
While the United States has achieved notable efficiency gains since the 1970s, several market failures and other barriers continue to serve as obstacles to energy savings. These include principal-agent divergence, high implicit discount rates used in decision making on efficiency upgrades, and outmoded forms of utility regulation. I demonstrate how a greening demand agenda, centered on price signals, performance standards, informational tools, and changes in utility regulation can be used to overcome these barriers. Many of the challenges are technical and scientific, but law will play a central role in structuring incentives and shaping national markets for efficiency innovations. I conclude with some thoughts on the technical and political feasibility of greening demand.
Noah M. Sachs, Greening Demand: Energy Consumption and U.S. Climate Policy,19 Duke Envtl. L. & Pol'y F. 295 (2009)