Unpublished Letter to the NYT on Energy Efficiency

January 26th, 2009

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Last week I identified a major error in how the NYT assessed US energy efficiency as compared to other nations. The NYT asserted that 70% of countries are more efficient that the US, and the actual number is about 30%. I submitted a letter that was not published, though they did publish 7 letters on their efficiency op-ed. Here is my unpublished letter:

Dear Editor:

The Editorial of 19 January 2008 (“Energy Inefficient”) commits a major mistake by asserting that about 70% (75 of 109) countries are more efficient than the United States. In addition to confusing the concept of “carbon dioxide of the economy” with “energy efficency,” the editorial’s statement obviously relies on international measures of economic product based on market exchange rates. Experts typically use a different measure, called purchasing power parity, to conduct such international comparisons. When the analysis is done based on this measure, the United States is more efficent than about 70% of all countries. This may help to explain the editorial’s bizarre implication that the United States might emulate Mexico or Thailand in its energy policies. The United States can indeed vastly improve its efficiency, and examples to emulate include Japan and Germany. however, starting with a fundamental misconception of the challenge is unlikely to set the stage for effective policy.


Roger A. Pielke, Jr.
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO

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