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Physicists Urge Energy Efficiency as Top Priority

“The Opportunities are Huge and the Costs Are Small”

A report released today by the American Physical Society urges the United States to prioritize energy efficiency in cars and buildings as a means of addressing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The report from the 46,000 member organization characterizes the energy crisis as the worst in U.S. history and that the physics and chemistry behind the human causes of global warming is “well understood and beyond dispute”.

Learn Why Physicists Urge Energy Efficiency as Top Priority

Physicists Urge Energy Efficiency as Top Priority
American Physical Society urges energy efficiency as a solution for the energy crisis

While the mantra and imagined solution to the energy crises from some remains summarized in the all-too-familiar phrase drill now, the report concludes that increasing energy efficiency is “comparable to discovering a hidden U.S. energy reserve”. One that is relatively easy and cheap to tap – “far easier than tapping new supplies of any kind”. Yet, the country is “slow to catch on” in fully utilizing the potential of energy efficiency, a strategy that would also reduce costs without sacrificing “comfort and convenience”.

Energy that you don’t use is free. It’s not imported and it doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases. Most of the things we recommend don’t cost anything to the economy. The economy will save money”, says Burton Richter, who chaired the study panel and is the 1976 winner of the Nobel Peace prize in physics, “The bottom line is that the quickest way to do something about America’s use of energy is through energy efficiency”.

The two key areas where efficiency can derive the most benefit are transportation and buildings, which together consume two-thirds of our energy. Many of the short-term strategies to improve efficiency will cost little to implement, but the report urges the federal government to increase spending on research and development of next-generation building technologies as well as for development of batteries for hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and battery electric vehicles.

Following are key points from the report:


  • Technologies are available to safely move beyond the 35 mile per gallon Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard mandated by law by the year 2020. The federal government should establish policies to ensure that new light-duty vehicles average 50 mpg or more by 2030.
  • Plug-in hybrids require more efficient and more durable batteries able to withstand deep discharges that are not yet in commercial large-scale production. Given the technical difficulties, plug-in hybrids will not replace the standard American car in the near future.
  • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have the potential to eliminate gasoline usage, but they also require scientific breakthroughs, including advances in fuel cells, catalysts and on-board hydrogen storage systems


  • Energy use by buildings could be no higher in 2030 than it is today if technologies that are available or in the pipeline are installed in a cost-effective manner.
  • Widespread, cost-effective construction of residential zero energy buildings (ZEB)—buildings that use no net energy—is feasible by 2020, except in hot, humid climates.
  • Widespread, cost-effective construction of ZEB commercial buildings by 2030—a current goal in law and of many groups—will not be possible without an intensified federal program of research, development and demonstration.
  • Current green building rating systems such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) do not appear to give sufficient weight to energy efficiency

The American people need leadership from the Congress and the next president on this issue,” says Richter, “Both Senators McCain and Obama have outlined plans for improving energy efficiency and the important role new technologies will play in our energy future. The next leader of the United States will have an opportunity to be the first in history to lay the necessary groundwork to reduce energy use among Americans”.

Global Warming (excerpt from report)

The physics and chemistry of the greenhouse-gas effect are well understood and beyond dispute. Science has also achieved an overwhelming consensus that the increase in greenhouse gases is largely of human origin, tracing back to the Industrial Revolution and accelerating in recent years, as carbon dioxide and methane – the products of fossil fuel use – have entered the atmosphere in increasing quantities. Modeling the climate has proven to be a complex scientific task. But although the models are far from perfect, many of their predictions are so alarming that conservative, risk-averse policymaking requires that they be considered with extraordinary gravity.”

APS Report:
Energy=Future | Science Fact Sheet | FAQ’s | Executive Summary (pdf)

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7 thoughts on “Physicists Urge Energy Efficiency as Top Priority
  1. There is only one complete and exact computer of global climate and that is the planet itself. By definition it complies with all laws of nature including physics and quantum mechanics. Einstein said “no number of tests can prove I’m right but only one is needed to prove I’m wrong”. That one test, that proves that the theory that added atmospheric carbon dioxide causes significant global warming is wrong, was run on the planet computer and the results are archived in the Vostok ice cores. They show that, repeatedly, a temperature increasing trend changed to a decreasing trend with the carbon dioxide level higher than it had been when the temperature was increasing. Graphs of NOAA and other credible data, all fully sourced so they can be verified, can be seen at . Those who understand how feedback works will know that this temperature trend reversal is not possible with significant net positive feedback.

    Other assessments from entirely different perspectives also determine that there is no significant net positive feedback. They can be seen at , and . Thus, as far as global climate is concerned and contrary to the assumption in the GCMs, significant net positive feedback and therefore anthropogenic (human caused) global warming does not exist.

  2. Enviro,

    Thanks for the comment. I agree that earth is the best “model”, yet there is no mention of empirical data (matching or exceeding models, but never mind that).

    I’d rather study NOAA data from the NOAA itself and an op-ed piece. But I will look at all your sources – some of whom are well known climate change deniers. Are we to discount the legion of climate scientists that do not agree with these few?

    Here are some interesting sources for you:

    Really, thanks for the comment, at least you came in citing sources and acting civil.

  3. I avoided using the word ‘model’ since the ‘computer’ is the planet itself. There is no issue of how accurate the simulation is. The empirical data is that archived in proxies. Unfortunately the further back in time we go the more we must depend on proxies.

    The main problem with proxies is that they all contain ‘noise’ and some may also contain biases, known and unknown. But far enough back in time, that is all there is. Fortunately all that is needed to determine if there is net positive feedback is a temperature trace for a long enough time to average out cyclic variation from random noise and other factors. The temperature trace does not even need to be correct in absolute terms just reasonably accurate in relative terms time-wise.

    Much of the Middlebury link is just graphs of NOAA data. It is well referenced so anything can be checked. You will find that it is all valid.

    I have never been intimidated by consensus. My knee-jerk question “how can I determine if this is just group-think?”

    Realize also that this addresses only the issue of the net effect (or lack there of) of atmospheric carbon dioxide on the average global temperature. Humans have put other GHGs in the atmosphere but I have never seen where anyone tried to quantify their effect on temperature or anything else. Until shown otherwise, I assume that their effect is too small to be detected.

    Humanity still faces the issues of peak oil, mercury and radiation from coal, and the need for energy. Eventually, all fossil fuels will be scarce (and I will be long dead). Then, all energy will be distributed by electricity. With enough energy, liquid fuels can be synthesized for transportation. Nuclear breeder reactors (nuclear power plants release less nuclear radiation to the environment than coal plants), using presently available technology can provide all of the energy that humanity will need for millions of years.

    Thanks for the links. I welcome finding out what others think. I have yet to find anything technical and valid that refutes what my current perception is but my search is relentless.

  4. Solar Energy World Wide / A End to Oil

    Solar Energy carports at our commuter Rail Stations, Schools, Homes and Businesses World wide will produce electricity and recharge Electric Vehicles. The Roofs all over the Globe are starting to be covered with Photovoltaic Panels Powered by the SUN Solar Energy. Many Cities and Industry around the Globe are starting to cover their parking lots carports and roofs with Solar Panels.
    Solar Energy and Electric Cars and Electric Vehicles that have solar covered skin or body and recharge from Solar, Wind and Renewable Energy. Will Soon be all over the Earth. Now if you wish to get into Solar or Electric Vehicles that market will grow like a weed or wild fire.
    You will make more in Solar Energy then any other Product and your Productivity will go up grow way more then you can ever want. Free Energy from GOD the SUN Solar Energy.
    Solar Energy has More then Doubled in the last Year.

    GOD Bless
    and May HE Guide you all.

    The Lord’s Little Helper
    Paul Felix Schott
    many a Nation have fallen from taxing their people to Death. You want Prosperity and for thing to Flourish and grow lower all taxes. You want thriving, success, or good fortune for only a few, keep over taxing all.
    Solar, Wind and Renewable Energy Freedom from OIL. The Humanitarian thing to do. Solar Energy.

  5. The Fastest Growing Industry on Earth as Archimedes would say the least, EUREKA it is exceedingly colossal.

    The day is coming that most all on Earth will use Solar Energy.
    Most will have PV Solar Panels on their roofs. The Free Energy from the Sun will be used to Make Electric.
    The surplus of Electric not used will then be used to split water into Hydrogen. The Hydrogen will be put
    into a tank like most farmer and people living out of town already have. This Hydrogen will power their
    stove to cook, car to drive and power generator to use as electric at night.

    Very soon the need for the Power Grid will be gone for most. As the great need for Oil will no longer be needed.
    There were 200 electric taxi cabs in New York City way before 200 gas Taxi cabs came into being there.
    Thomas Edison’s Interest in Renewable Energy is no big surprise, for it was his friend Albert Einstein
    that dreamed this dream that the day will come that All On Earth Would Use Solar Energy for the GOOD OF ALL.

    Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize for the 1921 year. For his work and time and efforts to freely show
    Governments and Universities around the world they could get Electric from the Sun Solar Energy
    Photovoltaics The Discovery of the Law of Physics call The PHOTOELECTRIC EFFECT. To this day we do not
    teach this to our young in schools. Have no worry Albert Einstein’s Dream is becoming real 100 years later.

    Archimedes another genius had this same dream 2,250 years ago. Very little is said in schools about these
    two and the work they did to show the world. The Free Energy all could get from the Sun in the Heavens above.
    These two Brilliant Mathematician and Scientist were always glad to teach all that had ears to hear.
    Archimedes and Albert Einstein two of the smartest men to ever live on Earth.

    The day will soon be when Hybrid and Electric cars will out number the one that need Oil and gas.

    God Bless
    All that Spotlighting Solar and Renewable Energy
    The Lord’s Little Helper
    Paul Felix Schott

    to know more about Hydrogen, get The Freedom Element Living with Hydrogen by Dr. Addison Bain another Great Scientist That has worked to help others all of his life.

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