We all know that renewable energy, sustainable energy use, and energy responsibility are key issues of concern. We hear about them nearly every day, but how often do we hear about how our countries are actually doing in these efforts? Who has the most responsible energy usage in the world—and who is the most worrisome right now? Let’s take a look at how the world is performing when it comes to saving energy.
Who are the biggest consumers?
According to the US Department of Energy, and perhaps contrary to popular belief, the US is the biggest consumer of energy in the world. Consuming 21% of the world’s energy, the US outranks even China (16%), which is often portrayed to be the biggest energy consumer. The US is also, according to 2006 statistics, the highest producer of energy. In 2006, the US produced 71 quadrillion Btus out of the total world production of 469 quadrillion Btus. China ranked second in production (67.7 quadrillion Btu), followed by Russia (53.3 quadrillion Btu), Saudi Arabia (24.7 quadrillion Btu), Canada (19.3 quadrillion Btu), and Iran (13.1 quadrillion Btu).
However, the amount of energy being consumed isn’t the only factor we need to look at when it comes to saving energy. We also need to examine the types of energy that are being consumed. The US isn’t just consuming the most energy in the world; it is also consuming the most petroleum. The US and China are the top global consumers of petroleum (the US, consuming 20.7% of the world’s petroleum, almost doubles China’s consumption); however, both countries out-consume their production rates, forcing them to rely on countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia, who produce more petroleum than they need to consume.
Who are the biggest producers of renewable energy?
The majority of the world is embracing renewable energy sources as a means of saving energy, lowering carbon footprints, and boosting economic resources (and stability), but there are a few countries who are already way ahead of the pack. For instance, according to the Climate Council, Sweden initiated a competition in 2015 to become the first 100% renewable country by eliminating fossil fuel usage within its borders entirely; Costa Rica produced 99% of its energy through renewable sources (hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, wind, etc.) in 2015; Nicaragua produced 54% of its electricity production through renewable sources in 2015 after investing the fifth-highest percentage (worldwide) of GDP into renewable energy development; and Scotland’s work on building the world’s largest floating windfarm allowed them to produce the equivalent of 97% of their household electricity needs via wind power in 2015.
Responsible energy use, however, isn’t just about saving energy; it’s about producing and consuming energy in a sustainable way. While some countries are focussing on boosting renewable energy production to reduce their reliance on unsustainable energy consumption, others are also pledging carbon neutrality in order to stop the harmful production of carbon emissions.
So far, one country has achieved carbon neutrality already: Bhutan, a South Asian country located in the Eastern Himalayas, has net zero greenhouse gas emissions, in part because of the low amounts of carbon emissions it produces, but also because of the large forest that covers its expanse, allowing the country to become a carbon sink. The country also pushes a number of progressive policies that centre around environmental protection, including the push to electric cars, which in 2014 already made up a 10th of all cars in the country, and the country’s dependence on hydroelectric power (which does not emit significant greenhouse gases for energy production) for both its energy consumption and its top export.
Other countries that are focussing on carbon neutrality include Costa Rica, Iceland, Maldives, Norway, Tuvalu, Sweden, New Zealand, Vatican City, and Canada’s province of British Columbia.
For more information about saving energy and other responsible energy strategies, visit energyrates.ca.