LBNL Report Number
Can an historic analysis of consumption patterns of different commodities in the U.S. shed light on the consumption of energy? Can a review of past policies to reduce or change consumption patterns provide insight or guidance in developing new policies for reducing energy use? In order to better understand energy conservation policies, we take a brief look at the history in the US of consumption and curtailment of different commodities, including energy, raw materials, water, beverages and tobacco. Per capita consumption of all of these commodities has fluctuated over the past 100 years. With few exceptions, policies to reduce their consumption, e.g., prohibition, exhortation, regulation, taxation, have had little effect on consumption. Periods of curtailment, e.g., wartime, natural disasters and other shortages, have led to reductions in consumption, which were generally short lived. In some cases, reductions in consumption resulted in less service. In other cases, reduction in consumption led to changes in the services provided. By reviewing the history of consumption and curtailment we identify strategies that have the potential for promoting the long-term conservation of energy.