Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy
Press coverage of energy, whether from fossil fuels, nuclear, or renewables, tends to be dominated by talk of production. Production is only half the story, though: Every energy equation is a balance between generation and consumption, and both count equally.
As concern has risen about climate change, fossil fuels, and nuclear power, energy efficiency has attracted increasing attention. A 2009 study by McKinsey & Company, “Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy,” looks at the potential benefits of reducing energy consumption. The study concludes that:
- Using existing technology at scale, U.S. energy consumption could be reduced by 23% in 2020 from current levels.
- The resulting savings would be $1.2 trillion for a cost of $520 billion, a net gain of $680 billion
- Such a program would avoid emitting up to 1.1 gigatons of greenhouse gases annually.
In addition, an earlier McKinsey report, “Curbing Global Energy Demand Growth: The Energy Productivity Opportunity,” calculates that energy productivity investments have an internal rate of return of 10% or more. A related paper by the Widener University School of Law, “Stabilizing and then Reducing U.S. Energy Consumption: Legal and Policy Tools for Efficiency and Conservation,” provides a useful guide to realizing the potential benefits of energy efficiency.
Tags: carbon, greenhouse gases, conservation, technology
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
Read the McKinsey & Company study titled "Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy."
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
Read the issue-related New York Times article titled "Economy & Business; Energy Efficiency Could Gain Favor."
- If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the McKinsey & Company study, what key changes would you make?
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.