OPEC drove the oil prices high enough to profoundly alter the world economy, causing the overall energy utilization rate to slow its increase. Owing to the time delay between the price increase and the subsequent response from the system, several years elapsed before a new equilibrium was established. We witnessed a major overshooting of the oil-producing capacity and a softening of prices up to the 1991 Iraqi crisis.
The recent effort of less developed countries (LDCs) to catch up with developed ones has been an important factor in the increase in energy demand. Figure 1.4 shows the uneven distribution of energy utilization rate throughout the world; 72% of the world population uses less than 2 kW/ capita, whereas 6% of the population uses more than 7 kW/ capita.
There is a reasonable correlation between the total energy utilization rate and the annual gross national product. About 2.2 W are used per dollar of yearly GNP. To generate each dollar, 69 MJ are needed. These figures, based on 1980 dollars, vary with time, owing to the devaluation of the currency and to changing economic circumstances. In fact, it has been demonstrated that the number of megajoules per dollar decreases, during an energy crisis, while the opposite trend occurs during a financial crisis.
Further industrialization of developed countries may not necessarily translate into an increase in the per capita energy utilization rate—the trend toward higher efficiency in energy use may have a compensating effect. However, in the United States, the present decline in energy utilization^ is due mainly to a change in the nature of industrial production. Energy-intensive primary industries (such as steel production) are phasing out owing to foreign competition, while sophisticated secondary industries (such as electronics and genetic engineering) are growing.
Technological innovation has led to more efficient energy use. Examples include better insulation in houses and better mileage in cars. Alternate energy sources have somewhat alleviated the demand for fossil fuels. Bioethanol is replacing some gasoline. It is possible that the development of fusion reactors will, one day, bring back the times of abundant energy.
Introduction of a more efficient device does not immediately result in energy economy because it takes considerable time for a new device to be widely accepted. The reaction time of the economy tends to be long. Consider the privately owned fleet of cars. A sudden rise in gasoline price t American industry used less energy in 1982 than in 1973.
has little effect on travel, but it increases the demand for fuel efficiency. However, car owners don't rush to buy new vehicles while their old ones are still usable. Thus, the overall fuel consumption will only drop many years later, after a significant fraction of the fleet has been updated.
Large investments in obsolete technologies substantially delay the introduction of more efficient systems. A feeling for the time constants involved can be obtained from study of the market penetration function, discussed in Section 1.7.
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