If you've got it, flaunt it. That seems to be Canada's approach to energy efficiency, according to a new survey of the world's top economies. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy measured countries in 27 ways, drawing on data as targeted as fuel use to as a broad as national policies.
All combined, Canada came in 11th, which sounds good until you learn the study was confined to the 12 largest economies. And only Russia fared worse. Even China, the country that was forced to shutter a huge swatch of factories during the Olympics so spectators could see the sky, came out ahead of us.
In fairness, it's not as if Canada was rock bottom in every category. In "National Effort", meaning the goals in place around energy consumption, Canada ranked 8th, ahead of the U.S., among others. But in energy use per capita, the amount of oil used per person, we were dead last, six times worse than even Brazil, a nation that was amongst the worst in every category.
The research was based on information gathered between 2009 and 2010 and thus left out any significant recent innovations. As Canada didn't pull out of the Kyoto Accord until 2011, the study's timing could only have helped.
The opposite is true for China, which has recently instituted an extremely aggressive series of protocols, requiring almost all private companies to meet carbon targets. Even with that omission, China ranked 10 spots ahead of us in the energy efficiency of their buildings and transportation system.
It might be tempting to dismiss the findings as being fundamentally structured against countries such as Canada and Russia, under-populated nations that span huge distances, and are either searing hot or freezing cold much of the year, necessitating peak energy consumption. But in fact, differences in climate and geography were factored into the equation and didn't significantly impact the results, according to the co-author Sara Hayes. Dead last means dead last, regardless of the reasons why.
Some might argue that rampant energy use is a good fit for Canada, being one of the world's largest producers of oil and gas. The flipside, of course, is the more we consume, the less we export. And the more we spend on fueling our homes and businesses, the less money there is available for other purposes. To say nothing of the environment costs involved.
The top performer, by far, in the study was the United Kingdom, finishing tops in performance in the industry and transportation categories, and second overall, to Germany, in national policies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the European countries, with fewer natural resources, ranked consistently higher than oil-producers such as Canada, Russia, the U.S. and China.
- The United Kingdom
- The European Union, Australia, Japan (3-way tie)
9. The United States