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How Power Companies Have Abandoned Energy Efficiency Programs
Thursday, October 1, 1998

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Hot Enough For You?

The summer of 1998 was the hottest on record, and that’s saying something. After all, the seven warmest years since scientists began keeping records in 1853 have all occurred in the past ten years, and 1997 was the warmest ever. So far, every month of 1998 has broken the temperature record for that month, and July 1998 was the single hottest month on record (NOAA 1998). To put it another way, we’ve probably just lived through the hottest seven-month period in 600 years.

Among scientists, there is a overwhelming consensus that this warming trend is at least partly the result of human activities such as electricity production, which annually spews billions of tons of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere.

In the face of these growing problems utilities should be working overtime to increase energy efficiency. But between 1993 and 1997, U.S. utilities cut their combined investment in energy-saving programs by 45 percent, or $736 million, largely in response to industry deregulation (Figure 1). After promising in the early 1990s to fund and even expand energy conservation programs for their customers, most utilities have done just the opposite (Table 1).

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