Full-Fuel-Cycle Measurement is the Way to Go

The highly regarded National Academies came out with a report yesterday (commissioned by Congress) confirming what the American Gas Association (AGA) has long been heralding about energy efficiency measurements in appliances—that the Department of Energy should measure efficiency in appliances from the point of production (think the natural gas wellhead) and not just “on-site” (think the natural gas burner tip in your kitchen). This more complete and more accurate energy efficiency measurement, called a full-fuel-cycle measurement, takes into account the considerable amount of energy lost in producing, generating and transporting energy to the end use.

In that vein, the study supports the “carbon footprint labeling” provisions that were recently included in the Waxman-Markey climate change legislation, which would expand the existing Federal Trade Commission EnergyGuide labeling program for appliances to include carbon footprint information.

So why do we need this more expansive measurement for our appliances? The answer is so that we as consumers can be fully aware of the energy efficiency of the appliances we’re purchasing for our homes and businesses. For example, 70 percent of the total amount of fuels used in producing, generating and transmitting electricity is lost by the time that electricity reaches a customer. By contrast, producing and delivering natural gas directly only loses about 10 percent of its usable energy. The study issued by the Academies says consumers should be informed, ahead of time, of the full energy efficiency of their appliances. AGA agrees.

As a consumer, would it be helpful for you to know this kind of background information on appliances before you make a large purchase? Let us know what you think.

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