By Zack Colman - 12/26/12 05:53 PM EST
A new report shows U.S. energy consumption dropping, even as the industry experiences a boost in production.
U.S. energy consumption declined 3 percent between January and September compared with that period last year, according to data the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released Wednesday.
Energy production, however, rose 2 percent through the same time frame. Fossil fuel development increased 3.14 percent, while renewable energy production fell 2.8 percent.
The statistics underscore two energy-related debates sure to get attention in the next Congress — energy efficiency and fossil-fuel drilling on federal lands.
Green groups are hoping some of President Obama’s executive actions will curtail energy consumption further. Meanwhile, the oil-and-gas industry and its congressional allies aim to push Obama to open more federal lands to fossil fuel drilling, boosting domestic energy production.
New shale oil-and-gas plays buoyed much of the energy sector’s growth through the past year. Led by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, most of that increase has come from private and state lands.
The oil-and-gas industry wants Obama to open more federal lands to drilling, saying it could bring additional revenues to the Treasury.
While the White House has praised states' monitoring of fracking — which injects a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals into tight rock formations to tap hydrocarbons — it has been cautious on expanding its use.
Green groups say the process might contaminate drinking water and that it releases heat-trapping methane gas. Industry has said the method is safe.
The Interior Department is set to release regulations for fracking on federal lands next year. Industry and GOP have resisted those rules, warning they might impose a “one-size-fits-all” approach to areas with different geological concerns and considerations.
On the energy demand side, green groups are fixing to get comprehensive energy efficiency legislation through the next Congress.
Organizations ranging from environmental to national security groups want to focus more on enhancing energy efficiency in buildings. Buildings account for 36 percent of the nation’s total energy consumption, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
If Congress proves to be a roadblock, green groups contend Obama will continue using administrative authority to achieve energy efficiency goals.
They point to recently finalized vehicle fuel efficiency standards — which proponents say will help lower transportation-related energy consumption even further — and a directive to improve energy efficiency at manufacturing facilities.