Minnesotans For Sustainability©
Sustainable Society: A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.
Immigration and the Energy Crisis
Immigration’s Impact on U.S. Energy Usage*
Donald F. Anthrop
In December 1997, representatives from over 160 nations met in Kyoto, Japan, to negotiate binding limitations on greenhouse gas emissions. The outcome of the conference was the Kyoto Protocol, under which the developed nations agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions relative to levels emitted in 1990.1 In November 2001, representatives from these countries met in Marrakech, Morocco, to negotiate the details of the Kyoto Protocol. The result of this conference was an agreement by the industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 emission levels between 2008 and 2012.
The United States has so far refused to sign the agreement, but world political pressures appear likely to force the U.S. to undertake efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide, within the next few years. Such efforts will be particularly onerous if U.S. population growth, driven by high immigration, continues on its present path.
An examination of the relationship between energy consumption, population growth, and immigration in the U.S. shows the following:
Immigration and the Energy Crisis:
The U.S. is using more energy than it used in previous years; in 2000, we used 30 percent more energy than in 1973. But that’s not because individuals are using more energy; it’s entirely because there are more people.
Table 1 presents a summary of the resident U.S. population, energy consumption, and per capita energy consumption for selected years from 1973 to 2000.
Years 1973 and 1974 are of special significance. In October 1973, the Arab members of OPEC, unhappy with U.S. policies in the Middle East, initiated an embargo on oil shipments to the U.S. Because of the transit time of tankers from the Persian Gulf to the U.S., the effects of the embargo were not felt until early 1974. Thus, 1973 is generally viewed as pre-embargo. Of far greater significance than the embargo itself was the era of higher oil prices ushered in by the embargo. The average price of crude oil imported into the U.S. jumped from $5.21 per barrel in 1973 to $10.91 in 1974.2 (A barrel of crude oil contains 42 gallons.)
As the last column in Table 1 shows, per capita energy consumption in the year 2000 was virtually the same as in 1974. Thus, the 25-quad increase in energy consumption during this period was due almost entirely to the 68.6 million people added to the U.S. population.
Thermal energy is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). A BTU is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. U.S. energy consumption is usually expressed in quadrillion [1,015] BTU. One quadrillion BTU is called a quad. Table 1 shows U.S. energy usage in BTU.
Between 1974 and 2000, total legal immigration was 19.279 million. Since U.S. population increase was 68.576 million during that same period, direct legal immigration accounted for 28.1 percent of that population increase.
Illegal immigration also provides a significant portion of population growth. The Census Bureau estimates that 8.7 million people in the U.S. are illegal aliens. Thus, legal and illegal immigration together directly accounted for about 40 percent of population growth during this period.
Immigration also has an additional, indirect impact on population growth;
immigrants, legal or illegal, who have children after they arrive in the U.S.
multiply their effect on population growth in the United States. If those 28
million immigrants followed average birth rates over the last quarter century,
they would have had about 400,000 children. The actual number would be
influenced by a variety of factors, including the male-female ratio of the
population, their ages, and infant survival rates.
Illegal immigrants who were granted legal permanent residence under the amnesty program of the Immigration Reform and Control Act [IRCA] of 1986
The close correlation between U.S. energy consumption and population growth is further illustrated by the data in Table 3, which present a breakdown of energy consumption by consuming sector. The table shows that per capita energy consumption in the residential sector remained virtually unchanged from the 1973 – 1974 period to the year 2000.
Thus, almost the entire 34 percent increase in residential energy use was due to population growth.
As the table shows, energy consumption in the industrial sector increased only about 3 quads between 1973 and the year 2000, and per capital consumption actually declined about 18 percent. Several factors were responsible for this decline: First, in response to the increase in energy prices that began in 1974, U.S. industry installed more energy-efficient production equipment. Secondly, some historically energy-intensive industries such as steel and basic materials have moved offshore.
Also, the decrease in per capita consumption in this sector reflects a basic structural change that has occurred in the U.S. economy. Today, a greater percentage of GDP is derived from service industries such as banking, financial services, medical services, travel services, etc. Most of the energy used in these service industries appears in the commercial energy category in Table 3. Indeed, when per capita energy consumption in the commercial and industrial sectors are added together, we find there has been very little change in the totals. Between 1974 and 2000, the sum of per capita energy consumption in the commercial and industrial sectors declined by 4.3 percent while total energy consumption in these two sectors increased from 41.2 quads to 52.1 quads. Thus, this 10.93 quad increase is attributable entirely to population growth.
Add to that the 4.75 quad increase from residential usage, and there is, so far, an increase of 15.68 quads between 1974 and 2000 that is entirely due to population growth.
In the transportation sector, energy consumption between 1974 and 2000 increased by 9 quads. There was also a 13 percent increase in per capita energy consumption in this sector, a fact which many environmentalists ascribe to the popularity of sport utility vehicles (SUV's) in recent years. A popular theory, perhaps, but probably not true, as the following facts show.
Per capita motor gasoline consumption in the U.S. was virtually unchanged between 1974 and 2000 despite major improvements in the fuel efficiency of new vehicles. Per capita motor gasoline consumption was 471 gallons in 1974 and 463 gallons in 2000.5 Over this same time period the fuel efficiency of the U.S. passenger car fleet increased from 13.6 miles per gallon (mpg) to 21.4 mpg and the fuel efficiency of the light truck fleet (including vans and SUV's) increased from 11.0 to 17.1 mpg.6
fact that vehicle-miles increased more than three times as fast as the
population should not be surprising. In the first place, as the population of an
urban region grows, the urbanized area increases in size, and the residential
areas are almost always on the periphery of the urban region.
Therefore commute distances are increased. Secondly, population growth has
caused property values near some urban centers to rise dramatically.
Finally, it should be noted that the fastest growing component of transportation energy has been jet fuel. Between 1974 and 2000, jet fuel consumption increased from 2.03 quads to 3.58 quads and per capita consumption rose from 71 gallons in 1974 to 94 gallons in 2000.8 This increase in per capita consumption was responsible for about 0.90 quads of the 1.55 quad increase in jet fuel consumption between 1974 and 2000. Hence, during this time period, 5.84 quads of the increase in transportation energy usage was attributable entirely to population growth.
However, it is in U.S. efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, particularly
carbon dioxide, that the effects of immigration will be felt most keenly. Under the Kyoto Protocol, the industrialized nations agreed to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 emission levels
between 2008 and 2012. Let us examine the effects that immigration will have on such efforts. Suppose the U.S. were to ratify the agreement and agree to reduce carbon
dioxide emissions 5.2 percent below 1990 emissions. There may be some
opportunities to buy emission credits from some countries, such as the former
Soviet Union, which have unused credits to trade. There also may be
opportunities to earn emission credits by creating sinks, such as forests, in
which to store carbon dioxide. However, none of these options are assured. While some reduction in carbon dioxide emissions could be achieved by fuel
switching (primarily substituting natural gas for coal and oil), significant
fuel switching would quickly drive up natural gas prices. Nuclear power reactors
are unlikely to provide any additional energy by 2012 because of the long lead
times needed for siting and licensing reactors. Renewables, which are of course
favored by environmentalists, are also unlikely to provide much additional
energy. In 1973 renewables, excluding hydropower, contributed about 1.6 quads to
the U.S. energy supply. (Table 3 shows that U.S.
However, it is in U.S. efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide, that the effects of immigration will be felt most keenly.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, the industrialized nations agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 emission levels between 2008 and 2012.
Let us examine the effects that immigration will have on such efforts.
Suppose the U.S. were to ratify the agreement and agree to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 5.2 percent below 1990 emissions. There may be some opportunities to buy emission credits from some countries, such as the former Soviet Union, which have unused credits to trade. There also may be opportunities to earn emission credits by creating sinks, such as forests, in which to store carbon dioxide. However, none of these options are assured.
While some reduction in carbon dioxide emissions could be achieved by fuel switching (primarily substituting natural gas for coal and oil), significant fuel switching would quickly drive up natural gas prices. Nuclear power reactors are unlikely to provide any additional energy by 2012 because of the long lead times needed for siting and licensing reactors. Renewables, which are of course favored by environmentalists, are also unlikely to provide much additional energy. In 1973 renewables, excluding hydropower, contributed about 1.6 quads to the U.S. energy supply. (Table 3 shows that U.S.energy consumption in 1973 was 75.8 quads.)
In the year 2000, the contribution of renewables, excluding hydropower, had
increased to only 3.7 quads, and part of this was corn-derived ethanol derived
used as a gasoline additive.9 Unfortunately,
the production of ethanol from corn requires the input of slightly more fossil
energy than is released in the combustion of the ethanol. The production of
hydropower has remained relatively constant at about three quads, and while
hydropower is a renewable resource, environmental opposition to dams essentially
precludes any significant additional hydropower capacity.
But such a reduction would have to be made despite a growing population; is that possible? To find out, let us next estimate the projected population growth between 2000 and 2012. This growth will be composed of the natural increase (births minus deaths) plus immigration.
In order to estimate the natural increase, we calculate the natural rate of increase from birth rates and death rates over the 9-year period 1990 – 1998.10 The average natural rate of increase over this period is 0.665 percent per year. As noted in the footnotes to Table 2, at the end of FY 2000, there was a backlog of one million immigration status adjustment applications pending.11 Historically, 7 percent have been denied.12 Therefore, we assume 930,000 will be approved.
For the purposes of estimating the U.S. population in 2012, we have further
assumed that 93,000 of these status adjustment cases will be admitted each
year from 2001 to 2010. We assume that the number of immigrants subject to
numerical limitation remains at 675,000 each year.
1990 through 1997 was 119,700. These are in addition to immigrants subject to a numerical cap. (We have excluded data for years 1998 – 2000 from this calculation because the reduced number of asylees and refugees admitted during those years was the result of the mounting backlog of status adjustment cases.)
We therefore estimate that total legal immigration will average at least 887,700
between 2001 and 2010 and 794,700 in fiscal years 2011 and 2012. Total
immigration between 2001 and 2012 is therefore estimated to be 10.47 million.
The natural rate of increase combined with the 10.47 million immigrants yields a
projected U.S. population of 315.6 million in 2012.
We Won’t be Able to Meet Emission-Reductions Goals Unless we Slow Down Immigration-Driven Population Growth
Suppose that U.S. energy consumption in 2012 is limited to 80 quads (5.2
percent below the 1990 level). Per capita energy consumption would have to fall
to 253 million BTU, a 28 percent reduction from the 2000 level. (See Table 1.) A
required reduction in energy consumption of this magnitude would necessitate
major lifestyle changes for Americans and cause serious economic dislocations.
U.S. industry will be at a competitive disadvantage to manufacturers in both Europe and undeveloped countries.
Many analysts suspect that Europe’s enthusiasm for the Kyoto Protocol stems partly from the fact that the nations in Western Europe have an essentially stable population and will therefore be able to meet restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions much more easily than the U.S., thereby giving European industry a competitive advantage. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Energy projects a population growth rate in Western Europe as well as Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union of zero through 2020.13
It is important to note that immigration is the principal reason the natural rate of increase of population is so much higher in the U.S. than in Europe (0.665 percent in the U.S. versus 0.0 in Europe).14
The data show quite clearly that the United States will not be able to achieve any meaningful reductions in carbon dioxide emissions without serious economic and social consequences for American citizens unless immigration is sharply curtailed.
Failure to address the immigration issue is only rendering the energy problem
1. Impacts of the Kyoto Protocol on U.S. Energy Markets and Economic
Activity, Summary, Report No. SR/OIAF/98-03, DOE/EIA.
[MFS note: works of several of the cited authors are available on the "Sustainability Authors" page here.]
Donald F. Anthrop
Donald F. Anthrop is a Professor of Environmental Studies at San Jose State
University and the author of numerous papers and articles on environmental
issues. The author of the sections on power and energy resources in several
encyclopedias, Dr. Anthrop was a consultant to the California Energy Commission
on energy conservation standards and has testified on behalf of the Sierra Club
regarding water resources.
Copies are available from FAIR. See original at FAIR < www.fairus.org/html/publications.html >.
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