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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

September 2002

 

Summary
Immigration and the Energy Crisis: Immigration’s Impact on U.S. Energy Usage
    Table 1: Resident U.S. Population, Energy Consumption, and Per Capita Energy Consumption
Immigration is a Major Cause of Population Growth
    Table 2: Legal Immigration into the U.S. Fiscal Years 1974 to 2000
An Even Deeper Connection Between Population and Energy Use
Admissions and Emissions
    Table 3: United States Energy Consumption and Per Capita Energy Consumption by Consuming Sector
Can Emissions be Reduced While Population Grows?
We Won’t be Able to Meet Emission-Reductions Goals Unless we Slow Down Immigration-Driven Population Growth
References

 

Summary

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:

  • Increased population, not increased consumption, is almost entirely responsible for the one-third increase in U.S. energy usage since 1973.
     
  • Immigration is the cause of 40 percent of U.S. population growth in the last quarter century and has been directly responsible for one-third of the increase in energy usage during that period.
     
  • Residential energy use has increased by 34 percent since 1973. Almost that entire increase was due to population growth.
     
  • The U.S. won’t be able to meet emission-reductions goals unless we slow down immigration-driven population growth. Assuming that U.S. immigration levels continue at their current rate, meeting the Kyoto Protocol goals would require that per capita energy consumption in the year 2012 would have to be reduced by 28 percent from the 2000 level, necessitating major lifestyle changes for Americans and cause serious economic dislocations.
     
  • The U.S. will not be able to achieve any meaningful reductions in carbon dioxide emissions without serious economic and social consequences for American citizens if immigration continues at its current levels.

 

Immigration and the Energy Crisis:
Immigration’s Impact on U.S. Energy Usage

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.

 

Table 1: Resident U.S. Population, Energy Consumption,
and Per Capita Energy Consumption

Year

Resident Population

(April 1)

Energy Consumption

(Quadrillion BTU)

Per Capita Energy

Consumption (Million BTU)

1973

210,839,000

75.808

360

1974

212,846,000

74.08

348

1980

226,542,000

78.435

346

1990

248,718,000

84.344

339

2000

281,422,000

99.035

352

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.

 

Immigration is a Major Cause of Population Growth

Table 2 shows legal immigration into the U.S. for fiscal years 1974 to 2000.

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.
 

Between 1974 and 2000, legal and illegal immigration together directly accounted for about 40 percent of population growth.


Table 2: Legal Immigration into the U.S. Fiscal Years 1974 to 20003,4

Fiscal Year

IRCA Legalization*

Non-IRCA Legalization

Total

1974

 

394,861

394,861

1975

 

386,194

386,194

1976

 

398,613

398,613

1977

 

462,315

462,315

1978

 

601,442

601,442

1979

 

460,348

460,348

1980

 

530,639

530,639

1981

 

596,600

596,600

1982

 

594,131

594,131

1983

 

559,763

559,763

1984

 

543,903

543,903

1985

 

570,009

570,009

1986

 

601,708

601,708

1987

 

601,516

601,516

1988

 

643,025

643,025

1989

478,814

612,110

1,090,924

1990

880,372

656,111

1,536,483

1991

1,123,162

704,005

1,827,167

1992

163,342

810,635

973,977

1993

24,278

880,014

904,292

1994

6,022

798,394

804,416

1995

4,267

716,194

720,461

1996

4,635

911,265

915,900

1997

2,548

795,830

798,378

1998

955

659,522

660,477

1999

 

646,568

646,568

2000

 

849,807

849,807

* Illegal immigrants who were granted legal permanent residence under the amnesty program of the Immigration Reform and Control Act [IRCA] of 1986


Our calculations here will not take the indirect contributions into account since they are small compared to the direct ones (during the time period under discussion –over time, they play a much greater role), but it may prove an interesting area for subsequent researchers to explore.


An Even Deeper Connection Between Population
and Energy Use

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
 

There is, so far, an increase of 15.68 quads between 1974 and 2000 that is entirely due to population growth.


The driving factor behind gasoline consumption is vehicle miles, which in turn is driven by population growth. Total vehicle-miles for passenger cars, motorcycles, light trucks and SUV's rose approximately 113 percent between 1974 and 2000.
The 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. People with modest incomes who have been priced out of the housing market in these urban centers have been buying more affordable homes in small towns that, in some cases, are located considerable distances from their places of employment.

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.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.
 

Immigration has been directly responsible for 34 percent of the increase in energy usage in the U.S. in the last quarter century.


Adding the increase caused by population growth in transportation, industrial, commercial, and residential energy usage produces a total of 21.52 quads. Since immigration, as previously calculated, is the cause of 40 percent of that population growth, then immigration has caused an increase of 8.61 quads between 1974 and 2000. The total increase in energy usage in the U.S. during that period was 24.96 quads, which means that immigration has been directly responsible for 34 percent of the increase in energy usage in the last quarter century.
 

Admissions and Emissions

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.
 

Table 3: United States Energy Consumption and Per Capita Energy Consumption by Consuming Sector

 

 

1973

1974

1980

1990

2000

 

Resident

Population

(000)

210,839

212,846

226,542

248,718

281,422

Residential Usage

Total

In quads

14.983

14.745

15.938

16.884

19.81

Per capita

in million

BTU

71.1

69.3

70.4

67.9

70.4

Commercial Usage

Total

In quads

9.534

9.374

10.613

13.168

16.326

Per capita

in million

BTU

45.2

44

46.8

52.9

58

Industrial Usage

Total

In quads

32.672

31.835

32.189

31.743

35.81

Per capita

in million

BTU

155

149.6

142.1

127.6

127.2

Transportation Usage

Total

In quads

18.612

18.119

19.696

22.541

27.1

Per capita

in million

BTU

88.3

85.1

86.9

90.6

96.3

Total Usage

Total

In Quads

75.808

74.08

78.435

84.344

99.035

Per capita

in million BTU

360

348

346

339

352


As the data in Table 3 show, U.S. energy consumption in 1990 was 84.3 quads. If the required 5.2 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions were to be achieved entirely by reduced energy consumption, then year 2012 energy consumption will have to be reduced to 80 quads.
 

Can Emissions be Reduced While Population Grows?

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. Finally, the average number of asylees and refugees admitted annually during the 8-year period

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.
 

By 2012, the U.S. population will have increased by 34.2 million residents, of whom 31 percent will be immigrants. How can any conceivable change in energy consumption rates compensate for such relentless population growth?


Note that during the 12-year period 2000 – 2012, the U.S. population will have increased by 34.2 million residents, of whom 10.5 million or 31 percent will be immigrants. How can any conceivable change in energy consumption rates compensate for such relentless population growth?
 

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. Restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions will translate into higher manufacturing costs for U.S. industry regardless of whether these reductions are achieved through taxes, fuel switching, installation of more efficient equipment, trading emissions credits, or other means.

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 more intractable.
 

References

1. Impacts of the Kyoto Protocol on U.S. Energy Markets and Economic Activity, Summary, Report No. SR/OIAF/98-03, DOE/EIA.
2. Monthly Energy Review, September 2001, Table 9.1, DOE/EIA-0035.
3. United States Statistical Abstracts, 1977, 1980, 1983, 1985, 1987,1991, 1997, 2000; Legal Immigration, Fiscal Year 2000, Annual Report, Statistics Division, Office of Policy and Planning, Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Department of Justice, January 2002.
4. The INS has reported that between the end of fiscal years 1994 and 1998, the backlog of applications for adjustment of status increased 690,000 from 121,000 to 811,000. The backlog increased by an additional 189,000 to one million at the end of FY 2000.
5. Monthly Energy Review, September 2001, Table 3.4, DOE/EIA-0035.
6. Monthly Energy Review, September 2001, Table 1.10, DOE/EIA-0035.
7. U.S. Vehicle Miles, Table 1-29, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Transportation.
8. Monthly Energy Review, September 2001, Table 3.7, DOE/EIA-0035.
9. Monthly Energy Review, September 2001, Table 1.4, DOE/EIA-0035.
10. Statistical Abstracts of the United States, 2000, Table 77, Live Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Divorces: 1950-1998, Census Bureau, December 2000.
11. Legal Immigration, Fiscal Year 2000, Annual Report, Statistics Branch, Office of Policy and Planning, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Department of Justice, January 2002.
12. Legal Immigration, Fiscal Year 1998, Annual Report, Statistics Branch, Office of Policy and Planning, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Department of Justice, July 1999.
13. World Population by Region, Reference Case 1990 - 2020, Table A16, International Energy Outlook 2001, DOE/EIA-0484(2001), March 28, 2001.
14. During fiscal years 1991 - 1998, approximately 48 percent of all legal immigrants to the U.S. came from countries in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. The year 2000 census data show that people of Hispanic or Latino origin account for 12.5 percent of the resident U.S. population. However, in 1998 (the most recent year for which data are available), women of Hispanic origin accounted for 18.7 percent of all live births, These data are consistent with the estimated fertility rates for 1999. The Census Bureau has estimated a total fertility rate of 2.049 for women of all races and 2.921 for women of Hispanic origin. Thus the estimated total fertility rate for women of Hispanic origin is 42.3 percent higher than for the general population.

[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.
_____
* Used with permission of FAIR, Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Copies are available from FAIR. See original at FAIR < www.fairus.org/html/publications.html >.

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