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Just to clarify, the vertical-axis scale on a plot has to be large enough to allow for discrimination among data points. The scale can certainly be chosen for dramatic effect, but I simply wanted to use numbers on the vertical axis that were all within a couple of orders of magnitude. In any case, an updated plot including data through 2007 is shown below. (This is in terms of energy consumption, instead of power consumption as in the previous plot.)

Annual US Residential Electrical Consumption per Capita

I originally chose Watts per capita because it can be mentally related to the number of 100-Watt incandescent bulbs each of us is responsible for running constantly in a given year. For example, during the 1977 calendar year, each American used the energy equivalent of 3.3 100-Watt bulbs burning for the entire year. That’s non-stop, 24/7 use. In 2007, that increased to 5.2 bulbs running throughout the year. My point was that life hasn’t gotten particularly better in that period, despite the increased consumption.

Another point: atmospheric CO2 levels, mercury deposition from power plants, etc. are dependent on the absolute magnitudes of combustive power production. In other words, we all pay the price–and our kids will pay the biggest price–for excessive consumption, energy and otherwise. It is worth repeating that these data refer to total residential consumption, which specifically excludes electrical use by commercial, industrial and utility entities.


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