Immigration, Energy and the Environment

After food and water, energy is perhaps the most basic of all human needs. We use it to heat our homes, grow and prepare food, transport people and goods, refine ores into metals, pump water, and manufacture goods. Americans are frequently accused of being excessive energy users, but among nations there exists a strong correlation between per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and energy consumption. One of the underpinnings of the standard of living enjoyed by Americans has been a reliable and relatively low-cost supply of energy.

As a result of the 1997 Kyoto U.N. Climate Change Treaty, considerable public attention has been focused on the issue of energy consumption. The U.S. signed, but has not ratified, this treaty that calls for the U.S. to reduce greenhouse emissions by seven percent below the level in 1990. Limiting carbon dioxide emissions — the main greenhouse gas — is particularly onerous on the U.S. because of its population growth and high per capita energy consumption. While European countries accepted a higher level of reductions (8%), they have relatively stable or, in several cases, declining populations. A look at the relationship between population growth and energy consumption/emissions is instructive.

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June 2009