Globalist Paper

The School of Hard Energy Knocks

Which countries make the grade when it comes to energy efficiency — and which earn failing marks?

Guiding a world confused about energy choices.


  • If the United States, China, Russia, Canada and Ukraine achieved the basic energy standard, global energy use would be reduced 15%.
  • Latin America, often a neglected group of students, has the best grades of any group.
  • Of the 26 European and central Asian students, none got an "A" — and only one, Albania, got a "B."

As Headmaster of the School of Hard Energy Knocks over the last few months, I am happy to have had the opportunity to applaud the good performances of some of our students — and to alert you, too, to the more troublesome cases where we will face scrutiny under the pending No Country Left Behind law.

As you know, all countries are graded on their performance in energy use. I have taken each country’s size (its GDP) and level of development (per capita income) into account in grading its energy efficiency.

Each country’s energy use is measured against our Testing Standard, which is created using customary statistical methods.

Before we give individual awards, I would like to recognize one group of our quieter students for their unusually good performance. Latin America, often a neglected group of students, has the best grades of any group of students.

Almost half the Latin American students received “A”s in energy efficiency — and only 10% got “D”s or “F”s. Especially praiseworthy are Ecuador and Mexico, who both got “B”s, unusually high grades for energy exporting countries.

Now, if only Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela would join in the energy conservation effort, the entire region would shine.

At the other end of the class, I am afraid that I will have to wag a finger again at the former socialist bloc. Of these 26 European and Central Asian students, none got an “A” and only one, Albania, got a “B.” Fully 42% received an “F” — and another 27% earned “D”s for energy efficiency.

Looking at other countries, here are some of our biggest challenges:

As the student with the richest parents, we are sad to report that the United States has earned only a “D” on our standardized test, squandering 30% extra energy.

This is far worse than most of its classmates from the G7 — four of whom earned “B”s (Japan, the UK, Italy, and Germany) and one a “C” (France). Only Canada did worse than the United States, earning an “F” in energy efficiency.

China is another problem student who earned a “D” in energy efficiency, using 48% more energy than our standard. True, Chinese performance has improved a lot over its past excesses, but the bigger you become, the more the world counts on your contribution. China, America, take heed!

India’s performance is almost at the Testing Standard, earning it a solid “C.” We look for improvement here too.

Before naming students who need to work especially hard, let me mention a few good performers who deserve credit they otherwise might not get. Bangladesh, Morocco and Argentina all have substantial populations and earned grades of “A.” Brazil and Turkey earned only “B”s — but we think that deserves applause as well.

Turning now to students who have histories of chronic energy abuse, I will say their improvement since the 1990s is commendable — but far from adequate.

The worst among these is Ukraine, a tiny economy that used three times the standard amount of energy. Its unwilling energy supplier, Russia, did not do much better. Like Ukraine, it also earned a solid “F.”

South Africa, which should be a role model for Africa, sets a very bad example, earning an “F” as well. These students with troubled histories must redouble their effort to change their ways.

The good news as we gather in these troubled times, is that there is much room for improvement. If only five countries — the United States, China, Russia, Canada and Ukraine — achieved the global standard, we would reduce total global energy use by more than 15%.

You, the parents of these difficult students are the allies we need to make this happen.

About Bernard Wasow

Bernard Wasow is Mexico based and a former professor of economics at New York University.

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