By MARK WILLIAMS, AP Energy Writer Mark Williams, Ap Energy Writer –
The decline in power usage over the past year is a rarity and also an indication of how badly the recession has jolted the economy and changed the way Americans spend.
The shift began last year, when power consumption fell 1.6 percent. Government forecasters see consumption falling another 2.7 percent this year. That would mark the first time since 1949 that the nation has seen energy demand fall in consecutive years.
The number of unemployed Americans is nearing 15 million and prospects for the job market remain gloomy. Retailers just reported their 12th straight month of declining sales and many people are buying only what they must.
Power consumption by the industrial and manufacturing companies that make everything from cars to cotton swabs has fallen faster than anywhere else — 10 percent this year by government estimates. Industrial consumption fell about 20 percent in parts of the Midwest, Carolinas and the South during the second quarter, utilities say.
The big wild card is the legislation pending in Congress that may require utilities to cut emissions of carbon dioxide to address global warming. Utilities, especially those that rely on coal, will spend tens of billions of dollars to come up with ways to remove carbon dioxide from emissions.
They are going to want to recoup some of those costs. Customers will feel it in their wallets when they do.