Developing an "Energy Sustainability Index" to Evaluate American Energy Policy
Brown, Marilyn A.
Sovacool, Benjamin K.
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This paper proposes the creation of an energy sustainability index (ESI) to inform policymakers, investors, and analysts about the status of energy conditions, and to help educate the public about energy issues. The proposed ESI builds on the substantial body of literature on "sustainability" and also draws on past efforts to measure environmental and energy progress – both of which are reviewed below. The index covers four dimensions (oil security, electricity reliability, energy efficiency, and environmental quality) and includes twelve individual indicators. Comparing these indicators in 1970 with 2004, nine have trended in an unfavorable direction, two have moved in a favorable direction, and one has been essentially unchanged. Clearly, the "energy problem" fretted about in the 1970s has not been fully addressed. While the proposed ESI is preliminary and requires further refinement, it takes an important step toward creating a set of indicators that can easily assess and communicate the condition of the U.S. energy system.