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Efficiency means a hundred different things, like lighter (and yet sturdier) cars made from carbon fiber or similarly light and strong materials. It also means rethinking how we build things: if considered as a separate nation, America's buildings alone are the world's third largest users of energy, after the rest of America and China and ahead of every other country! And it means simple modifications like this one in every hotel room in Europe: when you leave the room, taking the key out of the slot turns out the lights. It doesn't require any sacrifice in lifestyle to have the lights off when you're not in the room. McKinsey estimates that the U.S. could save more than $130 billion annually--or $1.2 trillion by 2020--just by maximizing efficiency.
Conservation reminds us that we should think about energy not as a problem but as an opportunity. As we search for new sources of economic growth, it's worth recalling how the information revolution of the 1990s restarted America by transforming so many aspects of life and work. Energy could have a similar transcendent effect. New technologies that provide cheaper and unconstrained supplies of energy could revolutionize the world. And the country that pioneers them will be on top.
FOR MORE ON THE FUTURE OF ENERGY, TUNE IN TO FAREED ZAKARIA'S NEW CNN SPECIAL, GLOBAL LESSONS: THE GPS ROAD MAP FOR POWERING AMERICA, ON SUNDAY, OCT. 21, AT 8 P.M. AND 11 P.M. E.T AND P.T.