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Key economic, security and environmental indicators show that the state of the U.S. energy economy has never been better, according to a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The report says the U.S. has more than doubled its economic productivity from oil, natural gas and electricity over the past 40 years, indicating that energy efficiency has contributed more to meeting the country's needs than all other resources combined.

"Although the nation's energy news has trended from bad to worse for decades, we've seen a remarkable turnaround, much of it due to the huge and inexpensive resource of energy efficiency - getting more out of every energy dollar," says Ralph Cavanagh, NRDC co-director of the energy program.

According to the NRDC, total U.S. energy use in 2012 was below the 1999 level, even though the economy grew by more than 25% (adjusted for inflation) during that period. The NRDC adds that as a result of national energy efficiency measures, factories and businesses are producing more products and value with less energy, the amount of gasoline per mile driven is down and the cost of all energy services has decreased.

The report notes that the amount of climate-warming CO2 pollution is also down, putting the nation on track to meet President Obama's emissions reduction target of 17% over the next seven years.

Major findings in the report include the following:

- Since 2000, the rate of growth in electricity use has dropped well below the rate of population growth.

- The amount of oil used in U.S. vehicles, homes and businesses continued an extended decline last year, down 14% from its 2005 peak and also lower than in 1973 (when the nation's economy was only about one-third its current size).

- U.S. coal use in 2012 was less than in 1985 and down almost 25% from the 2005 peak year, primarily reflecting a shift away from coal-burning power plants.

- While natural gas increased its market share to above 30% of electricity generation in 2012, the trend is highly sensitive to volatile commodity prices and therefore unsteady.

- U.S. nuclear generation has flattened, with market share dropping below 19% of total electric generation in 2012. Total nuclear power production was down almost 5% from its peak five years earlier.

- Wind power led all competitors - both renewables and fossil fuels - in terms of new generating capacity installed over the course of 2012. In fact, there has been a 24-fold increase in wind-produced electricity from 2000 to 2012. Solar power is also surging.

- Energy efficiency standards and financial incentives, underwritten mostly by the utility industry, have dramatically reduced both energy intensity and costs of energy. New fuel economy standards are reducing America's oil imports by more than 2 million barrels per day.

The report says that additional investments in efficiency could cut U.S. energy consumption by 23% by 2020, save customers nearly $700 billion and create up to 900,000 direct jobs.

"We should learn from forty years of economy-wide demonstrations that the fastest, cheapest and cleanest energy solutions all involve getting more work out of less electricity, oil and natural gas," adds Cavanagh.

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