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Without Oil, We'd Be Greece

What about other forms of renewable energy? The Department of Energy sees solar energy growing 30% this year, and another 36% next year. It sees slower growth in wind energy but notes that we're producing four times more of it. Total renewable energy consumption in the U.S. should be 8.5 quadrillion BTUs this year, with carbon dioxide levels lower than two years ago.

Computers, mainly big data centers, are now said to be 10% of global electricity use. While the coal industry considers this bullish for them, the fact is that efficiency has been the trend in Information Technology for years.

Cloud data centers like those of Google (GOOG) focus heavily on energy efficiency and re-use. Low-power chip designs are now the rule, from Intel (INTC) and ARM Holdings (ARMH). The consumer market is unplugging from the wall, and the data center is on an energy diet -- all paid for by efficiency.

Efficiency is a huge driver for companies like Cree (CREE), which makes LED systems. Since LEDs are made with computer chip technology, they're easily controlled by software. No more forgetting to turn off the lights -- they turn themselves off.

If fiscal policy were not such a drag on the economy, driving the deficit down $321 billion/year between 2010 and the year just ended, you might have 6% growth in the economy rather than the 4% being forecast, based on Trading Economics' GDP estimates. That's including the current gains in energy, in efficiency, and in renewable energy.

Take those gains out and we're Greece.

At the time of publication, the author owned 20 shares of GOOG.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and a tech reporter since 1982. His specialty has been getting to the future ahead of the crowd, then leaving before success arrived. That meant covering the Internet in 1985, e-commerce in 1994, the Internet of Things in 2005, open source in 2005 and, since 2010, renewable energy. He has written for every medium from newspapers and magazines to Web sites, from books to blogs. He still seeks tomorrow from his Craftsman home in Atlanta.
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