Data from the Pew Research Center shows that American homes are 31 percent more energy efficiency (measured in energy use per square foot) than they were in 1970. This can be attributed to advancements in appliances, improved insulation, and less heating caused by a larger number of new homes going up in the warm South and Southwest. But the square footage of homes has also increased—by 28 percent, essentially offsetting changes in overall energy intensity.

Vox writer Brad Plumer argues that there are two ways to view these trends. One is a pessimistic and interprets the data to mean that energy efficiency gains have been offset by growing consumption. The other interpretation is improvements in efficiency ensure that energy use flat lines and growing consumption hasn’t resulted in a boost in energy use. “It's a boon for conservation, at least when compared to the counterfactual,” writes Plumer.

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