A growing US economy is largely being ''fueled'' by conservation, as Americans in homes, factories, and offices around the country have learned to use energy more efficiently.
While the nation's gross national product has jumped 18 percent (in constant dollars) since the 1973 embargo by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, energy consumption has increased only 2 percent, according to a report released by the Energy Conservation Coalition, a nonprofit alliance of public interest groups.
This disparity contrasts with the pre-1973 era when any GNP increase was automatically accompanied by a proportionate jump in energy consumption. But since then, ''the total amount of energy that Americans have saved outpaces new production by a margin of 7 to 1,'' the report notes.
The Department of Energy's Monthly Energy Review calculates that it took 594, 000 Btus to generate one GNP dollar in 1973; in 1980, (even allowing for inflation) it took 515,000 Btus to generate a dollar - a 13 percent drop.
''Based on this evidence, energy conservation appears to be the new engine of growth and supply,'' says Jonathan Lash, the coalition's board president. ''As long as Americans are being forced to spend $400 billion on energy, we must pursue energy policies that increase, not decrease, our emphasis on this new source of growth - energy conservation.''