The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
An energy crisis would cripple the country in 20 years time if people here continued to consume energy at the current rate, regardless of the belief that the country was abundant with natural resources, energy conservation activists assert
Indonesia uses, on average, about 48 percent more energy as compared to developed countries, for every US$1 million in goods and services it produces.
Efforts to raise public awareness on energy conservation have been botched up by ineffective policies, but a lavish lifestyle by many of the people makes the campaign even harder to sell to them, according to analysts.
They urged on Tuesday the government to step up campaign efforts to get the conservation message across to the upper classes of society who have been excessively consuming energy.
""Little does the public know that the threat of living without oil in the next 20 years is real... there was never a campaign on that,"" said Illiana S. Andang of the Indonesian Consumer Foundation (YLKI).
She cited that transportation was the perfect example of how energy was wasted.
Many prefer to ride in their private automobiles, although a person driving a sedan consumes five times more fuel than someone taking a bus.
While motorists are prime examples of fuel wasters, they also consume 50.2 percent of the country's total fuel consumption, making them the largest consumer segment compared to households and industries.
In addition, traffic congestion remains a common sight in major cities despite the 50 percent fuel price hike since 2000.
But that excessive use of energy also applies to industries.
Among its Southeast Asian peers, Indonesia's industries use more energy than the regional average when factoring in goods and services produced.
Illiana said the excessive consumption of energy was a hard habit to break, while choices of alternative energy sources were also few.
""We cannot blame the public, they don't have many options that encourage them to change their habits,"" she said.
Some blamed this also on conditioning that began with pre-school classes where students were led to believe Indonesia's energy reserves were infinite.
But the Pelangi non-governmental organization, which promotes energy conservation, said that Indonesia, the world's fourth largest population, owned just 1.4 percent of the world's oil and gas reserves.
""Within the next 20-years Indonesia will be completely disabled as there will be no more oil, gas or coal to extract to meet the country's extravagant consumption of energy,"" a Pelangi brochure says in its ""Life after Oil"" campaign.
To slow consumption, Illiana urged the government to step up campaign efforts and promote the use of alternative energy.
""People can save up to 20 percent of their energy consumption, but we need a massive campaign to achieve that,"" she said, adding that YLKI was conducting research on the public's energy consumption patterns.
Thus far, the government-led campaign falls short of expectations.
The government team in charge of promoting energy conservation has no campaign budget and with three members to handle the issue nationwide, are short of staff.
""I guess the government has other priorities,"" said Titovianto Widyantoro, the person in charge of implementing energy conservation policies at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.
He agreed that the rich were the toughest to reach with the energy conservation campaign.
""Rich people do what they want because they can afford it, there is no other remedy to this but forcing them with regulations,"" he explained.
The lower income group, he said, were easier to reach though more to the fact that saving energy also meant saving expenses.
Because of the government's poor attention, other organizations should pick up the crusade, Illiana said.
""We need to empower the people and create our own wave of energy conservation awareness, and not wait for the government to act,"" she said.
1998 energy consumption per gross domestic product (GDP) in tons of oil equivalent (TOE)
Indonesia : 392 TOE/US$ million GDP
Thailand : 351 TOE/US$ million GDP
Malaysia : 437 TOE/US$ million GDP
ASEAN average : 364 TOE/US$ million GDP
Developed nations average : 202 TOE/US$ million GDP