America's Christmas lights, even those that don't rival the Griswolds', guzzle a staggering amount of electricity when compared to power use overall in other countries, according to researchers at the Center for Global Development. The festive lights use around 6.6 billion kilowatt-hours a year, according to the CGD—more than the total annual electricity consumption of countries like El Salvador, Cambodia, or Ethiopia, which has a population of around 97 million. The researchers, who used data from the World Bank and a 2008 US Energy Department study, say Christmas lights only account for 0.2% of America's electricity usage, but the power is still enough to run 14 million refrigerators.
Todd Moss, the COO of CGD, stresses he isn't a Grinch who wants to get rid of festive lights. "I think Christmas lights are a good thing," he tells NPR. "A beautiful thing! I'm not trying to be anti-Christmas at all." He says the point of the research is to highlight the huge differences in energy consumption worldwide—and the hypocrisy of wealthy countries telling nations like Ethiopia that they should only develop renewable energy sources. In Colombia, meanwhile, a severe drought has hit hydropower generation hard, causing widespread electricity rationing and forcing many cities to scale back Christmas lights, the AP reports. (American cities get up to 50% brighter during the holidays, and it's visible from space.)