Want more evidence that the American economy is far from the robust recovery the Obama re-election team is promoting? The latest Barron’s features an interesting column from Mark Lundeen, a retired Navy chief petty officer, online columnist, and researcher in the history of markets.

Lundeen has compiled a chart that gauges economic health based on American electric-power consumption. His justification: “[O]nly darkened factories and offices and vacant condominiums and houses don’t demand this form of energy. When business is booming, demand for electrical power grows.”

Lundeen’s chart offers some disturbing news:

The all-time high in the moving average for power consumption — 79,199 million kilowatt hours for the 52 weeks through Aug. 2, 2008 — came as the credit crisis reached panic stage. Over three years later, as viewed from the electrical power grid, our economy is not robust or improving. The moving average still is about 3% below the all-time high. And the trend is down.

Appliances and machinery today are more energy-efficient than ever before, but the improvement has been progressing gradually for years; it isn’t a sudden phenomenon. The weather, too, could be a factor; last summer was cool, and this winter was very warm. But can the weather be responsible for a full 1.5% decline in electric-power consumption in the past five months?