Thursday, January 10, 2008

Simple Measures to Reduce Energy Use

Conventional wisdom (that is, the specious analysis that is generally circulated in the mainstream media) typically looks at our national energy needs as a matter of building more power plants, producing different kinds of fuels, or progressing slowly toward more use of renewables. The notion of doing more with less doesn't usually get a lot of coverage, although there are a number of efficiency studies demonstrating how we can successfully meet many of our future energy needs simply by eliminating waste.

As reported in the New York Times (and posted on truthout), The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory of the Energy Department conducted a research study recently where 112 households in the Olympic Peninsula were equipped with digital thermostats and computer controllers linked to other appliances, such as water heaters and clothes dryers. Controls for all of these energy-consuming items were also connected to the Internet.

The study results indicated surprsingly impressive energy savings over the span of a year, with the potential for tremendous long-term savings:

Over a 20-year period, this could save $70 billion on spending for power plants and infrastructure, and avoid the need to build the equivalent of 30 large coal-fired plants, say scientists at the federal laboratory.

The demonstration project was as much a test of consumer behavior as it was of new technology. Scientists wanted to find out if the ability to monitor consumption constantly would cause people to save energy - just as studies have shown that people walk more if they wear pedometers to count their steps.

More efficient cars, smarter heating and cooling of buildings, appliances used more wisely and deliberately--all of these measures clearly can substantially reduce our need for a drastic increase in the number of power plants and the frantic, often misguided quest for new fuel sources.