Monday, January 3, 2011

Empty Light Filled Rooms

We hear a lot about energy use and how we can become more energy efficient, but really, how conscious are we when we use energy? Going into a room, we turn on the lights. Going out, unfortunately, is all to often a different story.

I know because I seem to find empty light-filled rooms all the time, whether I’m visiting others or at home.

Want to bake, we turn on the oven, first thing, and pre-heat for as long as it takes us to read the recipe and mix all the ingredients. Never mind that the oven was preheated long ago. Why we may even accept a phone call in the middle of our work while the oven just keeps pumping out heat. The cake isn’t the only thing rising.

David B. Goldstein has written an easy read of a book, “Invisible Energy Strategies to Rescue the Economy and Save the Planet”. This book will bowl you over with amazing factoids, as well as, well-thought out conclusions from studies that have been done.

David Goldstein is the Energy Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council and a MacArthur “genius award” Fellow and has worked closely with California Energy Commission. California, by the way, is leading in the United States for its energy efficiency standards.

For instance, it might surprise you to learn that “investments in energy efficiency typically earn several times more than any other kind of investment”.

Goldstein also points out that “conservation alone...(like me turning off the lights as I walk down the hall)...without energy efficiency has a limited capacity to make a noticeable difference.

Now, don’t get him wrong. Energy conservation is still very important, and so is buying those energy-saving devices, but, we need much more.

Mr. Goldstein suggests that we need policies of continual support from legislaturers to promote research and development of energy efficiency innovations and technology.

He also states that “Energy efficiency is one of the strongest tools we have at our disposal to recover from the recession”, he posted on Wednesday, May 26, 2010.
There are many interesting things that Mr. Goldstein brings up. Here are a few that particularly grabbed my attention.

The book discusses several ways that energy efficiency goals can promote economic growth, employment and competitiveness.

For example, take markets competing to produce energy efficient products. Awhile back, the gaunlet was thrown down demanding more energy efficiency in refrigerators. Refrigerators were were growing larger and larger and were enormous energy hogs.

The result was that refrigerators have improved their efficiency at a rate of 4 to 5 percent annually. Over the last 30 years, that rate of improvement translates to an energy savings of 70 percent.

So, energy efficiency products do not translate to higher costs or less performance. Refrigerators are a shining example of how painless and rewarding energy efficiency has been for consumers.

Television manufacturers have found that reduction in energy use does not cost consumers more money, nor does it cut back on the performance of televisions. The LED flat screen televisions are a good example of that.

To see how energy efficiency promotes economic growth requires a short glance back in time. I grew up in a time when the next generation was able to climb on the shoulders of those that came before.

We were able to boost ourselves up to a more economical prosperous level. That the next generation would succeed further than the last was a mantra everyone knew.

As of the 1970s, that mantra has been pushed aside and over the decades since, we have come woefully short of a prosperous generation. In fact, our median household income has only increased 15 percent since the 1970s. Most of that increase was in 2007 and attributed to the households having two breadwinners.

Goldstein states that the prosperity growth trend abruptly stopped with the energy crises in 1973. A similar stage was set in 1979 when energy prices spiked and caused serious economic problems. Again, in 2008, we see another energy crises at the bottom of an economic turndown.

How we had addressed these crises caused household incomes to stall, unemployment to increase and the gross domestic product to suffer. In simple terms, the 1980s had 10 percent unemployment, more than we see now in this economic turndown, with interest rates as high as 18 percent.

Mr. Goldstein goes on to show how energy efficiency policies could be put to work quickly and effectively to prevent similar and perhaps larger economic blow outs, foster greater economic growth and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This book is a must read. One more point that should wake up some curiosity at least.

The mantra for real estate of location, location, location has a slightly different meaning when Mr. Goldstein equates it with the mortgage crises.

From studies, it seems the highest rates of default in the mortgage crises were located in the “remote fringes of major metropolitan areas where the need to drive and the associated costs of transportation are the greatest”.

Places that have the higher location efficiency, that is, how much is saved in transportation costs, had the lowest number of defaults.

Mr. Goldstein proposes a pretty easy solution for this, but I’ll let you read the book to find out.

On the other hand, if you just want to know more about energy efficiency in your kitchen, click here.