Friday, March 20, 2009

Solving the U.S. Energy Problems

by Richard Crews

There is one step--simple, inexpensive--that could go a long way toward solving the U.S.'s complex of energy problems (that is, pollution, profligate use, and dependence on foreign sources).

It is occasionally cleverly observed that far-and-away the best source of green energy is conservation. Further, that U.S. households use a tremendous proportion of the energy consumed in the U.S., and that the majority of this energy is misused or, frankly, wasted. Moreover, it is commonly observed (though not often loudly touted about) that, after hunger and sex, the main motivating forces for human beings--God love 'em!--are greed and self-interest.

If only there were some way to put these observations together to create a winning approach to the U.S.'s energy woes. But wait! There is.

It's called a "smart meter." For $35 to $100 a householder can install a display that shows how much energy the household is using at any particular moment. To be most useful, this should include both electricity and natural gas; to be most dramatically effective, the read-outs should be in dollars per month.

If a "smart meter" read-out is prominently available so that the householder is drawn to consult it every time he or she turns up the heat or down the air conditioning, puts something in the oven to roast for a couple of hours, or leaves on a thousand watts of lights plus the TV while going to take a nap, it subtly but powerfully and inexorably leads to significant energy savings.