January 25, 2009

Time Magazine’s Michael Grunwald: the answer to America’s Energy Needs

December 31, 2008. As the old year was setting and the year of Obama was about to begin, Michael Grunwald wrote about a revolutionary idea to change energy usage as we know it. But this is not straight off the press, this is not as revolutionary as one might think. It’s energy efficiency and its been whispering in the back alley’s of the world for years. Grunwald writes:

This may sound too good to be true, but the U.S. has a renewable-energy resource that is perfectly clean, remarkably cheap, surprisingly abundant and immediately available. It has astounding potential to reduce the carbon emissions that threaten our planet, the dependence on foreign oil that threatens our security and the energy costs that threaten our wallets. Unlike coal and petroleum, it doesn’t pollute; unlike solar and wind, it doesn’t depend on the weather; unlike ethanol, it doesn’t accelerate deforestation or inflate food prices; unlike nuclear plants, it doesn’t raise uncomfortable questions about meltdowns or terrorist attacks or radioactive-waste storage, and it doesn’t take a decade to build. It isn’t what-if like hydrogen, clean coal and tidal power; it’s already proven to be workable, scalable and cost-effective. And we don’t need to import it.

This miracle juice goes by the distinctly boring name of energy efficiency, and it’s often ignored in the hubbub over alternative fuels, the nuclear renaissance, T. Boone Pickens and the green-tech economy. Clearly, it needs an agent. But it’s a simple concept: wasting less energy. Or more precisely, consuming less energy to get the same amount of heat for your shower, light for your office and power for your factory. It turns out to be much less expensive, destructive and time-intensive to reduce demand through efficiency than to increase supply through new drilling or new power plants. A nationwide push to save “negawatts” instead of building more megawatts could help reverse our unsustainable increases in energy-hogging and carbon-spewing while creating a slew of jobs and saving a load of cash. more…

Technology is on the consciousness collective because there is little effort or desire to change personal behavior. I have fantisized while walking down Broadway, amidst the bull-rush of cars, of stepping like some mad street preacher with his cardboard cut-out into the middle of traffic, to scream in futile protest. But we love our cars in this country, they define us. As does our “right” to endless electricity, our “right” to the American dream, our golden Buddhas and ornamented mansions. Luxuries to produce greater emptiness and suffering, dreams as pointless and transient as a sliver of ice in the desert. Rather than building more houses, let’s build communities. Make simplicity our ideal and highest aspiration. Turn the American dream from what can I have to what can I give.

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