Should We Be Energy Efficient Only When it Hurts Our Wallet?

Riding through my hometown, I noticed that the price of gas was starting to creep up again. This week it averaged $2.89/gallon – a far cry from the $4.00+/gallon we were paying last year. When gas was $4.00/gallon, people would sneer at the SUV drivers and seemingly overnight, everyone wanted to drive a hybrid. Now that the price of gas has dropped, does anyone still care?

It’s apparent that the consequences to a person’s wallet are directly proportional to their interest/concern in fixing the problem. This concerns me as we talk about carbon footprints, greenhouse emissions and polluting the environment. The “as long as it doesn’t affect me” mentality that exists in this country will continue to dominate society. When gas gets back to $4.00/gallon, will we be scrambling to drive a hybrid again? We are becoming fair weather energy efficiency supporters.

The same amount of carbon emissions are produced at $2.89/gallon as they are at $4.00/gallon. We need to be constantly vigilant of our energy consumption – in our cars, homes and businesses. It appalls me that, as a society, we are not concerned about energy efficiency until it hurts our wallets. Improving energy efficiency should be something we are always doing.

I was struck by an article in the New York Times that spoke of oil companies abandoning their efforts to drill, as it no longer made fiscal sense because of the reduced price of oil. I would think trying to find new oil reserves would be a top priority in decreasing our reliance on foreign oil supplies. Aircraft and military machinery will not be using renewable technology in the foreseeable future. The sheer power needed in such a short period of time can only be generated from an internal combustible engine (a battery would be inadequate). Therefore, let’s find those extra deposits and leave them in the ground for a rainy day. Don’t abandon the effort. The reality is the price of oil will rebound and fuel will be needed.

During a visit to our office in St. Louis, I was shocked by the lack of awareness towards energy efficiency. It costs roughly 5¢ per KW in St. Louis, while in the Northeast it averages 15¢ per KW. Triple! Compare the interest in energy efficiency in these two areas – increased cost equals increased interest.

Energy efficiency needs to be on all of our minds and we should always be thinking about saving energy every chance we get. This should not be merely a cost-driven exercise, but a focus because we are wasting our resources and polluting the environment.

Sadly, the economic features will always exist and if big oil is not making a buck then why should they drill? The greater society is no different then big oil. If consumers aren’t saving money, will they care about being energy efficient? We owe it to our children’s children and the environment to be energy efficient, all the time.

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Filed under Building efficiency, commissioning, energy audit, energy efficiency, Retrofit, Uncategorized

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