On St. Paddy’s Day, think green by finding ways to do more with less
Funny how it all comes full circle. My hard-working folks did everything they could to scrimp and save for my education, cutting corners wherever they could to make sure I could go to the college of my choice. No cable TV, no HoHos or Lunchables in my lunchbox, no turning up the heat of our frigid house even in the dead of the Midwest winter, and no, and I mean absolutely NO, leaving lights on around the house. This was my mom's pet peeve.
"Turn off the lights when you leave a room—we're not the Rockefellers!" she would proclaim, as if that meant something to a 7-year-old kid who couldn't discern her reference to the legendary Cleveland family of industrial-era oil magnates and philanthropists from a hole in the wall.
Fast forward twenty-some years to the three main points of my blog today:
1) My mom was onto something re: saving money by using less energy. But today, we stand to save a lot more money than she ever knew through advances in energy efficiency, and more importantly, smart government policies that mandate higher federal efficiency standards and put cash back in the pockets of American families.
Over the next three years, the Department of Energy will set new efficiency standards for more than a dozen categories of home and commercial appliances such as refrigerators and clothes washers. If DOE accepts the strongest standards for all of them, all achievable now with existing and affordable technologies, it will cut 126 million metric tons of global warming pollution each year. That's equivalent to eliminating the emissions from 50 power plants.
"Regardless of what the skeptics may think, there are indeed 20-dollar bills lying on the ground all around us," wrote Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a recent report on energy efficiency for the World Economic Forum. "We only need the will—and the ways—to pick them up." These standards, in fact, represent a whole lot more than a few 20-dollar bills. Together they can save consumers $19 billion a year.
2) Energy efficiency is our cheapest, cleanest, most readily available, and most grossly underutilized source of energy. While the climate bill sits in the Senate and while Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller, of the same oil-magnate Rockefellers my mom was referring to, joins with oil and coal industries to attack the EPA's ability (authorized and required by the Supreme Court) to use the Clean Air Act to regulate global warming pollution, energy efficiency just may be our country's best recourse.
Here at Earthjustice, we are fighting to make sure that energy efficiency is given the attention it deserves. We are conducting legal advocacy at DOE and in court to ensure that the department adopts the best possible efficiency standards. We've filed comments analyzing the potential savings for 18 different types of appliances including fluorescent lighting, incandescent fluorescent lamps, air conditioners and heat pumps, refrigerators and freezers, and water heaters. We've also gone to court to challenge some of DOE's proposed standards that fall short, and we're working with Congress to adopt new laws requiring strong appliance efficiency standards, renewable energy standards, and energy-efficient building codes—and to include strong provisions for enforcing these standards.
3) Finally, while donning green and perhaps even imbibing green on this day, let us also think green by thinking "efficiently." The hard-working Irish immigrants we toast today helped build and fuel American communities, cities, and industries two centuries ago by figuring out how to do a lot with a very little, and by using ingenuity and enterprise to stretch their resources.
Lets follow their example, trying to do more with less energy ourselves, and advocating for better federal energy efficiency standards. (I'm not saying it's not OK to enjoy a green beer or a Guinness today, too).