# Energy conservation education and funding for the public

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## Main Question or Discussion Point

How much does the American public know about or enable energy conservation? It seems to me that by far most effort of this kind is by industry and government.

Has the informational drive to change public consumption through behavior been successful, or is the primary means the pocketbook? If only we foresaw the current rise in prices and instead invested in conservation technology for and responsibility by everyone.

I think that educating individuals to be constantly aware of what energy is and how it manifests in practical ways would be as effective a means of saving as economic penalties. America's tradition of wasting resources can be corrected by close analysis and recognition of common activities.

What would be your initiatives for wise use of energy by the public?

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vanesch
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
How much does the American public know about or enable energy conservation?
The question is: why should one "conserve energy" ? Isn't the issue rather related to "CO2 emissions" or "ressources" ?

If those problems can be met, should one still "conserve energy" ?

CO2 is one of many pollutants that are byproducts of shortsighted energy cycles, and one of great current importance. But let's say we have an "inexhaustible" supply of energy, as from nuclear fusion.

Aside from the creation of radioactive isotopes, our greed for such energy may cause changes related to the production of heat - those eventually affecting climate, human health, the biosphere, and energy utilization redundancy (where systems attempt to fight the 2nd law of thermodynamics, like a refrigerator adding to air conditioning load).

Does thermal energy play a part in the near future of energy concerns?

Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
The question is: why should one "conserve energy" ? Isn't the issue rather related to "CO2 emissions" or "ressources" ?

If those problems can be met, should one still "conserve energy" ?
But we don't have sufficient resources. And no matter what we do, we won't have sufficient resources for at least decades to come.

In answer to the op: It is my perception that very few people will conserve energy of their own accord. In fact it seems that generally speaking, there are only a couple of generations of people in the country who are energy conscious. Many from the generation that preceded mine - the people who, due to the false perception that environmentalism comes from "hippies", fought the environmental movement tooth and nail from the very beginning - spent their retirement years driving motor homes all over the country at ten miles per gallon. And people who are too young to remember the oil shortages of the seventies are too naive to be bothered, so they became the SUV generation. Others if not most are simply too ignorant to understand the stakes.

Many people do recycle their trash now, but unless they have hassle-free curbside recycling available, it's too much trouble.

We are now in a period of feel-good green [as Integral calls it], but this will grow old soon. From there people will continue to follow the latest fads and only think with their wallets. That is why it is imperative that the price of energy be kept high.

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Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
Interesting perspective on energy demand and conservation by the CEO of Shell.

On the Record: Jeroen van der Veer
By Alex Markels, U.S. News Senior Writer
Posted 8/19/07
You might expect Royal Dutch Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer to pooh-pooh the recent surge of interest in renewable energy. But despite his contention that the public is naively placing too much faith in solar and wind power, the 59-year-old Dutchman has raised eyebrows by claiming that the world can meet its energy demand and control greenhouse gases—while still depending on fossil fuels for 70 percent of energy supplies.
http://www-origin.usnews.com/usnews/biztech/articles/070819/27record.htm [Broken]

Is conservation enough?

It's extremely important, but no, conservation isn't enough. Even with conservation, energy demand will double by the year 2050, and more and more of the world's conventional oil fields are going into decline. So supplies of oil and gas that are easy to extract will struggle to keep up with demand, which means increasing use of unconventional fossil fuels, such as oil sands, including and especially coal. Coal is more than twice as CO2 intensive as natural gas, and abundantly available.

. . . .

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drankin
How much does the American public know about or enable energy conservation? It seems to me that by far most effort of this kind is by industry and government.

Has the informational drive to change public consumption through behavior been successful, or is the primary means the pocketbook? If only we foresaw the current rise in prices and instead invested in conservation technology for and responsibility by everyone.

I think that educating individuals to be constantly aware of what energy is and how it manifests in practical ways would be as effective a means of saving as economic penalties. America's tradition of wasting resources can be corrected by close analysis and recognition of common activities.

What would be your initiatives for wise use of energy by the public?
Energy is conserved more when it costs more. If the government wants to limit consumption all it has to do is increase taxes on it. Nothing educates a person more than his pocketbook. How is it we have a "tradition" of wasting resources, exactly? Leaving the bathroom light on? Going for a Sunday drive into the countryside?

wolram
Gold Member
drankin
LOL, now if we shut down Las Vegas, Disneyland/world, and all other amusement destinations, we could conserve lots of energy! We can all play frisbee and board games while proudly clammering about how much energy we are saving by not having an entertainment industry anymore!

proudly clammering about how much energy we are saving by not having an entertainment industry anymore!
I think we'd see many more benefits than just energy conservation if we shut down the entertainment industry, even if temporarily.

Just think, we might get to see some actual news in the media instead of reading about people who can't figure out how underwear works.

Its not just that the entertainment industry uses a lot of energy, it also takes a lot of energy just to get there.

Do you all think home energy audits very effective in reducing domestic energy consumption?

wolram
Gold Member
It seems whatever we save some one else uses, local authorities seem to put up more street lights every day, soon there will be no dark place on the planet .

I just came back from a central States Combustion meeting and the prospects are not that great. The US uses about a quarter of the worlds oil supply and imports most of it from countries that are not US' best friends. US is not specifically wasteful contrary to many beliefs. The quarter of the worlds energy consumption is backed by a quarter of the words wealth so in that regard we are just 1/1.
Ethanol (especially from corn) has proven to produce more CO2 emission that it helps to reduce. Furthermore, it raises global food prices which are already at an all time high.

Bio-diesel forms a potential candidate. also coal derived gases (Syngas) or fisher-tropsch liquid fuels are likely candidates for the future.

We do not realize how much we have been spoiled with oil that can be sucked out of the ground an is pretty much ready to go. The processing costs for any alternative is much higher.

The last I checked there were several coal fired ethanol plants.

lisab
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Do you all think home energy audits very effective in reducing domestic energy consumption?
I suppose an audit would give the homeowner useful information about energy use.

Also, it would be nice if I had a way to know exactly how much energy I'm using, real-time. Right now, if I want to know how much I'm consuming, I have to go out to the meter to see how fast the wheel is spinning.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a gauge that hangs on the wall showing how much energy is being used by your house, real-time?

russ_watters
Mentor
Do you all think home energy audits very effective in reducing domestic energy consumption?
The EPA did a study a while back (I'll see if I can find it) that found a distrubingly high fraction of houses had problems with their HVAC systems, mostly due to poor installation. I think the fraction was something like 80%.

When I moved into my house, I found undersized return ductwork and a major return duct connection that had come apart in the attic, so the primary 2nd floor return air was pulled from the attic. I can only assume that the previous owner had been living with that since the house was built (it was two years old when I bought it).

I also have a gable exhaust fan where the installer rolled up the installation manual and shoved it between the blades of the fan, presumably so he wouldn't lose them (though sabbotage is a real possibility). The motor, of course, burned out and the previous owner never had the advantage of that fan.

I also installed a whole-house fan in the ceiling of the second floor. This makes a huge difference in the spring and fall.

I also added insulation to my basement (probably a code violation that it was missing). My energy costs this winter were much lower than last winter, but it is tough to gage the effect of the insulation - it was a warmer year.

I also hope to add air valves to my ductwork to better target the heating/cooling.

What is the effect of all these measures? I'm not really sure, but if I had to guess, 20-40% (of the hvac usage). I'm tracking my energy use, but unfortunately, I don't have info about the previous owner's use.

lisab
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
The EPA did a study a while back (I'll see if I can find it) that found a distrubingly high fraction of houses had problems with their HVAC systems, mostly due to poor installation. I think the fraction was something like 80%.
We recently had someone come to our house to give us an estimate for a heat pump. He inspected our duct work and was surprised to see that it was done correctly.

Based on what he said, the 80% figure may be low (at least in our area).

Energy conservation needs to do beyond just conservation of electricity, and most people just don't "get" that. Oil has become a greater problem. The current high oil prices are not because of speculation, but rather because of increasing demand combined with supply that can't keep up. Peak oil is real, and is expected to happen between now and the next 10 years, and US is dragging it's feet when it comes to getting ready for this. We have invested so much in a lifestyle (namely the suburban lifestyle) that is very energy inefficient (requires you to drive everywhere) and depends entirely on cheap oil to keep going. So when that cheap oil runs dry, what will happen to suburbia?

If you're interested in this go watch "the end of suburbia" and "a crude awakening: the coming oil crisis"

Energy conservation needs to do beyond just conservation of electricity, and most people just don't "get" that. Oil has become a greater problem. The current high oil prices are not because of speculation, but rather because of increasing demand combined with supply that can't keep up.
I am not so sure about the speculation part. It sure as heck drove up the price of housing. I saw a lot of "Sold Out" signs in new housing developments during the boom.

I have yet to pull into a gas station that had a sign up indicating that they are out of gasoline.

Is it coincidence that the realization of global warming coincides with runaway oil demand?

Try this one "Cent-A-Meter Wireless Electricity Monitor"

RRP - $256.00 The ebay link:...... I haven't made 15 posts yet, so I couldn't post the link.$200 bucks for a monitor compared to energy efficient light bulbs and turning your gadgets off.

Just go for the bulbs and your off button.

vanesch
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
CO2 is one of many pollutants that are byproducts of shortsighted energy cycles, and one of great current importance. But let's say we have an "inexhaustible" supply of energy, as from nuclear fusion.
The point I was trying to make was that it isn't "energy consumption" as such that is at issue, but rather the ways we produce it.

Aside from the creation of radioactive isotopes
This is really a minor issue. Of all energy-related polluants, nuclear waste is the easiest to handle and control, because of its finite lifetime and its extremely small quantities.

, our greed for such energy may cause changes related to the production of heat - those eventually affecting climate, human health, the biosphere, and energy utilization redundancy (where systems attempt to fight the 2nd law of thermodynamics, like a refrigerator adding to air conditioning load).

Does thermal energy play a part in the near future of energy concerns?

Eventually, yes. But we are still several orders of magnitude away from that. Solar power (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power) gives Earth 174 PW, while average energy consumption worldwide (everything confounded) is of the order of 20 TW (electricity is of the order of 1.6 TW).

Let's ask it differently: suppose you have solar-heated warm water in large quantities. Imagine you have tons of purified rainwater. Is it "wasteful" to stay 45 minutes under a hot shower under these conditions ?
Or, imagine you have a sail boat. Is it wasteful to "use a lot of wind energy" to go on several trips ?
Or let's say that you have wind-generated electrical power with a windmill in your garden and a set of batteries in your basement. Is it wasteful to let your TV-set in stand-by mode ? Are you going to "save the planet" by switching it off ?