Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Why I Write

Whether you care about global warming or worry about the family budget, you ignore the importance of energy use at your peril. The recent run-up in the price of gasoline is just a shot across the bow: almost all conventional sources of energy are both limited and in greater demand. Much of the energy use that contributes to our lifestyles we cannot directly control, like that embodied in the products we buy. But in a few areas, like personal transportation, we enjoy fairly direct control. We may buy a more fuel efficient car, use public transit, ride our bikes, telecommute etc. These decisions are often not easy, involving wrenching value conflicts (that additional 1/2 hour on the bus you used to spend reading to your child), but at least the energy calculation is clear (45 mpg Prius vs 28 mpg Focus x 30 miles per day x $4.?? per gallon).

When it comes to energy in the home (which with transportation, amounts to almost 1/2 the energy Americans use), it's another story entirely, and on the face of it that's puzzling. After all, almost all energy we consume at home is metered and regularly billed, and we mostly can (within our budgets and physical tolerances) decide exactly how much heat, A/C, lighting, etc we will consume. What complicates the picture is how many variables are at work:
  • Prices change over time, so even constant use appears as increase
  • Weather variability skews otherwise predictable energy demand
  • Shifting life patterns (vacations, house guests, etc) add spikes and dips
and countless others. The more difficult it becomes to isolate or quantify the effects of any single energy conservation measure, the less able we are to justify or undertake it. We are operating 100 million energy management labs in America (viz. our homes), but cannot get any good - that is general - results.

I'm writing from the belief that by sharing our individual experiments, we can begin to build a body of knowledge that can guide practical decisions, almost like the approach taken in evidence-based medicine, where clinical scientific results are interpreted in light of individual goals, circumstances, and previous outcomes. I have found very little information of this sort in the blogosphere or the web - mostly corporate blogs with a product to sell or their sockpuppets - so even one set of particular, local, results can be of value. The more so if it provokes others to open the doors to their labs as well.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home