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Cheap Legislation To Save Energy

By Bruce of Stone Marmot

Dec. 12, 2009

When people think about what the government should be doing to save energy, most think only of the government subsidizing massive, expensive research projects to develop major technological innovations for more energy efficient articles or alternate energy sources, or they think of tax credits, rebates, and grants to encourage people and businesses to implement energy saving measures. But much of the energy presently used is wasted. Most people put little effort into reducing this waste unless they are forced to or they can see a direct economic benefit and the change is relatively painless. Here are three suggestions for legislation that could encourage people to reduce this energy waste that require no technological breakthroughs and little cost:

1) Require ALL electrical devices to have a readily accessible on/off switch which turns off ALL power to the device. It is amazing how many products, such as microwave ovens, regular ovens, televisions, stereos, etc., still consume power when they are assumed to be "turned off." Many of the manufacturers of these products claim that the consumption of these "phantom loads" is negligible, but this isn't true if this consumption is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

For example, my microwave oven is plugged into a switched multi-outlet strip so that I can turn it on only when I want to use it. If it weren't, I calculate that it would consume, over a year's time, four times as much energy when it is "off" than when it is in use. You could just plug each existing appliance into its own switched multi-outlet strip, but this would be a ridiculous mess if you had to do this for every appliance you owned. Also, this isn't practical some items, like permanently installed items, such as built in microwaves, or items running on 240 VAC, such as ovens.

Some people may want to make an exception for clocks. The trouble is that many manufacturers will just add clocks to their devices to get around adding a switch, like they already do with microwaves, ovens, video players, etc. People will also want to make exceptions for chargers and “wall warts” (those transformers that plug directly into the wall outlet), but these devices are some of the worst offenders when it comes to wasting energy. So there should be NO exceptions.

2) Require manufacturers to include the power consumption of the product, both in use and when idle, on the product packaging. Presently, only the maximum consumption is listed, and usually only on the product itself in very small print. So someone presently trying to select between products can't compare energy consumption without opening the packages for these items, and most packages these days are not easy to open without damaging the package. Listing the power consumption for the item on the package would help those of us who really do care in making our product choices. Of course, the manufacturers of inefficient products would probably resist this, but that should encourage them to make their products more efficient.

3) Eliminate the minimum charge per customer for electric rates and adjust the rates per kilowatt hour consumed accordingly so that all customer charges are based directly on the amount of electricity used. These minimum charges per customer punish those who conserve energy and rewards the energy gluttons. Since this charge is the same for every user, no matter how much electricity they use, the effective rate per kilowatt hour, that is, the total bill divided by the kilowatt hours used, is much higher for those who conserve energy than for those who don't. Effectively, those who try to be good stewards of our earth's resources are subsidizing electricity for those who are wasteful and don't care, which definitely doesn't encourage energy conservation.

In this age of concern for global warming and talk of carbon footprints and carbon taxes, much of it coming from our own President of the United States and his staff, we should be doing all we can to encourage all people to conserve energy and our resources. But we are also faced with massive budget deficits. The above suggestions allow our government to encourage energy conservation at virtually no cost.

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