I have been lurking on this site for many years, always thinking that I should sign up but never following through. What put me over the edge was this statement from Mitt Romney in his acceptance speech:
First, by 2020, North America will be energy independent by taking full advantage of our oil and coal and gas and nuclear and renewables.If such an attitude was taken in 1970, our standard of living would be nowhere near where it is today. For Mitt to completley ignore the most cost-effective way to meet our energy needs is telling.
Funding energy efficiency programs is the ideal way to move toward the goals most progressive support.
Unlike supply side investments (including those in renewable sources), energy efficiency measures disproportionately help low-income families. Although low-income families use significantly less energy than middle and upper income households, it represents a strikingly large percentage of their disposable income. Utility bills are the most commonly delinquent items, and delinquencies often occur concurrently with other shortages. This indicates that a reduction in energy expenditures would be applied to other needed items.
While renewable energy is an important component in the fight against climate change, it does not reduce the cost per unit of energy. More affluent households won't be affected by a small increase in cost per kWh, but low-income households will.
More jobs are created for each dollar invested in energy efficiency than almost any other public investment. This is particularly true of “market transformation” activities. EE programs help new technologies overcome the hurdle of initial high costs. Often, suppliers and retailers don’t stock efficient products because they fear no one can afford them or will buy them. Lowering the cost for first adopters allows retailers and suppliers to order larger quantities with confidence. In some period of time the “market moves” and the incentives are no longer needed. But the employees are still making the product – they may even be exporting it to other countries.
Real wealth is created
Capital is not the only form of wealth. Computers are a good example of this. The cost of getting information has been vastly lowered via the internet. Even the wealthiest person in America in 1970 did not have instant access to any song he wanted to listen to that moment, no matter how many dollars he had in the bank.
If average new car MPG had not increaed since 1975, the average American would have to spend $1,750 more per year to drive 13,476 miles (the average usage for an Amoerican drive in 2011 per the EPA's 2011 Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Fuel Economy Trends Report Main Report Tables). That is a whopping $350 billion dollars, assuming 175 million drivers. Of course, that estimate would have to be adjusted a little - people would drive fewer miles, but gas would be more expensive. But overall, the annual benefit is well into the $100's billion. Further, the bulk of the costs of increased fuel efficiency aren't really costs at all - labor expenses for R&D and manufacturing go right back into the U.S. economy, unlike fossil fuels.
Visibilty of EE measures
While I realize that Energy Efficiency is not as "sexy" as solar or wind power, I feel that it should have a more prominent place in the progressive agenda.