We’re number one! (um, energy wasters)

February 28, 2013

In a country that prides itself at being the best at everything, our most recent achievement is nothing to boast about. The United States tops every other industrialized nation in the world when it comes to wasting energy. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, what the U.S. wastes in the generation of electricity alone is more than Japan needs to power its entire economy. This waste is taking an enormous toll on our economy to the tune of tens of billions of dollars each year.

Shame on us.

But it’s hard to assign blame when energy waste is essentially invisible. The challenge facing efficiency proponents in advancing energy-saving policies and programs is to not only make the invisible visible, but also visceral. And what cuts at Americans’ guts more than losing money?

All too often, energy efficiency proponents focus on the potential future money savings that would come from energy-saving measures, rather than the money that has already been lost today. Think about it: doesn’t your gut wrench more to seeing your 401(K) tank than dreaming about its potential recovery 5 or 10 years down the road?

ACEEE gave a punch to our collective guts recently when it published the amount of money consumers and businesses had already lost due to federal inaction on appliance standards: $3.7 billion and counting. Ouch. And this is just one relatively small segment of energy use in our country.

And the Apartment Guide hit folks in the beer gut with this nifty infograhic breaking down how much money is wasted by electronic appliances and gadgets in a typical home each year.  Add it all up and you lost $453. According to the number crunchers at Apartment Guide, that could have bought about 23 cases of beer (or an iPhone, plane ticket or three months of groceries). D’oh!  Good graphics like these help people visualize energy waste as money down the drain.

While little research exists on what makes a stronger case for energy efficiency – saving money or losing money, our gut tells us to go for the gut. Hit consumers where it hurts – their wallets.

Know of another gut-wrenching energy waste stat or story? Let us know!

Debbie Slobe