Monday, December 6, 2010

Energy efficiency at home… where's the low hanging fruit in California?

Just to kick things off, here's a short query on why electrical goods do not carry energy ratings. I doubt this is just particular to California. In the EU, energy labels on white goods, cars and light bulbs have been mandatory for some years now but the system is not without its flaws. George Monbiot has written at length about the weaknesses in the European system.

But it does mean that companies can no longer manufacture without energy data for the consumer, and that has to be a good thing.

Is there really nothing comparable in California? When I asked the very nice assistant in my local Best Buy shop yesterday which was the more energy efficient heater between the oil and air (fan) room heaters, he said: "Well the advantage of the oil heater is that you can leave it on and go out of the house without worrying about it."

The profligacy of energy use here never ceases to amaze me particularly given the fact that the US already imports 51% of its petroleum just to keep the lights on, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Tumble driers are always used, even throughout the summer. Central heating in most Californian homes uses hot air - probably the least energy efficient way of heating a home. And there appears to be precious little in the way of insulation. I have personally managed to clock up more than 1,000 (very gas guzzling) miles just to go shopping over the past 6 weeks because there is no transport system that supports that kind of 'unusual' behaviour. California's gross emissions in 2008 amounted to 477.74 million tonnes of GHGs, which would make the world's 8th largest economy the 11th largest emitter of CO2 according to this table.

But it wouldn't take a globally binding agreement on climate change, or even indeed the implementation of AB32 which aims to limit CO2e emissions to 427 million tonnes by 2020, to make some big differences.

Simple changes by picking the low hanging fruit, such as turning the lights off and putting on a jumper when the fog sweeps across the San Francisco Bay could make the world of difference…

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