Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

March 12, 2006

Where The Heck is Our Public Policy?

Category: Editorial – Tom Harrison – 3:09 pm

In my previous post, I talked about the difficulty of choosing any one personal action to take to save energy when there are so many that could be taken. It takes mental energy, and not many of us have a lot of that to spare.

Why can’t our government step in and make some of the choices easier for us? Ok, credit where credit is due: there are tax credits for hybrid cars, and a few others for doing basic energy saving actions. But this is really an expensive way to get things done.

Look on any environmental site and of course you’ll see long, long lists of cumulative numbers: if we all did X we would save Y million Zs.

We don’t do X, though. Certainly not all of us. So we need a push. Economists call it an incentive. And in some cases, the push need only be a tiny one. Consider the “PlasTax” implemented in Ireland: each bag used by the consumer costs the equivalent of 15 cents, in tax.

The PlasTax is a simple, elegant solution. And it works on a big scale. Consumption was reduced by 90%. The government raised a little money. Retailers like it because it reduces their costs (as compared to bottle bills, for example). Consumers like it — they still have choice, but they have a little incentive to do something good, and feel good about it.

The only parties harmed are the bag makers and their suppliers, namely oil companies and paper companies.

There have to be scores of opportunities like this in a country like the US. But what seems like a blindly obvious thing to do is a little harder because the big and little companies whose revenues will suffer will lobby, and shout and cry about job losses. And they know on whose shoulder to cry and into whose ears to shout: our law makers’. And there’s no one crying and shouting back.

Boy oh boy do we need a voice in this country that can be heard, be persistent, and be respected in order to balance the voices of the lobbies. Nothing wrong with lobbies, we just need to have more that speak for the people.

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