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Friday, April 17, 2009

Why I Write Energy Efficiency and Lowering Utility Bills

More than 20 years ago, I started my career as a professional writer. My first subject was tax law--which I didn’t find interesting. After two years, I was hired by a utility, and my life-long interest in energy and utility industries began.

At the utility, I started out writing an advice column for utility customer service employees. The goal: explain the intricacies of utility billing and rates--and focus on showing employees how to teach customers to save energy and lower their electricity and natural gas bills.

I’ve returned to this theme for two reasons: After more than 20 years, people continue to throw away money on utility bills, and I deplore the waste. Most experts agree the price of electricity and natural gas will continue to climb, taking away what precious little remains of our disposable incomes.

In this bad economy, don’t throw away your money. Save it. According to some, saving money--instead of spending it--can be the most revolutionary act every American can take.

Also, many of us worry about the impact of energy production on the environment (I leave the debate on the true effect of greenhouse gas emissions to others). I worry about the impact on the environment, and I have also seen the skies clear up as a result of changes in how we produce and use electricity, natural gas, gasoline, and firewood (yes, firewood, too).

Someone once said, “Past is prologue.” I say, “It’s deja-vu all over again.” Or to put it in plain English, we’ve been here before and we know what we have to do.

In the 1970s, OPEC hit America with politically contrived oil shortages. The natural gas industry in the United States realized that it had run out of cheap natural gas supplies. Energy prices hit the roof. Consumers cried, “foul!”

But we began also to clean up our act. We started to use alternative energy and questioned whether we couldn’t do more with less.

Americans, being a can-do people, started a quiet revolution. American industry became energy-conscious, with the result that we produce far more from one kilowatt-hour of electricity or cubic foot of natural gas than we did 30, 20, or 10 years ago.

As quoted by Bill Prindle, former Acting Director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, "The U.S. economy uses half as much energy to produce a dollar of output today as we used in the 1970s." (See his 2007 testimony before the U.S. Senate.)

We can continue this remarkable achievement by using what we always use when pushed to extremes: innovation and common sense. Efficient technology and efficient thinking will increase our independence, help clean up our skies, and leave us more money in our pockets and savings accounts--where our money belongs.

That is why as a professional writer I have come back to this theme.

And why I encourage everyone to turn off the lights when the lights are no longer needed.

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