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Sierra Daily

Aug 20, 2010

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

OK, maybe it's Sierra's fault for not explaining things well enough. Or maybe it's the public's fault for not reading Sierra more carefully! But a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that the public remains very unclear on the usefulness of various energy-saving measures. In the study's survey of 505 participants, people overestimated the value of measures that didn't cost anything (turning off lights when leaving a room, driving less) while underestimating the value of measures that actually save a huge amount of energy, like improving home insulation. Energy-use-1

 In general, the authors reported, people seemed stuck on "curtailment"--simply doing less of something--rather than increasing efficiency, where the big savings are to be found. In fact, the savings to be wrung out of driving less, or in a more fuel-efficient vehicle, are dwarfed by those to be found from new efficiencies in buildings and industry.

 Another alarming finding: "Participants who engaged more in energy-conserving behaviors had less accurate perceptions of energy use and savings, possibly reflecting unrealistic optimism about the effectiveness of their personal energy-saving strategies compared with alternative ones." Ouch!

--Paul Rauber

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