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.
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!