Energy saving

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(HOST) Energy saving can make us richer by saving our money. Commentator Ruth Page points out that there are a number of ways to do this, including making stronger but lighter cars.

(PAGE) We’re learning the hard way. Saving energy saves money, as we know by buying smaller cars, getting long-lasting lights, using sunshine to heat water when possible, raising shade trees to protect windows from summer sun, and so on.

Energy producers at the nation’s power plants claim that burning less fossil fuel will raise the cost of many services, including trans- portation of people and goods. They fear we will have to make sacrifices that will take us backwards several steps where full-
power service would move us forward speedily.

Not so. Buying fossil fuel is extremely expensive both in dollars and in damage to air, earth and water. Pollution causes lung and other costly diseases. Digging for coal in the mountains of the southeast wipes out trees. Detritus from the mining operation washes into streams that for years have been used as a source of fresh water for people in the towns below. On top of that, our taxes, in part, subsidize the power plants that use the fossil fuels. The total cost of these operations in dollars and in health can be staggering.

As some of our biggest corporations have shown, saving energy saves cash. DuPont has saved two billion dollars by cutting energy use just seven percent, which also cut their greenhouse gas emissions sharply.

Other large firms have cut carbon emissions up to sixty percent. GE has announced it’s going to raise its energy efficiency in order to increase shareholder value.

Physicist Amory Lovins, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute, reminds us that automobile engines are super-inefficient. Only thirteen percent of the energy that goes in with a fill-up ever reaches the car’s wheels. All the rest is lost in heat, noise, idling and “extras” such as air conditioning.

We’ve always feared lighter cars, thinking they endanger us in accidents. But there are new materials available now that can make the car-body strong and they’re much lighter than standard steel. There are even ultra-light steels available today.

So far, some car manufacturers have reacted to energy concerns by making smaller cars; a few people have even traded in their SUVs for less gas-guzzling transport. Transportation uses up seventy percent of our country’s oil, and produces a third of our carbon emissions. As developing countries improve economically, their residents want cars. There are times in China when some cities are just about invisible in their stifling cloak of emissions from vehicles and factories. Will China be the first to come up with cars of new, light, safe materials to help solve the problem? If they are, we’ll be left in the dust financially.

This is Ruth Page in Shelburne.

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