Vermont has a public utility called Efficiency Vermont which is is the nation’s first statewide provider of energy efficiency services. They are operated by an independent, non-profit organization under contract to the Vermont Public Service Board. Funded by a surcharge on the electric bill, Efficiency Vermont gives out money to individuals and businesses when they install or upgrade to energy efficient lighting and appliances.

Over the past five years they have helped over one in three Vermonters reduce annual energy costs in their businesses and homes by a total of more than $24 million. Over 2 million tons of carbon dioxide greenhouse gases have been kept out of the environment over the 14-year lifetime of the measures installed from 2000 to 2004 because electricity did not need to be generated. As a result of the energy efficiency investments by Vermont home and business owners from 2000 to 2004, emissions reductions is equal to avoiding burning 900 barrels of oil per day.

Investments in energy efficiency from 2000 to 2004 will also saved other resources, including:

1.4 billion gallons of water
5 million gallons of propane
800 million cubic feet of natural gas
3 million gallons of oil

With the double threat of oil depletion and global warming knocking on our door, it is time to look carefully at efficiency and conservation as an important part of the answer to reducing our dependence upon oil. With the rapid increase in gasoline prices, there has also been a new resurgence of interest in hybrid vehicles and other technologies that will make for more efficient transportation. If we really recognized this as an emergency situation we would see greater and greater fuel economy, an increase in more efficient public transportation and a tax system that would severely penalize those that insist upon inefficient vehicles.

The same need to exploit efficiency and conservation should be used for lighting, heating and appliances. If you drive around at night, just notice how many unnecessary lights remain on all night. The use of motion sensitive lighting could save a ton of electricity alone. Businesses should be motivated (through tax or regulation) to embrace efficiency. If your local restaurant rolls out those big propane heater umbrellas to extend the patio dining season, it should cost a bunch! If they leave their front doors open while it is snowing outside, ditto.

If we start now and look at all uses of energy as tapping into a limited supply of natural resources, perhaps we could buy decades of energy. Certainly the development of renewable energy sources and new technologies is an important part of our energy future but there are literally millions of barrels of oil to be had without expensive drilling and negative environmental impact simply by making efficiency and conservation the most important part of our energy policy.

The energy we use today, whether it is oil or electricity is not being sold at its value. What I mean by that is if you take the view from thousands of years and miles into space, humanity is taking an incredible resource of stored energy that took millions of years to make and burning it all up in a flash of a couple hundred years. If I were an alien observing this planet, I’d have to say that this civilization is not ready. This precious resource should be protected and conserved so that our children and grandchildren will also have the benefit of the earth’s resources. What is the true value of a barrel of oil that now sells for $75? With the view from afar, it seems like we are the Fergengi from Star Trek – a culture which is based entirely upon commerce.

Efficiency Vermont uses commerce to conserve and encourage energy efficiency by providing incentives to change wasteful behavior. We can use our tax and regulation system to make energy saving the smart business move and we need to do that sooner rather than later when it may be too little too late.

Don Mayer

Editor’s Note: This article was imported from our forums and has lost its comments in the process.

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