Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I Didn't Know

Thirteen percent of Americans in a recent survey have never heard of global warming. Is that so terrible? But perhaps the bar has been set so low that many of us are grateful for any sign of life. After all, this is the country where a poll reported not long ago that approximately two-thirds of Americans believe the devil--literally--is wandering the streets of America ... or that more than 40% of the adult population doesn't believe in the theory of evolution. But I think there is now reason to be cautiously optimistic, in the U.S. and elsewhere regarding global warming, energy use and most importantly, raising awareness.

A great many people are now uttering the words "global warming" and "energy." Even the colossal incompetent in the White House has mumbled something about the subject.

Environmental Defense has discussed three areas in particular where energy efficiency can be a focal point for action. These three areas are individual action, transportation and buildings. Yes leadership is still required but it can come from many levels, both public and private, local and national.

Improved building design, the major source of global warming pollution, can cut energy use by some 40%. Individual homeowners as well can make a significant impact on global warming along with saving money by doing such things as improving insulation and using energy efficient appliances.

Transportation represents about one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. According to Environmental Defense, improving vehicle efficiency by some 60% by the year 2020 would reduce our fuel demand by 2.3 million barrels per day. This is what we now import from the Persian Gulf.

The Institute for Local Self-Government says, in reference to the roughly 350 cities participating in the Climate Protection Planning Process, that they will fail to meet their greenhouse gas emission goals if they don't get improved fuel efficiency standards for vehicles or get people to drive less.

Before the stampede sets in to build costly nuclear plants, more primitive coal-fired facilities or drill for oil in every preserve in America, we need to forcefully address real energy efficiency. It's not obscure nor is it fanciful. Do we want to be a California that uses half as much energy per person as Texas because they understand energy efficiency much better than the "lonestar" state? Do we want to see 19 more coal-fired plants built as Texas has proposed or do we want to follow a state like California that has a program to reduce CO2 emissions 20% within the next 13 years?

Certainly, if we want China and India to go beyond their global warming "entitlement" rhetoric, the U.S. needs to demonstrate that it has heard of greenhouse gases and is actually doing something to address global warming--beginning yesterday.

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