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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Saving the Planet? Or easing your conscience?

This story from the Minneapolis Star Tribune is meant to highlight how average people can help reduce carbon emissions and conserve electricity. And it's the perfect illustration of the incompatibility of the American way of life with living sustainably.
Susan Levere's 4-day-old refrigerator looks great in her family's newly remodeled kitchen. The stainless steel gleams, and the French doors are great for the occasional wide tray of food.

How about the fact that it uses only $1 a week in electricity?

"I don't want to be too sanctimonious about it," said Levere
I should hope not. That energy efficient model touted in the article is a behemoth at 25 cu. ft. Whirlpool, a company that sells refrigerators, says that "For an average family of four, 19-22 cubic feet is ideal." By why go small when you can go large? (note: Levere has one child at home - that's a family of three).

Shrinking the fridge down to the "ideal" size would mean a reduction in energy use from 562 kWh per year to 445 kWh, a 20% decrease.* Since Minnesota gets two-thirds of its electricity from coal, that's a significant decrease in carbon emissions.

Showering praise on folks who buy "efficient" oversize appliances is like the federal policy of providing tax credits to buyers of hybrid SUVs. This is energy policy?

*Computed from the average energy use figures for models in each size class on the Energy Star list.

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