March 11, 2009

Sørensen: efficiency standards will buy us time

The stimulus for projects and technology development is promising, but meeting energy and climate challenges will take much more than that, in the US and globally.

A mindset change is required that will make it natural for every member of society to act responsibly in matters related to planetary resources and environment.

There is no need to wait for research and development, because the technology for efficient use of energy does already exist: The most efficient car on the global market uses 3 times less energy to perform the same job as the average car on the street, and the same is the case for household appliances, light bulbs, computer systems, heating and refrigeration in buildings, and so on. In most of these cases, efficiency does not affect the cost of equipment but of course saves by reducing energy purchase costs.

Reducing our energy use by a factor of 3 will buy us the time needed for developing new, sustainable supply solutions.

What should governments do? Set energy efficiency minimum standards across the board, just as it is done in some countries through building codes, but standards that are stringent enough to achieve the large reduction factor.

Any obstacles: Yes, plenty. People will loose jobs in industries unwiling to produce efficient equipment or industries not able to reach competitiveness relative to world market leaders in efficient technology. Such industries will try to lobby governments to bail them out financially and allow them to continue to produce the outdated stuff.

For this reason, the energy and climate issue is not unrelated to questions of how we distribute the wealth of our nations: can we create a new economic paradigm that ensures everyone a good life independent of crises such as those caused by grief and ignorance among a few bank executives? Could the Obama administration take a lead in addressing this challenge, or is the opposition too powerful?

Bent S�rensen
Roskilde University

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