December 16, 2007
The urge to conserve

The urge to conserve goes mainstream. Headlines like that are weird to me, because it's always seemed mainstream to me.

A growing acceptance of human-induced climate change and the link between energy and national security has pushed conservation into the mainstream, industry consultant Joseph Stanislaw says, giving consumers more power than ever before.

In a paper to be released during the Deloitte Oil & Gas Conference in Houston today, Stanislaw says energy consumption has become a political issue because of greater awareness of its effect "on our wallets, on foreign policy, the environment and climate change."

In turn, that is changing how governments and companies are answering the world's growing demand for energy. It's no longer a matter of just finding more supplies but also finding ways to use less.

"Conservation isn't sacrifice, it's opportunity," said Stanislaw, a well-known economist and co-founder of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. "The amount of investment that will be made in the coming decades in these areas will be enormous."

There will still be a need for huge supplies of oil and natural gas for decades to come, he said, but the breakthrough in perception means long-term changes.

Consumers "are, in effect, on the frontier of discovering new energy reserves -- since energy not used is arguably the best, cheapest and least environmentally damaging source of supply," he said.

I remember, as a kid in New York in the 70s, seeing a barrage of TV ads (usually featuring a member of the Yankees broadcasting team, like Phil Rizzuto) by Con Edison - the utility company, mind you - urging people to conserve energy. New York was forever suffering blackouts back then, especially in the summer, and the only preventative measure was using less. Then there was the OPEC price shocks of 1973-74 and the resulting shortages, for which I remember waiting on gas lines, something which we got to experience again in 1979. Again, the most viable option was to use less. As such, the idea of conservation has been, for me, a lifelong concept. Maybe I'm the odd one in that regard, I don't know. But if it really is just becoming "mainstream" now, all I can say is no wonder we are where we are.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 16, 2007 to Society and cultcha