Energy efficiency: winning the battle, losing the war

Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.
~Peter Drucker

Supposedly my new LCD monitor is more efficient than my old CRT. That may be true. It may also be true that newer pickup trucks are more fuel efficient than my old ’83 Chevy S-10.

But my new LCD monitor is bigger than my old CRT, and I’ve seen precious few trucks on the road smaller than an ’83 S-10 (which got surprisingly good mileage).

Sure, we may be making huge gains in energy and fuel efficiency, but it’s all for naught if our tech keeps getting bigger, and therefore, more demanding. Not to mention the added tech we fill our lives with (what exactly is the purpose of an iPad again?).

The same is true with our houses. You can go LEED-certified, but I’ll bet most of those consume much more energy than my 600 sq ft. apartment.

But we have temporarily, at least, stalled our love of bigger and “better.” Thanks in part to the economic recession, we used less energy in ’09 than in ’08. Average home size has either dropped or failed to rise, and I don’t know if it’s just me, but there are a whole lot more bicycles around town than there used to be. The ridiculously high gas prices of the past few years decreased the amount we’re driving.

But none of these are significant…gains. Losses. Whatever. And I’m sure once the economy picks back up we’ll be back to buying seven-foot-wide TVs and Hummers and McMansions. I’m not holding my breath.

Technology has become somewhat of an Ouroboros in it’s own right. It requires energy, so there’s a push to make it more efficient. But at the same time, there’s a social push to make it bigger, which negates the efficiency so it requires more energy. A vicious circle, and one that we’re not likely to break out of so long as your dick size is indicated by your TV and your pickup truck or muscle car. Phone. Watch. Shoes. Insert preferred status symbol here.

As usual, I’m behind on the times and am left wondering just what the hell you need a huge TV for, anyway. Once it hits a certain size it just becomes unwieldy. Of course, status has always been it’s own justification.

6 Responses to “Energy efficiency: winning the battle, losing the war”

  1. Dargon Says:

    “A vicious circle, and one that we’re not likely to break out of so long as your dick size is indicated by your TV and your pickup truck or muscle car. Phone. Watch. Shoes. Insert preferred status symbol here.”

    If this is the case, then what’s that say about my junk =p

  2. Falconsong Hart Says:

    You might actually want to read the requirements for LEED certification before making such a broad, flawed statement. On average LEED building use 20-40% less energy than their conventional counterparts. Not to mention the benefits of much reduced water use (hello local plants for landscaping?), and lower maintenance costs. My HVAC bill would certainly be FAR lower if my damned apartment had better insulation, Low-E double pane sash frame windows instead of the wonderfully thermal conductive single pan piss poor frame ones there right now, and if it WASN’T built completely perpendicular to the sun path (In Texas of all places, WTF?) All of which are basic considerations of a LEED building.

    You are making an unfair comparison. Compare apples to apples not apples to pineapples. A home cannot be compared to an apartment for energy efficiency. It’s like saying “Well my chihuahua eats less than your Saint Bernard so obviously mines more efficient.” Well, no shit. Compare a home of conventional methods to a LEED certified home of equal build then you’ll have a decent argument. If you want to argue that an apartment is a more economical residence and uses less energy than a house you’ll win that one nearly every time. Trying to say a tiny apartment uses much less energy than a house and therefore LEED certification is not helping to “win the war of energy efficiency” is going back to the chihuahua.

    • I think the comparison is rather valid, actually. Apartments and houses are both dwellings. If one is concerned about one’s impact, even you conceded that the choice is obvious…apartments are better. A LEED-certified apartment would definitely be a thing to see.

      I wasn’t saying that LEED certification was not helping, just as I wasn’t saying that more efficient appliances aren’t helping. I was merely pointing out the fact that even as we get more efficient, things get bigger and ultimately, we lose any gains we made in efficiency.

      • Craig Says:

        Yep. The key to making improved efficiency actually improve things is to not use the efficiency gain as an excuse to move up to a larger TV, dwelling, car etc just because the bigger and “better” one only has the same impact as the less efficient small one. Doing so negates the benefits gained from the improved efficiency, so nothing is really gained.

  3. Craig Says:

    After the growth in typical TV size over the decade, I think we might have gotten to the point where they aren’t going to get much bigger than they are at the moment, simply because most people probably don’t have the space to fit anything bigger than the larger TVs that are available. It also looks like we might have hit the limit of what can be produced at a reasonable cost, at least until technology improves again, so hopefully that will put a dampener on things for a while.

    With regards to efficiency, I’ve been saying for some time now that it’s something we need simply because if we were a lot more efficient with using all the energy and products we consume, we could go a long way towards creating a more sustainable society. We’d still need to cut back, but the modern first world nations seem so wasteful in so many areas that I imagine significant improvements could be made it there was a large scale push to become more efficient.

    It’s true that efficiency isn’t going to solve all our problems, but I think it could help reduce many of our problems.

  4. I’ve noticed a fuckton of scooters around town this semester. I mean, typically Fall semester shows a slight increase in both scooters and motorcycles…but this year I’d estimate there’s at least three times what I’d usually expect. It’s nice to see, but these idiots still think they’re safe without a helmet because it’s a scooter and not a motorcycle. Also, most don’t wave when you pass them. Fucking scooterfags.

    And I don’t mean the archaic “homosexual” definition of fag.

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