The big energy bill now signed into law by President Bush addresses one of the biggest quandaries that energy policymakers face. Why don't people save energy when it will save them money?
People don't make the connection between that monthly electric utility bill and the cost of the type of light bulbs they use or the design of their homes. So Congress is going to phase out inefficient light bulbs and force more efficient household appliances onto the market to try to make a difference.
Good reading on this subject is the new study by McKinsey & Company that concluded that greenhouse-gas-emissions reductions can be achieved in the United States at a reasonable cost.
But the way to keep the cost low is to go for energy savings first, before implementing expensive expenditures like coal power plants with carbon-capture technology, the McKinsey researchers say. "We waste a huge amount of energy," says McKinsey director Jack Stephenson. More efficient buildings, consumer electronics, and lighting would save money while reducing carbon. "We could actually unlock value for the economy," he says. In fact, more-efficient residential lighting would save $90 per ton of carbon reduction, according to researchers.
McKinsey concludes the United States can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 7 to 28 percent by 2030 with a cumulative net new investment of $1.1 trillion. They said that is just 1.5 percent of the $77 trillion in real investment the U.S. economy is expected to make over that period. McKinsey looked at the levels of carbon dioxide reduction that are being considered in various bills currently under consideration on Capitol Hill, and concluded that a 3-gigaton-to-4.5-gigaton-per-year reduction in carbon dioxide emissions was achievable, largely with technology available in commercial scale today. Without action, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are expected to increase from 7.2 gigatons today to 9.7 gigatons by 2030. One gigaton of carbon dioxide is equivalent to the entire greenhouse gas output of Germany each year.