Friday, April 25, 2008

A few comments on Paul Dickerson’s lecture

On Thursday, Paul Dickerson gave a good talk and I applaud the way in which he engaged the class in a constructive discussion on policies that the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) should explore. Towards the end of class, Mr. Dickerson stated, to some effect, that he is a strong believer in energy efficiency, but not energy conservation. I won’t attempt to reproduce his exact quote, but his comments on conservation made me cringe in my seat. I immediately thought of Vice President Dick Cheney; my opinion of Cheney was formed back in 2001 with the following quote:

"Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy." –April 30, 2001

I have seen this ‘ethic’ displayed by many Republicans in the past and present, but I simply cannot believe that this is an official party line. I found the following excerpt on energy on the House Republican Conference (GOP) website:

Republicans are committed to a balanced, common sense energy security policy that makes our energy more affordable and reliable. An innovative, 21st century energy policy should make renewable and alternative fuels much more accessible to ordinary Americans, and it should apply cutting-edge technologies to the environmentally conscious exploration of traditional American energy. In expanding the supply of available energy, we must also focus on energy conservation and efficiency, and we should make the necessary long-term investments in the fuels of the future.

The GOP appears to support energy conservation, although this excerpt does emphasize the expansion of domestic energy supplies over energy conservation. Finally, I pulled up the Mission statement of the Office of EERE:

The EERE mission is to strengthen America's energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality in public-private partnerships that:

Enhance energy efficiency and productivity;

Bring clean, reliable and affordable energy technologies to the marketplace; and

Make a difference in the everyday lives of Americans by enhancing their energy choices and their quality of life.

Suprisingly, the word ‘conservation’ is never mentioned in the mission statement. Expanding renewable energy and improving energy efficiency without conserving energy and reducing overall demand is terrible policy. The age old idea that economic growth is predicated upon increased energy consumption should be laid to rest. Again, I enjoyed Paul’s talk and the way he engaged the class, but his refusal to see the major role that conservation measures should and need to play in solving climate and energy challenges is disappointing.


Aziz Hussaini said...


I agree with you on a couple of things. First, I too enjoyed the lecture and the manner in which he engaged the class to be part of the solution. Secondly, I was taken aback as well when I heard Paul's stance on conservation not being his issue.

However, I think he is correct in stating that as a person who is responsible for the office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, conservation is not a part of his mandate. It does not mean that conservation is not part of the energy solution, but it is just not part of what he has been charged to do.

The EERE has extensive material on their website to promote energy efficiency, and its interesting that there is a fine line in defining "turning off the lights when they are not in use" as conservation, and "replacing incandescants with cfls" as improving energy efficiency, but I think that is where the dept. draws the line as to its role.

M. King Hubbert said...

True. But, I definitely felt that Mr. Dickerson's comments were reflecting a Republican ideology, and were not specific to his responsibilities as the COO of the Office of EERE.

Cassandra said...

Perhaps you should say change personal habits rather than conservation. Conservation can apply to reducing demand by changing personal habits or by implementing more efficient technology.

I think we could all benefit from an information campaign. Though it's not quite as flashy and simple to introduce as new technologies. It requires an conscious effort by the people to do more than change a light bulb once every 7 years. People are often more willing to fork out a little extra dough and not think about something than they are to thinking about all of their actions.

I doubt anyone does all of these.

'Unplug your appliances and chargers when not in use. Turn off your lights when you're not in the room. Set your refrigerator and A/C to efficiency settings. Don't run hot water. Take shorter showers. Don't let your car idle (this one really gets me.) Turn the TV off if you're not watching it. Use black backgrounds on your monitor. etc.