Friday, December 12, 2008

Consider the refrigerator

There's a great New Yorker story on Obama's next energy secretary (who happens to be a Nobel prize winning physicist). Over the summer he gave a talk on energy efficiency and related a story about the refrigerator. It consumes 15 percent of household electricity. In the 70s, California raised efficiency standards, and the fridge makers got pissed off. They said it couldn't be done, and it would hurt the consumer. Soon, standards were set nationwide. Then, as he says, the job was passed "to the engineers from the lobbyists, and this is what you get:"

The size of the average American refrigerator has increased by more than ten per cent, while the price, in inflation-adjusted dollars, has been cut in half. Meanwhile, energy use has dropped by two-thirds.
The transition to more efficient fridges, Chu pointed out, has saved the equivalent of all the energy generated in the United States by wind turbines and solar cells. “I cannot impress upon you how important energy efficiency is,” he said.


Here's the video of the talk he gave. It's interesting stuff. He'll be the first energy secretary who recognizes the dire urgency of combatting climate change--from an economic, security, and humanitarian perspective. He also understands the immense economic opportunities we can reap from carbon-friendly technologies.