Conservation and Efficiency

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Conservation and efficiency is a necessary part of finding a solution to global warming. Conservation is the act of reducing the amount of energy used and efficiency describes using less energy to accomplish a task than normal. The two are not mutually exclusive principles; by using energy more efficiently it will naturally be conserved. Using less energy burns fewer fossil fuels, mitigating greenhouse glasses and helping to solve global warming.


The energy information administration classifies energy use into four sectors; transportation, industrial, commercial and residential. Technological advances that cause less energy to be used by machinery improve the efficiency of each sector. One example of a technological innovation for the transportation sector is the hybrid car which improves energy efficiency by using a combination of electricity and gasoline to run the cars. [1] Using unleaded fuel only when it is most efficient emits less carbon into the atmosphere. For example, a 2009 Toyota Prius Hybrid only emits 4.0 tons of carbon dioxide a year as opposed to a typical station wagon, like the Saab 9-3 Aero Combi AWI which emits 10.2 tons of carbon dioxide annually. Other possible features of hybrid cars that improve energy use are regenerative braking, which converts energy normally wasted during braking into electricity, and an automatic start and shut off which turns off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop. [2] Improving the design of transportation vehicles in general, whether they be non-hybrid cars, trains, or airplanes so they are lighter, and therefore require less energy to move, would also improve efficiency.

The largest consumer of energy, using more than twenty eight percent, is the industrial sector. [3] The most inefficient technology in this sector is the electric motors which are used to run the machinery in most industrial facilities, which consume as much as 63% of all industrial energy. Some recent developments in technology allow premium-efficient motors to be built with additional laminations from sturdier materials to reduce energy loss. Improving the design of the fans and the bearings will conserve the extra energy needed to push through the friction of poorly designed fans. Using stronger electromagnetic steel will reduce core energy losses by reducing the energy needed to magnetize the core material. [4] Changing low efficiency motors for the top ones in technology today reduces energy by eighteen percent. [5].

Commercial buildings also have high energy outputs. Each year more than 100,000 megawatts of electrical power comes from commercial lighting in the day time. Compact flourescent light bulbs (CFLs) use seventy five percent less energy than an incandescent bulb. Replacing all of the millions of light bulbs in commercial buildings with CFLs has the potential to reduce the energy output of commercial lighting to 25,000 megawatts. [6] Improving insulation and window technology so less heat energy escapes through the walls and glass significantly cuts the amount of energy needed to keep consumers at a comfortable temperature. These same measures can be taken in the residential sector, improving efficiency in people’s own homes.


Investing in efficient technologies not only improves efficiency, it is also economically viable. On an individual scale working to conserve energy saves money. For example, buying a Toyota Prius that gets 46 miles per gallon only costs a $1.58 to drive twenty five miles and has an annual fuel cost of 947 percent (assuming 2.91 gas price, 15000 miles of driving annually, 45% of which is on the highway). Driving the previously mentioned Saab station wagon, which only gets an average of 18 miles per gallon, would cost you 4.04 to drive twenty five miles and $2427 dollars annually. Although an investment in a hybrid car would seem more expensive at first, the payback time is relatively short. The returns quickly become greater than the investment, improving the individual’s financial situation.[7]

On a larger scale improving efficiency will have a great economic benefit to an entire nation. Using the United States of America as an example, the cost to the U.S. for oil is close to $200 billion every year. By being more efficient in its energy less of its budget will need to be allocated to the purchase of fossil fuels, boosting the economy and allowing the government to invest elsewhere. The creation and installation of new technological innovations in all of the sectors would create employment, continuing to stimulate the economy. The savings in energy bills individuals would allow them to spend more on other things, further increasing productivity in the economy. [8] These economic benefits are a positive byproduct of the mitigation of greenhouses gases.

Politicians and Policy

The encouraging effects of efficiency on the economy are reasons for politicians to take the side of Conservation and Efficiency. At this time of global economic deficit anything for a nation to aid its economy would be beneficial. Another positive attribute is for a country to be able to reduce its dependence on foreign countries. If the United States of America is able to conserve energy it will need to import less oil. There is opposition to this that could sway political candidates against this global warming solution. Big oil conglomerates, power plant companies, and other organizations that prosper from reliance on fossil fuels that fund political candidates would not benefit financially from fewer fuel purchases. The politicians in turn will not benefit financially if they lose some of their biggest sponsors. Policies made on local, state, and federal levels promote conservation and efficiency. Cities can mandate things, like Tuscan Arizona that recently passed a mandate saying landscapers must harvest their own rain water. [9] For example, most states have their own conservation commissions, such as the California Energy Commission which forecasts energy needs and keeps track of energy data, licensing thermal power plants fifty megawatts or larger, promoting energy efficiency through appliance and building standards, developing new technologies, and has the responsibility of enforcing all of these things to mitigate the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. [10] The federal government can also make mandates to weed out energy inefficient appliances, such as mandating all cars are under specific weight requirements, and forbidding imports of inefficient machinery. They can also allocate money to researching and developing buildings, as well as advocate long-term economic incentives for buildings, like tax breaks, to ensure construction of commercia facilities with more efficient lighting systems and better sealing so less heat energy escapes. [11] [12]

Socio-Cultural Effects

Taking the steps to conserve energy and use it more efficiently would have an impact on our society. The relaxed attitude many have towards conserving energy would need to change. Sacrifices of small luxuries, such as discontinuing large SUV’s, wearing a sweater instead of setting the thermostat higher during the winter, and less air conditioning in the summer would have to be made. People would have to forgo individual comforts like having their own car to drive to work every day and use public transportation or carpool. If governments wish to implement energy conservation they may raise the price energy. A lot of stress may be placed on lower income households for they will not be able to afford these new technologies and therefore will not save money, possibly decreasing the standard of living. If programs were implemented ensure everyone had access to efficient technologies then everyone could afford to conserve their energy and the standard of living would actually increase. Large savings would be reaped, allowing people to invest in other areas previously unavailable to them.


The effects of conservation and efficiency will be felt in different ways depending on location. In an urban area, where train networks and bus systems are more common, it will be much easier to conserve in the transportation sector. However in a rural setting people will find it easier to conserve in the residential sector. It is less difficult for an entire house to be reinsulated rather than an entire high-rise apartment complex. Many conservation efforts in cities will have to involve the cooperation of a large group of people together rather than the actions of one individual.


There are some risks that people may associate with conservation and efficiency. Take for example the California Energy Crisis from 2000 to 2001 where there was not sufficient energy for the entire state due to the bankruptcy of major power plants. Many people are worried a similar disaster will occur if there are conservation mandates and other power plants are intentionally shut down. This crisis will not reoccur; if the government and individuals make earlier efforts to use energy more efficiently and close the big power producers afterwards there will not be a shortage of energy. [13]

Conserving energy by using it more efficiently will directly mitigate greenhouse gases. The technology to improve efficiency in each of the four sectors is available; governments need to be willing to enforce efficiency standards and people to accept the socio-cultural effects that will occur. This solution is one of the easiest for us to begin doing and if employed alongside the other solutions will be help the world end global warming.


  1. "Overview." Annual Energy Outlook 2008 with Projections to 2030 . June 2008. Energy Information Administration. 3 Nov. 2008 < oiaf/aeo/>.
  2. 30 Oct. 2008. United States Department of Energy. 3 Nov. 2008 <>.
  3. "Overview." Annual Energy Outlook 2008 with Projections to 2030 . June 2008. Energy Information Administration. 3 Nov. 2008 < oiaf/aeo/>.
  4. United States. United States Department of Energy. Energy-Efficient Motor Selection Handbook. By Gilbert A McCoy, Todd Littman, and John G Douglass. Olympia, Washington. 3 Nov. 2008 < ce0384.pdf>.
  5. Malinowski, John. "Energy Efficient Motors." AccessScience. McGraw-Hill. 3 Nov. 2008 <>.
  6. "Compact Flourescent Light Bulbs." Energy Star. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy. 3 Nov. 2008 <>.
  7. 30 Oct. 2008. United States Department of Energy. 3 Nov. 2008 <>.
  8. Saving energy, growing jobs : how environmental protection promotes economic growth, profitability, innovation, and competition / David B. Goldstein. Tree Pub., c2007. Berkeley, Calif: Bay
  9. Reese, April. "Tucson passes nation's first rainwater harvesting ordinance for commercial properties ." Land Letter 16 Oct. 2008. 21 Oct. 2008 <>.
  10. The California Energy Comission. 4 June 2008. 3 Nov. 2008 <>.
  11. Holness, Gordon V.R. "Improving energy efficiency in existing buildings.(Technical report)." ASHRAE Journal 50.1 (Jan 2008): 12(9). Academic OneFile. Gale. Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT. 26 Oct. 2008 <>.
  12. Energy Efficiency Promotion Act of 2007 : hearing before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, United States Senate, One Hundred Tenth Congress, first session, on S. 1115, to promote the efficient use of oil, natural gas, and electricity, reduce oil consumption, and heighten energy efficiency standards for consumer products and industrial equipment, and for other purposes, April 23, 2007. Washington : U.S. G.P.O. : For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O., 2007.
  13. Saving energy, growing jobs : how environmental protection promotes economic growth, profitability, innovation, and competition / David B. Goldstein. Tree Pub., c2007. Berkeley, Calif: Bay