Getting smarter about energy use

  Despite the fact that energy affects every facet of our lives — from the price of fruit to the wars we wage — most Americans give nary a thought to the topic. "People tend not to focus on energy in their lives, workplaces and decisions — they leave it to the experts," says Howard Geller, director of the Boulder-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. "We write our checks to the utilities and complain, fill up our gas tanks and complain, but it’s still a small part of our expenses." And that’s part of the problem: "When energy is a small cost, it’s too easy to kind of keep doing what you’re doing," he says. But doing what we’re doing is not sustainable.

In his latest book, Energy Revolution, Geller doesn’t outline one single, clear path to a sustainable energy future. As former head of the Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, which he led for 20 years, he knows better. Instead, Geller groups policy reform ideas into 12 different categories, ranging from voluntary agreements to market reforms. Today, fossil fuels provide 80 percent of the world’s energy — but they aren’t going to last forever. As Geller notes in the book, "the world has experienced energy transitions before, and these transitions coincided with and literally fueled economic and social transitions." In other words, it’s best to find solutions today, rather than waiting until the riots and recessions of tomorrow.

Although Geller writes that "there is no ‘silver bullet’ for overcoming the barriers to a more sustainable energy future," he believes there are plenty of opportunities for change. Rather than waiting for federal leadership, Geller suggests making smart consumer decisions, such as buying energy-efficient appliances. He also encourages people to work for statewide renewable energy programs, such as the one Colorado voters passed last November.