Forget About Global Warming: To Save World, Buy Caulk And Fill Your Tires

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As a nation, we’re not particularly fond of a small idea. The bigger, the bolder, the more brash, the better.

In the middle of his presidential run, as the price of oil was racing to the moon, Barack Obama suggested people check their tire pressure. If the tires were properly inflated, drivers would get better miles per gallon. He was, of course, mocked for such a small idea.

Meanwhile, his opponent, John McCain, said it’s time to drill for oil! “Drill, Baby Drill,” went the chant. That’s exciting! Big rigs pounding the earth, black sludge flowing from the ground, it’s easy to picture, it’s fun, and it’s daring. Never mind that we’d have to wait years and years, and it might not pay off, the bold idea is great.

We all know how the election eventually ended, Obama won. Not because of his mundane ideas, though. His big bold vision–HOPE AND CHANGE–won the day.

Well, when he talks about green policies, it’s time for Obama to channel the guy that embraced small ideas. They’re more practical and they can do more for the environment, today.

Electric cars, solar panels, smart grids, smart meters, big hulking wind turbines–they’re all very very cool, but they’re expensive, untested in some cases, and subject to nightmarish layers of bureaucracy. However, a small idea like efficiency can achieve similar results, but it’s boring to talk about.

For instance, the Wall Street Journal points out, you can cut home energy use by 30% with just a few small efforts. They recommend installing a programmable thermostat, caulking and insulating the house, and making sure your heating and  cooling systems are up to date. Also, keep the lights off when not in use. Further, the Journal suggests other small steps, like cutting back on the number of bags used when going to the grocery store, and opting for electronic billing instead of paper billing.

In theory, that all makes sense. Sure, why not do those relatively small things? In practice though, we’re not pursuing these goals with the same vigor as we pursue bigger life-altering ideas.

The problem is that we’re not a nation of savers. It carries over to what we’re doing in cleantech projects. We want to buy solar panels. We want to invest in a big smart grid. Both are useful for sure, but of equal importance would be conserving and saving the energy we already have in place.

Unfortunately, that’s just not who we are. We’d rather spend billions than save billions to achieve similar results. It’s much cooler to bring your neighbour over and show off the solar array on the roof than it is to show off your hot new caulking job.

That’s a shame because the caulk is readily available at the local hardware store. The solar panels, not so much.

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