Forget arguing power sources: efficiency, reduction always better answers

I just unearthed this Time article, which to me illustrates best how many people view and want electricity and energy generation: low cost, infinite, and it helps if it’s not terrible for the environment. The problem is, however, that no energy source can match greater energy efficiency and — even better — reduced demand.

The Time article referenced above discusses why nuclear power is still not a viable saving grace for energy generation — it’s outrageously expensive (costing both government and taxpayers billions of dollars for just one new nuclear power plant) and necessitates finding a place to toss radioactive, toxic waste from the power plants.

Yes, it burns carbon-free, and according to the article, most people don’t even mind living near one — although it never made me feel better that the nuclear plant near my hometown constantly leaked radiation, or that my hometown was just outside the devastation and vaporization zone in the event of a nuclear reactor catastrophe.

In the end, nuclear alone cannot satiate our need for electricity and energy — the answer needs to come first from reduced demand and second from better energy efficiency. Because, really, isn’t the easiest way to solve the energy problem by just using less of it? And figuring out how to get the most bang for our buck?

We keep looking for ways to keep our current lifestyles without sacrificing any of the luxuries that most middle-class and wealthier people currently energy: Endless electricity for cheap prices, endless consumer goods for cheap prices, endless amounts of whatever we want. People want the best of all worlds, because they understand that polluting the air is bad for them and the planet but want a solution that allows them endless electricity, a clear conscience, and money left in their wallets.

Just as permanent weight loss doesn’t come from eating cake everyday, energy efficiency won’t happen by using all the energy in the world you want. It’s as if all these different power sources are like diet pills or plans that people want to embrace because they are easy and don’t require much lifestyle change, when in reality reducing your caloric intake (aka energy use, in power terms) in combination with choosing healthier foods and exercising (aka efficiency) is a lifestyle change that will long-lasting effects.

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