In Japan It's Taken A Nuclear Disaster To Get People To Bundle Up - What About the US?

Claire Evans/CC BY-ND 2.0

Snow's already falling in parts of the Rockies, and parts of the Northeast are still without power six days after getting slammed with up to 30" of early, early-season snow. In Japan, thanks to a good chunk of the nation's power being taken offline in the wake of the (ongoing...) Fukushima nuclear disaster, there's a new ad campaign urging people to bundle up against the cold so that the 2,530 MW electricity shortfall doesn't result in blackouts.

Gizmodo says,

The "Warm Biz" campaign...[exhorts] people to wear scarves, sleep with towels around their necks, and warm themselves from the steam of a kettle in order to keep the thermostat down.

Let's leave the Japanese campaign right there for now and shift to how it links together with the US-centric intro.

Every summer either Lloyd or I, sometimes both of us, write something about how we all really ought to kick our air-conditioning habit, instead focusing on adapting ourselves to the heat, building things differently to have better natural ventilation and cooling, etc.

The same thing really applies in winter as well.

I won't belabor the point, but just refer you to a quote from Low-tech Magazine, that Lloyd pulled out:

Insulation of the body is much more energy efficiency than insulation of the space in which the body finds itself. Insulating the body only requires a small layer of air to be heated, while a heating systems has to warm all the air in the room to achieve the same result.

In terms of energy savings, remember: Lowering thermostats 4°C would reduce energy usage for heating by 35%.

In short, first insulate the body, then the home.

Back to what Gizmodo wrote. I've swapped out Japan, as was originally written, and replaced it with United States in the following passage; it's equally apt:

[The United States has] never been shy about showering itself with electricity like Scrooge McDuck and gold coins.

Gizmodo goes on to speculate about what will happen in Japan if this power gap isn't filled: "These lifestyle campaigns will become a permanent fixture of Japanese society."

What I wonder is if in the United States we will be able to make the requisite lifestyle changes, either in winter or summer, to both enable a transition to renewable energy sources and combat climate change, without sudden energy disasters or energy shortages forcing us?

Considering that global greenhouse gas emissions are up 6% in 2010 (with the US remaining a top emitter), and homeowners in the US are really doing a pretty poor job of improving the energy efficiency of their homes, right now I'm leaning towards it taking an energy disaster.

Tags: Electricity | Heating | Japan | United States

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