Going Green: Staying Aware and Efficient in an Oil-Dependent Economy

How much energy and natural gas does a single American consume in a day? When faced with this question, many people might just think of oil consumption from an automobile, but energy and natural gas is constantly being consumed directly and indirectly by Americans every day. When a recyclable is not recycled or a light is left on, energy is being used and oil is being consumed. America is more dependent on oil now than ever before, and as a result, gas prices are at an all time high. Everyone has been affected from these inflated prices in some way, but luckily, there is still hope to save money in these conditions. To avoid becoming a victim of high oil prices, there are energy-efficient habits that can be taken. Money and energy can be saved by understanding dependency issues, knowing energy saving techniques at the pump and at home and buying energy-efficient appliances.

In order to analyze energy issues, it is important to understand statistics from a chronological standpoint. Doing so helps to understand how gas and oil prices have increased to what they are today. Statistics from the past can also give insight into future fluctuations and patterns. “The United States was self-sufficient in energy until the late 1950s when energy consumption began to outpace domestic production” (Energy Information Administration, 2006). The result of which caused the United States to import resources. The United States Department of Energy (2006) concludes, “In 2006, about 60% of the petroleum consumed in the U.S. was imported from foreign countries. Crude oil accounted for 82% of net petroleum imports and about 66% of the crude oil processed in U.S. refineries was imported”( ¶4). American uses more oil than any other country. According to Churchill (2000), Americans used 19.6 million barrels of oil a day in the year 2000 alone, 25% of the world’s usage. This high rate of consumption has caused oil prices to dramatically increase with no signs of relief.
As a result gas and oil price inflation, individuals and businesses have started implementing ways to conserve energy and save money. The most obvious way to save money on gas is to purchase an automobile that has adequate gas mileage. Almost every car company is now producing gas efficient automobiles; the most efficient being the hybrid. Toyota has three hybrid automobiles that offer excellent gas mileage yet still offer the same look as their other models; the Toyota Prius Hybrid averages 48 miles per gallon (mpg) city and 45 mpg highway (Toyota, 2008). Hybrids remain an alternative to a standard automobile that might use more fuel.

Although hybrid cars and SUV’s have some of the highest fuel efficiency, there are still everyday routines that can be done to any vehicle in order to improve gas mileage and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. One of these routines is simply maintaining a constant speed while driving. According to the United States Department of Energy (2008), “While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. As a rule of thumb, you can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas” (¶2). The organization also explains that fuel efficiency can be improved by inflating tires, changing air filters, and receiving regular engine tune-ups (U.S. Department of Energy, 2008). Whether a consumer is buying a new vehicle or just maintaining a current one, he or she should understand how these small procedures can save them money and use less natural gas.

Decreasing oil dependency is not only limited to an individual’s automobile. Certain things can be done inside homes and businesses that can improve energy efficiency as well. Shutting off lights and electrical appliances when they are not in use is a crucial way of saving energy, but one of the best ways of saving is to purchase compact fluorescent bulbs, or CFL’s. According to the U.S. Department of Energy Efficency and Renewable Energy (2005), “Fluorescent lamps use 25%–35% of the energy used by incandescent lamps to provide the same amount of illumination (efficacy of 30–110 lumens per watt). They also last about 10 times longer (7,000–24,000 hours)” (¶1). These bulbs can be found in any store isle right next to the standard incandescent light bulbs. Another way to save energy is to properly adjust the thermostat in accordance with winter and summer seasons. According to the Energy Information Agency (2006), “Households that lower their thermostats by 1 degree Fahrenheit (1° F) during the current winter heating season may realize average savings of $15 to $40 or more, relative to annual heating bills that total a few hundred dollars to a thousand dollars or more” (¶1). These everyday practices are only scratching the surface when it comes to saving energy and money. It is beneficial for any consumer to research how they can save money and energy based on their individual household specifications.

One of the best ways to save money on gas and electric bills is to purchase energy-efficient appliances. The most efficient appliances are stamped with an Energy Star logo. Energy Star is a program that is backed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, and appliances that are qualified by Energy Star use significantly less energy than standard appliances. According to their website, “Energy Star qualified appliances incorporate advanced technologies that use 10–50% less energy and water than standard models” (Energy Star, 2008, ¶2). Energy Star qualified appliances include televisions, stereos, dishwashers, washers, dryers, microwaves, and computers. Many people have even started building their homes using all Energy Star qualified appliances and materials. There are Web sites where potential homeowners can find their prebuilt Energy Star qualified homes. Although the products are more expensive to purchase, the money saved makes them more economical to own. The government even offers tax credits to individuals and businesses who own Energy Star appliances (U.S. Department of Energy, 2008). “Energy Star qualified new homes can save 30% a year or more ($200 to $400) on heating and cooling bills. Renters can save 15% to 20% on their energy bills by installing Energy Star qualified products such as refrigerators, room air conditioners, and lighting” (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2008, ¶7). According to their website, The Small Business Administration is now reaching out to help businesses save utility expenses with Energy Star appliances as well. These appliances are a beneficial way of saving money and energy in an economy where gas and oil prices are at record highs, and Energy Star’s popularity will continue to increase as a result.

Investing in energy efficient products and being energy conscious on the road and at home will save money as well as promote a healthier Earth for future generations. When it is time to invest in an automobile, consider a hybrid or maybe just one that has efficient fuel economy. When shopping for light bulbs, consider using CFL’s in place of conventional incandescent lights. Lastly, stay energy conscious; turn off the lights when a room is not being occupied, or open the windows instead of using the air conditioner. Ignorance can never be beneficial. Lifestyle changes and product research will be the deciding factors on greenhouse gas levels and oil prices now and in the future. The price of oil is not going to decrease any time soon, so it is up to the individual to use these tips to become less dependent on it.

References
Churchill, J. (2000). Oil Consumption in North America. Retrieved from March 30, 2008 from http://maps.unohoma.edu
Energy Information Agency. (2006). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved March 30, 2008 from http://www.eia.doe.gov
Energy Star. (2008). About Energy Star. Retrieved March 31, 2008 from http://www.energystar.gov
United States Department of Energy. (2006-2008). Homepage. Retrieved March 31, 2008 from http://www.doe.gov
United States Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. (2005). Your Home: Types of Lighting. Retrieved March 31, 2998 from http://www.eere.energy.gov
United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2008). Renting. Retrieved March 31, 2008 from http://www.hud.gov
Toyota. (2008). Hybrid Line-ups. Retrieved March 30, 2008 from http://www.toyota.com

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