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Your Own Energy Future

What a difference five years can bring.

In early 2002, when Kentucky Living asked me to take over writing the Future of Electricity column, we struggled to find enough topics for me to write about each month. I’d often spend more time hunting for interesting energy projects for this column than I devoted to any of my other writing projects.

Back then, energy researchers and inventors worked so far from the media spotlight, I’d have to spend the first part of my interview explaining what I was doing before we’d get around to talking about what they were doing.

Today my regular mailbox and my e-mail inbox overflow with information about innovations, improvements, and ideas for the future.

Using energy wisely is finally a popular, mainstream topic. Thousands of engineers, scientists, political figures, and social activists, in the United States and around the globe, are working tirelessly to get information to the public so they can learn and take action wherever they live, work, and play.

Innovations in electricity generation and transmission, improvements in efficiency and reliability, reductions in emissions, and concern for local environments—it’s easy now for me to find experts eager to share their knowledge.

But what about you?

Have you decided yet to move from listening to and reading about these great new ideas to doing something different in your daily life?

That’s the difference I’d like to be writing about five years from now. So join me this month as I explore what you can do if you are concerned about global climate change. Saving energy can also reduce your household or business expenses by making more efficient use of electricity and other energy sources. The future of electricity starts with you—and it starts now.

When it comes to the controversial issues of world energy use and global warming, scientists prefer the term “global climate change.” Study after study shows that the reported temperature of such things as ocean surfaces at particular spots, the daily maximum and minimum temperature at a particular city, and events such as melting glacier edges, do indicate hot spots. But Earth is so huge, and daily weather events so variable and complex, some local areas aren’t getting warmer—they’re getting cooler or wetter or drier or windier. And it takes more than one year of weather events to be able to see a trend.

Any Kentucky farmer or home gardener knows that one or two summers of drought can just as often be followed by a year with ample rain—or deluges that ruin crops in the field and destroy harvests.

What’s different today is that the activities of men and women using electricity—and all other forms of energy—in Carter County, Kentucky, and Chengdu, China, to improve the quality of their individual lives may also be affecting global weather patterns. (For more about global climate change, visit the Web site

America’s National Academies of Science published a 24-page overview of the climate change situation. In that report, University of Maryland professor Antonio Busalacchi says, “Our ability to look at the Earth as a whole, and model the complex interactions of the Earth, the ocean, and the atmosphere, is a very young science, barely 20 years old. Only in the past few years have we been able to start making the links in our science across climate change, climate variability, regional climate impacts, to changes in extreme and episodic events.”

Until the scientists can figure out just what’s going on, you can start now making the wisest use of energy if you are concerned about the environment and your wallet.

Here are some quick ideas:

Replace incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs

Replace neon or conventional light bulbs with energy-efficient LED lights

Buy certified Energy Star products when replacing old appliances and electronic devices

Boost insulation and seal any leaks in your home or business

And here’s my favorite:

Be a multi-tasker to use your own energy. In the winter when you’re cold, instead of turning up the thermostat, go do the ironing or fold the towels fresh from the dryer—the residual heat will warm you and you’ve used that energy twice. In the summer, if you’re too hot, instead of turning the thermostat down, make an old-fashioned hand-held fan out of the morning newspaper and stir up the air.


It’s easy to say you want to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, but what about putting those words into action?

Amanda Gumbert, associate for agriculture and natural resource issues at the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, says, “There are many, many things that can be done with minimal effort.”

What’s more, even the smallest of actions will “add up over time” to make a major impact on the environment, she says. “If everybody does a little something, it’s a cumulative effect.”

Gumbert put together a list of those little somethings—easy and mostly inexpensive ways for Kentuckians to live so-called greener lives. That list includes: buy frequently used items in bulk; borrow or rent items instead of purchasing them; buy locally produced foods; drive less; install compact fluorescent light bulbs; and unplug your appliances and electrical devices when not in use.


For more tips and suggestions on going green, click here: green tips

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