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Commentary | Oct. 31, 2011

Energy Action Month – How our choices affect the big picture

By Mark Hanna 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron

It's the last week of Energy Action Month. Last week we learned how we can make certain choices in our energy use to make significant differences in our nation's energy demand. That "cultural change" is already happening all around us.

Fortunately, not any one group of people has to take on the cultural change alone. All of us are doing it. We are all in this together.

Back in the eighties, the term "energy conservation" evoked images of freezing in the dark for many people. Today, on the base, we now enjoy pleasant, energy-efficient lighting systems and the spaces where we work can be climatically monitored if not controlled from a central point in almost every building.

We used to heat our homes to 75 degrees and cool them to 70 degrees. Now the typical home in the US is almost the opposite, cool to 75 and heat to 70. Soon it may be possible to have the lighting and heating, ventilation and cooling systems in our homes monitored and controlled as well.

If you're not already using one in your home, invest in programmable thermostat. Today's programmable thermostats are very easy to use and save enough to pay for themselves in as little as a month.

Many of us can remember when 25 miles per gallon was fantastic gas mileage. Unfortunately, the cars getting that kind of fuel economy were often underpowered "econoboxes" that found their way to 60 miles per hour in about 15 seconds or more. Today we have the choice of many safe and comfortable full sized cars that get over 30 MPG, and find their way to 60 MPH in fewer than 7 seconds.

Our choices in cars and our driving habits have changed. The advances being made in electric vehicles will soon make it possible for most of us to drive practical, even luxurious, vehicles that get the equivalent of 100 MPG.

But what about today? How can we save in our use of transportation fuel? Whether at home or at work the strategies are the same: plan your driving to make as few trips to get as much done as possible, and use a vehicle whose size makes sense. A large truck to do small jobs doesn't make sense.

Leaving a car in the parking lot at work for nine hours a day makes no sense if you can car pool, bicycle,or take public transit. That last one, taking public transit, is an area of our lives that will change in the near future.

Don't you just love creeping along in traffic on I-64? Well, it's only going to get worse. A good solution will be to leave your beloved at home and take the bus or train.

In many of the large metro areas in the country, like New York, DC, Boston, Atlanta, Dallas, San Diego, Chicago and San Francisco, to name a few, public transit is not only convenient but fun, safe and stylish as well.

Some people said the Dallas Area Rapid Transit would never work. Texans won't take transit, they said. DART started moving 35,000 daily in 1997. Today it moves 220,000 passengers every day. Now, that's culture change! The communities in Hampton Roads, the state and Hampton Roads Transit are working together to make it happen here too.

The warriors of JBLE are the team to make things happen. We can't make it happen alone, but we can lead the way. Since we started Energy Action Month, we have enjoyed hearing from you. Please continue to send us your energy thoughts, ideas and questions. Energy Action Month may be coming to a close, but the challenge to be energy efficient is ever before us.

don.white2@langley.af.mil
mark.hanna.ctr@Langley.af.mil