Things We Read, And Like: 'Why We Need Energy Literacy'

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Energy classroom, courtesy of USACE Europe District

Energy classroom, courtesy of USACE Europe District

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Many readers on this site are concerned with miles per gallon, or how much fuel their car uses.

And while any site called Green Car Reports is bound to have an environmental tilt, most car buyers are far more concerned with saving money than saving the planet.

Nonetheless, we're all about making educated choices. And a writer we admire, GigaOm's Katie Fehrenbacher, recently published a piece we highly recommend, called "Why We Need Energy Literacy."

It describes an effort by several U.S. government agencies, among them the Department of Energy, to create a "guiding document" for an Energy Literacy curriculum to be used in education, similar to projects now underway for Climate Literacy and Ocean Literacy.

The need for energy literacy is pretty clear to anyone who covers the field, and it's backed up with data. Most people underestimate the energy used for central air conditioning, for instance, but overestimate the impact of turning off lights and riding public transportation.

Or, returning to a theme that will be familiar to our regular readers, they don't understand how the flawed miles-per-gallon measure actually works.

As studies at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business have documented, two-thirds of consumers consumers thought fuel consumption was cut at an even rate as mileage increased. Most survey respondents said going from 34 to 50 mpg saved more gasoline over 10,000 miles than did moving from 18 to 28 mpg.

Unfortunately, that's exactly backwards. An associated website, "The MPG Illusion," lays out the research and the results. Based on its rather dispiriting conclusions, we'd be all in favor of greater energy literacy among the populace at large, and in particular car buyers.

Fehrenbacher lays out some of the challenges and issues around creating the base document, and notes that she was asked to join the discussion to help make the final result as digestible and accessible to the public at large as it could be.

Which, frankly, we find encouraging. Well worth a read, in any case.

[hat tip: Nelson Ireson; image courtesy of USACE Europe District]

 
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