For the past 22 years, October has marked the beginning of Energy Awareness Month. Sponsored by the DOE and operating under the Federal Energy Management Program, the purpose of Energy Awareness month is to “promote a greater public understanding and awareness of energy sources and how they can be used effectively.” The theme for 2010, POWERING AMERICA; We’re On Target, puts the focus on the federal agencies and their attempts to use energy efficiency as a tool to “zero in on energy targets to stimulate the economy, lower operating expenses, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and achieve long-term energy and economic security.”
With the twin goals of energy security and economic prosperity, the hope is that 30 days spent highlighting the benefits of fuel-efficient vehicles, energy management and demand reduction, high-performance buildings, and renewable energy will spur investment and expand industry. And, as the DOE sees it, “collectively, these efforts are expanding industries, creating jobs, and positioning America at the center of a global economy for sustainable energy.”
As part of its October efforts, the DOE’s Energy Awareness Web site does offer some practical information, including energy efficiency checklists designed for homes, offices, and facilities.
With a more rhetorical point of view, Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change uses Energy Awareness month as a starting point to discuss the administration’s past achievements and future goals in her White House blog. For example, the White House is proud that “over $90 billion” of ARRA funding was assigned to clean energy technologies, and that the administration has passed new “tough new fuel-economy standards” and the “first-ever greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks.” At the same time, the White House is calling for increased investment in wind, solar, biofuels, and “clean coal,” while reiterating the DOE’s stance that this investment will create jobs and maneuver the country into a competitive position within the world’s energy economy.
Working with the DOE, the Administration has planned a month long calendar of “clean energy events and activities,” to help “underscore how central energy is to our national prosperity, security, and environmental well-being.” The events include a variety of symposiums and meetings sponsored by the DOE, along with the annual Green Governors meeting and the EPA’s Change the World, Start with Energy Star Campaign Exhibit House.
Browner echoes the DOE’s philosophy on the power of Energy Awareness month by wrapping up her blog with the following statement:“We must redouble our efforts to pass comprehensive energy legislation that reduces our dependence on foreign oil, creates a new generation of homegrown clean energy jobs, and cuts pollution to reduce the risks posed by climate change.”
So what do you think? Can campaigns like “Energy Awareness Month” really make a difference? Does it make sense to compartmentalize energy efficiency—turning national energy policy into a once a year PR campaign? Should we be focused year round on improving our energy use, reducing our demand and making every effort to make smart energy choices? And can a public awareness campaign impact private industry and encourage investment, or is it another case of cheap conversation?