batterienSo we’re suckers for GOOD magazine, and the latest issue is right up our alley. It’s all about energy. How humans can conserve it and make more of it so that those 6 billion others ( even the Bottom Billion ) can use it, too.

Brian Walsh’s article offers revelations about the futility of cap and trade. He argues that nations (rich or poor) won’t vote for cap and trade because it is perceived to stifle economic growth. And yet, everyone loves investment in new technologies, industries, and gadgets. Since every sector besides energy seems to be investing in new ideas, why not start there?

Before we get to all the smart new ideas, Allison Arieff writes about the beauty of  the “Negawatt”. You can think of it as the preventative medicine of energy use. It’s always better and cheaper not to use energy than to go under the knife for that triple bypass. In the closing of her piece, she compares the effects of retrofitting America’s hundred million homes with taking half of all our cars off the road. So why don’t we drive less?

Our final link, an essay by Frog Design creative director David Merkoski talks about how consumers will lead the shift to smart energy technologies, from electric cars to computerized homes that keep track of power consumption from our HVAC systems, appliances, and vehicles. Upstream from consumers, Merkoski believes that designers must do their part to make energy use visible to consumers, and make products that make it intuitive and attractive to change energy-intensive behaviors.

The idea forest is all abuzz with talk about energy, which makes L Studio feel very encouraged. We’re hoping that the next special issue of GOOD might focus on VMT. It can’t hurt to ask.

Cap and Trade Is Dead. Now What?
By Bryan Walsh, GOOD
Here’s an astonishing statistic: Since the beginning of the 1980s—around the time climate change began to become a concern—federal investment in energy research and development has generally shrunk. Temporary stimulus spending aside, the U.S. government spends less than $5 billion a year on energy research and development, compared with more than $30 billion for health research and more than $80 billion on military R&D. Other governments aren’t much better, and private companies don’t pick up the slack: The energy industry invests less than 1 percent of its revenues in research, compared with 15 to 20 percent in industries like semiconductors or pharmaceuticals.

Creating a Market for Negawatts
By Allison Arieff, GOOD
Instead of building a new coal or nuclear plant to meet demand, we should be building what amounts to a distributed “negawatt” power plant. It’s far cheaper to retrofit 20,000 homes than it is to build a power plant, and you don’t have to worry about the availability of fossil fuels or the carbon you’re emitting.

Attitude Adjustment
By David Merkoski, GOOD
But if we want to engender a global mainstream culture of efficient and sustainable energy use, then it’s up to designers—in collaboration with inventors, entrepreneurs, and energy experts—to flatten the learning curves. By focusing on how a user actually behaves, and making products that are attractive enough to purchase, simple enough to use, and easy enough to keep using, we can put more choices—and more power—into consumers’ hands.