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Save the Planet, Get Out Of Vermont

As the Washington Post’s Wonkblog reports, while American homes keep getting bigger and we keep stocking them with growing numbers of energy hogging devices like big screen TVs, energy use per homeowner is actually shrinking.  Overall, even though we have 30 million more homes than we did in 1980, and though these homes are bigger and have more gadgets in them, American homes use the same amount of energy as they did in 1980.

It’s partly because we are cheap and do more to cut our energy bills. Newly built homes usually have better insulation, better windows, smarter technology and energy-saving appliances than older structures. But this is not the only reason homes use less energy — it’s not even the main reason, as Brad Plumer writes:

…in the past 20 years, more and more Americans are moving away from the chilly Northeast and to the Sunbelt in the West and Southeast. And, judging from this graph, made by Stuart Staniford using EIA data, that can have a huge impact on energy use. Houses in those booming Sunbelt regions use less energy.

Here’s that graph:

It shows that air conditioning in warm regions uses far less energy than heating in cold regions.

So if you want to help save the planet, move out of Vermont and get yourself to Alabama where people know how to live in harmony with Mother Gaia. Moving out of New England could be the purest form of environmental activism; your selfish, earth destroying choice of living in Massachusetts in killing us all. And as for Canada, Gaia’s message is clear: shut it down, now. The Germans for their part could help the planet by moving to Spain and Greece; this might also help with Europe’s financial woes.

Perhaps the blue model politicians whose tax and spend policies are driving businesses and residents out of their states are smarter than they look. They could be green activists, steadily working to save the earth by driving people out of the northeast. We look forward to green activists introducing legislation in Congress to levy new taxes on those whose choice to live in cold states imposes costs on the more virtuous and eco-friendly inhabitants of Texas and South Carolina.

It only seems fair.

But if you live in cold climates like the northeast, as Via Meadia does, don’t despair: As the climate warms and winters get milder, your houses will start to use less energy too. The worse global warming gets, the better world citizen you become.

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  • http://thepencilofnature.net Lorenz Gude

    As a native son of frigid, rock ribbed New Hampshire who now resides in Sunny Perth Western Australia you have reassured me that I am part of the intelligentsia – the vanguard if you will – and an all around superior person! Until now I viewed myself through the lens of Puritanism and thought my move a shameful act of cowardice and inexcusable self indulgence. Self esteem is so much better than self loathing don’t you think?

  • Chase

    Let’s look at unemployment by state. Here are the states with the highest rate of unemployment.

    38 NEW YORK 8.5
    39 OREGON 8.5
    41 FLORIDA 8.7
    41 ILLINOIS 8.7
    41 MISSISSIPPI 8.7
    44 SOUTH CAROLINA 8.8
    45 GEORGIA 8.9
    46 NEW JERSEY 9.1
    47 NORTH CAROLINA 9.4
    48 DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA 9.5
    49 CALIFORNIA 10.9
    50 RHODE ISLAND 11.2
    51 NEVADA 11.7

    6 blue states, and 6 red states. While Nevada and North Carolina could vote for Obama for President in 2012, their state political cultures are much more red than blue.

    While Professor Mead has been right to hold blue politician’s feet to the fire for policy failures – particularly their general failure to devise affordable retirement programs for public workers – it’s worth noting that a “red state” political culture is hardly a guarantee of economic success.

    After all, Georgia is the empire state of the south and has been held up for decades as an example of what the south could be. According to this list, it isn’t doing too well lately.

    http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm

  • Dawnsblood

    @Chase

    I would argue with your characterization of North Carolina as ‘their state political cultures are much more red than blue’. I think the state as a whole is one of the few true ‘Purple’ states.

    Lets add it all up:
    1) NC normally votes Rep for Pres
    2) Senate seats normally get split 1 Rep and 1 Dem.
    3) House seats split but lean a bit toward the Reps.
    4) Governor tends Dem but we do get the occasional Rep
    5) Until Nov 2010 (and the Rep takeover), the State Legislature was uniformly Dem since 1898.

    To me that sounds about as ‘purple’ as one could hope for.

  • BillH

    “…get yourself to Alabama where people know how to live in harmony with Mother Gaia….” Prof. M.: We’ve got a good thing going. Please don’t encourage the Bluebirds to move here. Just look at what they’ve done to Atlanta.

  • Roland Hirsch

    This is a very informative chart and discussion of energy use in different parts of the country.

    Tables of degree days of heating and cooling show that heating is predominant north of a line that runs roughly from Atlanta past Dallas and Albuquerque to north of Las Vegas and to the Pacific Coast north of LA. Here are maps for the ‘normal’ period of 1961 through 1990:
    http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/documentlibrary/clim81supp3/clim81.html
    The current heating numbers would be somewhat lower and cooling somewhat higher, but not radically so; even a uniform 2 degree shift to higher temperatures every day would produce at most ~500 less heating and more cooling degree days.

    There is another significant part of the story: heating is largely done by burning fossil fuels, air conditioning is largely done with electricity, a significant portion of which is from other sources (particularly nuclear and hydroelectric) than burning of fossil fuels.

  • Jim.

    The average American sucks up 12,000 kWh of power a year. The average Californian, 8,000.

    It takes the equivalent of about 8,800 kWh to launch 1000 kg into low earth orbit — one person and life support equipment. So, strictly speaking, if a Vermonter could find a Gaia-friendly lifestyle that only took up 3,200 kWh per year, they could save up the rest to launch themselves into orbit. :)

  • rkka

    “Perhaps the blue model politicians whose tax and spend policies are driving businesses and residents out of their states are smarter than they look.”

    The “tax and spend” Blue Model prevailed in the USA until 1981. It accumulated 1 terabuck in national debt, 32% of GNP at the time.

    Then the “Borrow and spend” Red model took over. In the last budget George Dubya Bush signed, FY2009, the budget deficit was 1.4 terabucks, and the national debt was over 80% of GNP.

    In the first budget Barack Obama signed, FY2010, the budget deficit was 1.17 terabucks.

    http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/dont-blame-obama-for-bushs-2009-deficit/

    Another part of that Red Model was Alan Greenspan’s “Lets have negative real interest rates and blow bubbles!” economic policy. That wrecked the economy.

    So let’s get straight which model did what, Mead.

  • pinecreeksusan

    and what makes you such an expert, rkka?

    the dems have had the senate since 2007,
    then took everything when o was elected.

    that alone has empowered the dems to run havoc over the USA, in all blue states.

    oh by the way, all you dems stay out of the beautiful south, we have enough of you [people] to deal with already!

  • John

    Please do not recommend that any more of these people move south, enough are already finding there way here on their own. I would prefer a recommendation to them, that they either stay up north, or move back there as quickly as possible. Then just recommend that they don’t use on any heat during the winter (for the good of the planet of course).

  • luagha

    Bush didn’t sign the 2009 budget. The Democrat-controlled congress held it over for Obama to sign.

  • Brian Oxley

    As home building improves the homes are more energy efficient, as noted. Given that the oldest housing stock is in the oldest parts of the country, I wonder what correlation this is to the overall efficiency of those areas?

  • http://onlygunsandmoney.blogspot.com John Richardson

    @Dawnsblood: The only reason North Carolina is “purple” is due to in-migrants from blue states such as New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. A recent study showed that in 1960, 4 out of 5 North Carolinians had been in there whereas now 48% of the state’s population are in-migrants.

    As to the #5 on your list, you do realize that the reason the state was solidly Democrat until more recent times was that the Democrats were the party of segregation. The 1898 Election pitted the Democrats vs. the “fusion” party of the Republicans and the Populists. The Democrats platform was white supremacy.

    http://www.lib.unc.edu/ncc/1898/history.html

  • erp

    Article forgot about wood stoves and fireplaces. They spew out toxic smoke that often cause inversions and stay close to the ground for days until the wind picks up or it snows or rains. We live on a hill overlooking a small town in Vermont for 1t5 yhears and on cold mornings (from September through May) the smoke was so think it looked like you could walk on it.

    Those Vermont Life calendar pictures were all taken on the half dozen days it wasn’t overcase. They don’t call it the Green Mountain state for nothing.

  • erp

    Sorry for all the typos above. Coffee hasn’t kicked in yet.

  • SDN

    rkka, you are [making factually incorrect statements], since Nancy and Harry refused to send any budget to be signed Bush’s last year in office (or the last 3 years). Which points up another thing that socialists would prefer to ignore: Congress spends money in our system, and the President can’t refuse to spend it.

  • Downer

    And everyone who moves out would be counted as a Green job gained.

  • PaleoRider

    Nailed it. Script, flipped.
    Thanks from long suffering Vermont Yankee.
    No, not the radioactive one.
    But that would explain a lot.

  • Koblog

    Nice try, rkka. “the last budget George Dubya Bush signed, FY2009…” Very funny.

    Obama hasn’t signed a budget in three years, while running up $5 trillion in debt, all under on “continuing resolution” so the Dems won’t have to reveal what they’re doing, knowing the public would be even more aghast.

    The so-called budgets Obama has submitted are so ridiculous they have been voted down without even a single Democrat vote.

  • Koblog

    By the way, Prof Mead, I asked an electrician (who won a bid on a house wiring job in my neighborhood in SoCal) what size electrical panel is now code.

    My original panel in my little house was 40 Amps. For the whole house.

    The electrician told me code is now a minimum of 200 Amps, with many opting for 300 Amps.

    This, while California is threatened with rolling blackouts this summer because just one power plant (San Onofre) is off line.

    Meanwhile, idiot Greens are marching around our local natural gas-fired Edison plant because they want to tear it down and replace it with a park. These people are delusional.

    They need 200 Amps flowing into their homes to power all the gadgets, but expect the power to materialize magically from Obama’s aura and his unicorn’s droppings.

  • Argyle

    There is plenty of blame to go around at the Federal level, rkka, but baseline budgeting and the continuing explosion of entitlement spending are direct results of the prog model. At the state level, I don’t think you can make your argument stick – California, New York and Illinois are failures that lie completely at the feet of the Democratic Party. The red political class is beginning to understand that confronting the blues is a political winner in the long run, so don’t expect any more craven accommodation by Republican administrations.

  • Ken

    Look again, rkka, Obama signed the FY2009 budget. In fact, the Dems in Congress refused to even negotiate with Bush on a 2009 budget because they knew they would have to settle for less spending.

  • gringojay

    Expectation is for a long term “solar minimum” & so tempertures here will actually go down. The paradigm will become even less air conditioning needed, yet longer winter heating required.
    Good thing USA agribussines around to feed the northerners when their crops can not thrive in clobbered growing season.
    If sensible policies return USA energy will get cheap
    enough to ship switch grass north to burn for warmth.

  • John Pepple

    I already touched on this topic on my blog:

    http://iwantanewleft.typepad.com/i-want-a-new-left/2010/08/the-greenest-thing-i-ever-did.html

    I moved from Minnesota to Ohio, where the summers aren’t any warmer but the winters are much milder. It’s the greenest thing I ever did. I’d like to move further south, but we are stuck here for the time being because of employment considerations.

  • http://sherryocala.blogspot.com sherryocala

    Wow! What an eye-opener! The sound of my Florida AC compressor running from May through October will bring me much comfort from now as will my natural gas furnace that hardly runs at all. And who knows? Maybe the thermal barrier we installed under the roof last fall will actually work and reduce the AC usage even more. Who’da thunk I’m greener than the lefties in Vermont?? Too bad about their unhealthy, smokey conditions.

  • Bill T.

    The invention of air conditioning has changed and will change American demographics for centuries. Life in the South has only been tolerable for two generations.

    Air conditioning is also responsible for the success of the American civil rights movement. The southern whites who used to gather angrily on hot summer nights to burn crosses retreated happily to their TVs once their living rooms became habitable.

  • Richard

    I’m no green by any means but big flat panel LCD big screens are not the energy pigs that the old cathode ray tube televisions. My 27″ 3×4 CRT died and I replaced it with a 32″ 16×9 LCD. My electric bill went down $50 per month. Now, I’m not a heavy TV watcher. Sometimes I go a week without watching anything. I mostly use it to watch DVD’s of movies. But, the difference is real.

  • R.C.

    Please, SHUT UP. Seriously. Zip it.

    Those of us who live south of the Mason Dixon like things as they are, or were. We’ve already had too many blue-staters migrating down here, bringing along their lack of civility, their emotional immaturity, their self-anointed secular moralism, their totalitarian politics, their weird combination of self-righteous anti-racism rhetoric and racially-divisive separatist behaviors, and their common-sense helplessness.

    Let them waste perfectly good oxygen agitating for recycling as a purchased indulgence and outlawed sodas as a petty abstinence UP THERE, in the states they’ve already set a’crumbling. We’re having enough difficulty teaching manners, shooting skills, and a love of liberty to the current wave, or to their children when the parents are unteachable. But don’t overwhelm us with more such cretins than we can assimilate, okay?

  • Steve

    With the “red” states relying on the “blue” states to continue subsidizing them you’d better hope we stay up here or you’ll have to start paying your own way.

  • Lorenzo Poe

    Ummm, Red-Blue models of spending works for me. But rkka you may want to find out who spends money. I think that it is Congress and not the President that decides spending.

  • rkka

    Looks like I hit a nerve!

    FY2009 started on 1 October 2008, when George Dubya Bush was President. And the Red response to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi was filibuster after filibuster after filibuster.

    Reds demand to dictate, even when a minority.

  • teapartydoc

    rkkk thinks he can make a point by using one tidbit of information. The red model was not even in play with Bush, who never vetoed a spending bill ever put before him, or with the RINO’s that we are now replacing one race at a time.

  • rkka

    So TeaDoc, how many Republicans voted against Dubya’s budgets?

  • alanstorm

    rkka, did you look at the article you linked, the one whose last chart clearly shows a worse economic picture under Obama than Bush, and which contains the lines:

    “It should go without saying that this post is not an argument for Obama’s fiscal policy. The current President promised change, but he is continuing the wasteful and profligate policies of his big-spending predecessor.”

    Sorry, [sir], Bush was no fiscal prize, But Obama is even worse.

    Please describe how Republicans voting against GWB’s budgets has any impact on no one voting for Obama’s. Oh, right. There is no correlation.

  • http://www.williamgryan.mobi Bill

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but back when GW was president, I heard a significant portion of the Red Community screaming bloody murder over Bush and R-Congress’ profligate spending. Bush was more tolerable to the Republican party (well, and as two elections showed, the voting public too) than the Democratic alternatives, but it’s hardly like he was the embodiment of Team Red’s model. I’m d4mn sure not defending Bush or the Repub Congress of the day, but they did a lot of things that Reds in general hated. So characterizing Bush’s policies as the embodiment of Team Red’s financial model really isn’t fair. There’s more than enough to criticize about the red model (the love to wars, the police state to name a couple) but the blue solution to the Repubs deficits was increase them – can’t think of any Blue Deficit Hawks but I’m more than happy to be corrected if I’m wrong

  • ExPat Patriot

    Have to disagree with the whole concept. This is only counting the BTU’s of energy at the point of consumption.
    Of the BTU’s needed to create the electricity used for the A/C roughly 1/3 are used at the house. The remaining 2/3 of are rejected into the air or water at the gen plant.

    With a modern furnace, 85-90% of the BTU’s needed to create the heated space are in the heated space.

    First step in any thermodynamics problem is to draw the boundary.

    Drawing two different boundaries and comparing the results is fraud. But it is a news article, sorry for being redundant.

  • ertdfg

    “FY2009 started on 1 October 2008, when George Dubya Bush was President.”

    Yep, rkka and they sent Bush “continuing resolutions” based on a 3 Trillion dollar budget.

    Then in MARCH 2009 when OBAMA was President they actually signed the 3.5 Trillion dollar budget. Adding a half a billion dollars onto the budget by Obmaa’s signature? Must be Bush’s fault for Obama signing the 2009 Budget with the increase Obama approved… who else could you blame for Obama’s signing of Obama’s budget when Obama was President?

    Why is the spending that Obama signed, the budget that Obama signed, and the extra spending that Obama signed Bush’s fault?

    Oh I forgot, Obama has no responsibility for his own actions, everything OBAMA HIMSELF SIGNS is still Bush’s fault.

    March 2009 was when the 2009 Budget was finally signed; if you think Bush did that then let’s get Bush back in office.

    He can’t do any worse than our current “it’s someone else’s fault” “pass the buck” “Don’t blame me” idiot.

  • http://energyupgradeservices.com Don Lovell

    There is a growing movement for energy efficiency across the USA. It has been calculated that buildings (older) waste 30 to 40% of the energy they purchase through inefficient homes. It pays to upgrade your home with a return on invested dollars upward of 12%.

  • richard40

    To chase #2.
    Your stat appears to be impressive, but becomes less so once you correct for race. Blacks everywhere in the country have a much higher unemployment rate, but most of the states on your list have a lot of blacks, driving their unemployment higher, but more because of demographics, than those states policies. I suspect if you correct your stats for racial componstion, many of your red states will do much better. And before you start talking about racism, I suspect that black unemployment in your red states is lower than black unemployment in your blue states.

  • Bart

    ExPat Patriot says:
    July 2, 2012 at 6:24 am

    “Of the BTU’s needed to create the electricity used for the A/C roughly 1/3 are used at the house. The remaining 2/3 of are rejected into the air or water at the gen plant.”

    Only for old coal powered plants. It’s roughly the reverse for modern natural gas plants.

    “With a modern furnace, 85-90% of the BTU’s needed to create the heated space are in the heated space.”

    Hardly. Standard furnaces are about 75% efficient. So, basically, you are comparing the least efficient electricity generation with the most efficient furnaces. Nice job.

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