In a land of plenty, the worst thing you can become is that guy—that nerdy guy who runs around turning off lights and (worse) telling everyone he knows to turn off the damn lights or the air conditioner or the sauna or whatever.
I’ve become that guy.
Pleased to meet you.
What does it mean to be that guy? One of the good things about being that guy is that we love questions like that because it gives us the chance to spout off about peak oil and electric cars and solar power. The bad thing is that everyone ends up hating you, because you have become that guy who rags on everybody who things energy is still el cheapo.
An example from work. I come in early every morning to the radio station to do my “Con Games” show and the first thing I do is to walk around shutting off lights. In the open room where I have my office, it’s not unusual for me to turn off three light switches that account for ten lights that burn for hours every day even though no one is there to see them.
Another example. Someone who works at the radio station has an office that boils in the summer, even when the rest of the office is perfectly comfortable. Her solution? To turn on the swamp cooler in the big open space where I sit—blasting the open room above when no one is in it. For her comfort in her office—and who but that guy can blame her?—she cools a space at least eight or nine times bigger.
I’m that guy who says: “It’s freezing out there. Can we turn it down?” And I’m told no by co-workers who don’t want to confront the woman in the office.
One more. We had a going-away party for someone off site. That guy got a ride with the honoree, but by my count eight people came in six cars.
See, this is really our energy policy in the United States of America. The only one who cares is that guy and thousands of annoying people just like him. Nobody cares because we still believe as a people in the land of the free that energy in general and electricity in particular is all but free.
I got to thinking about being that guy, and it struck me that all of us energy nerds need a new marketing plan. If you tell people to turn things off it’s a real turn-off because they think you’re a tree-hugging environmental whacko morphing into a true pain in the ass—not the most persuasive of positions to take.
But what if that guy were to convince his co-workers that being a pain in the ass is a matter of national security?
Here’s the way the argument goes. We have to keep drilling for oil and natural gas, but every time we do we are drilling ourselves into a deeper hole. Literally every time we go to the pump we are directly funding terrorists who are funded by oilish Islamic states who usually wish to carve us up or otherwise do us harm. Every time we burn energy needlessly we are putting money in the pockets of petrogarchies like Venezuela, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.
Pundit Thomas Friedman says “green is the new red, white, and blue”—and he’s right. To waste energy, to do anything less than conserve, is borderline treason.
Or so says that guy. You know the one. The guy who won’t shut up about what you don’t want to hear.