Blog: Dave LeggettThe energy debate

Dave Leggett | 12 May 2009

I think it was Benjamin Franklin who coined the phrase 'penny wise, pound foolish' - one of my favourite maxims. Step back and try to see the bigger picture is something I try to do, although I'll admit I can be as self-centred or irrational as anyone else (look, I'm sorry and I know I have had more than my fair share, but I will be having that last egg custard tart - get over it [chomp]).

But the CO2/energy debate sometimes reminds me of Franklin's saying. Yes, lots of little energy saving things multiplied by lots of people do obviously make a difference. But is obsessing over how much water is in the kettle or whether your phone charger is off - or indeed the car you drive - missing the point if you get on a plane to Sydney tomorrow? And the real point is the total picture of the energy used, including where that energy comes from, as part of our lifestyles.

A British physicist has attempted to quantify some of this stuff and it makes an interesting read. You can look at it online, also. If nothing else, David MacKay's treatment creates some interesting quantitative parameters and a framework of analysis for the ongoing debate. There's a section on transport, too. I don't think he has any particular axe to grind, other than that he got tired of some of the lack of basic science in the debate about energy.

The small gestures add up, but getting the big things right is sometimes much more important, as Mr Franklin so eloquently implied.

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