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Expert: Keep long-term energy demand in sight

By Staff | Jan 14, 2009

During a severe economic crisis, federal, state and local governments must not take their eye off long-term energy needs, an energy expert told members of the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral on Wednesday.
Wendell Cox, a consultant on transportation and energy issues with 25 years of experience, served three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, helping oversee transportation policy in the nation’s largest county, and served on the Amtrak Reform Council.
When it comes to priorities, governments cannot afford to focus solely on economic concerns at the expense of addressing the long-term energy demand.
“Obviously government has got to do both, difficult as it is,” Cox said during an interview Wednesday morning.
The sheer population growth in the United States and across the globe will surge energy demand in the next 20 years, Cox said, citing U.S. Department of Energy statistics that show the country will add 65 million people by 2030.
In the same time China will see 350 million more people — more than the current U.S. population — in urban areas, where it uses twice as much energy as those in rural areas.
Alternative energies and conservation have roles to play in meeting this demand, but should not be looked at as panaceas, Cox said.
“Conservation and alternative fuels are important … but there’s a rhetoric out there that they are the only answers,” he said.
Technological improvements making appliances, cars and other energy-consuming products more efficient will be most important in meeting energy demands.
“There are technological answers out there, but they’re going to take time,” Cox said.
He pointed to the span of time it takes for technological advances to take hold on the market.
“The average car out there is eight or nine years old. It’s going to take some years to go through the full, existing stock to get that benefit (of gas mileage improvements),” he added.
With a new administration poised to take over the White House, Cox said he is pleased with the early outlook of a key voice in shaping President-elect Barack Obama’s energy policy.
“As the Energy Secretary-designate (Stephen Chu) said, ‘We’re going to need all sources of energy, we’re just going to have to do it a lot cleaner,'” Cox said.
Kim Constantine, events coordinator for the chamber, said bringing in an expert like Cox was an effort to help members manage their energy needs.
“Hopefully today they’re going to be able to come away with ways of saving money and understanding the long-term energy outlook in Cape Coral,” Constantine said.
At the local level, businesses and residents looking to save money by reducing their energy needs, Lee County Electrical Cooperative representative Joe Padgett highlighted LCEC’s free energy survey. The survey provides an itemization of energy use and suggestions on how to reduce need.
“We’ve find some of the biggest ways to save is to change some of the habits you have,” Padgett said.
Those interested in an energy survey can call LCEC at 656-2226 or 800-201-7283.