During last week’s tire gauge brouhaha, McCain dismissed Obama’s advice to regularly check tire pressure as a measure incapable of achieving much. As an alternative, the Arizona senator offered his standard solution – drill, drill, drill – a policy earning the unanimous criticism of economists. McCain’s myopic focus on supply-side fixes overlooks the frothiness currently swirling around on the demand side.
By reducing demand, consumers can slash energy costs in the immediate future without sacrificing quality of life. And, the government can encourage conservation with programs palatable to both the left and right. Take the efforts of Southern California Edison, which gave customers an Ambient Orb, a floating ball that glowed red when energy use was high but green when consumption was modest. Within weeks, electricity use plunged by forty percent among the Orb’s users. These results derived from purely voluntary action by the households, with no government mandate or regulation. Extrapolate these figures to the entire nation to realize the potential magnitude of demand reductions.