Nobel Physics laureate supports energy efficiency


Steven Chu,
Energy Secretary
21 October 2009 – He unplugged the extra refrigerator in the basement. He got a tankless water heater and reduced the heat setting. He turned down the air conditioning last summer and used fans to keep cool.

Yes, Energy Secretary Steven Chu acknowledged, “I’m an energy efficiency nut.”

The Nobel physics laureate said he’s slowly weatherizing his home in the Washington DC area, but “weatherizing” isn’t a word he likes. “I’m decreasing its energy consumption and making money,” was how he put it at a Reuters Washington Summit. Chu figures his energy bills are about half what the home’s previous owners paid.

But he said that he, and most people, could still do more.

“In terms of energy efficiency, it’s what the economists would say is a market failure … Most people don’t have the knowledge or inclination, there’s inertia, they just can’t be bothered, they let some things slip,” Chu said. And he himself is not immune: “We’ve been living in the house for five months and it’s still a work in progress — and I’m an energy efficiency nut.”

“Going to the hardware store, getting the foam and putting it around your hot water pipe, that doesn’t take that long for a homeowner to do it themselves,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer, but people don’t do it.”

Time for some stepped-up public education about energy efficiency? “We’re trying, we’re trying!”

Chu bikes around Washington when he can, but said that is mostly to keep fit rather than save on fuel. Still, he’s working on whittling down the time it takes to ride his bicycle from his home to the city center.