During the 1992 presidential campaign, democratic strategist James Carville coined the phrase, “It’s the Economy, Stupid.” to focus the Clinton campaign on a perceived Bush weakness. Carville hung up a sign at Clinton headquarters in Arkansas that said: “1. Change vs. More of the Same 2. It’s the Economy Stupid 3. Don’t forget about health care.” to remind everyone of the hot talking points that were to be used with the press. Talk about deja vu, as we fast forward 16 years we notice that the exact same verbiage is being used during this election.
As I write this post, the unemployment rate is now at a 5 year high and the stock market is coming off a 350 point loss. Despite these statistics and the overall sluggish economy, I believe there is a more important issue than the economy that has to be addressed immediately. That issue is Energy, which I believe trumps the economy because increasing energy costs have been an important factor in harming the economy. But more importantly, the issue of Energy will ultimately decide if the United States can remain as a global super power. If we do not find away to become self sufficient with regards to Energy, you can expect us to be in one Middle East country or another for years to come. In addition, you will see Russia continuing to flex their muscles and “bully” former republics due to their abundance of oil.
Thus, there are very compelling reasons for politicians from both parties to position themselves as experts on the Energy issue. In fact, both candidates convention speeches, they mentioned numerous Energy topics. But I urge you all not to wait for a politician to solve this important problem. Instead, I believe that everyone should start looking at their own lives and how they can save energy. The great part about doing so is that you will be ultimately saving money as well.
1. Educate yourself about Energy Issue–Have you notice all those weird Pickens Plan commercials? Get yourself on their website and read about his proposal. Then, get yourself to Google and search for criticism of the Pickens Plan to read about the perceived downsides of the plan. Despite what you think about the plan, I commend him for actually coming up with an thorough plan, something I have yet to see from a major politician. The more the public becomes interested in Energy, the more time that politicians will spend on it. The better informed we become on the topic, the more specific and practical the politician’s proposals about Energy will become.
2. Research hybrid, biofuel, and natural gas powered cars–Depending on your driving habits, a hybrid car may already be a wise financial decision. In some areas of the country, it may be worth your while to switch to a compressed natural gas vehicle. For instance, some residents in Utah are enjoying 63 cent/gallon CNG prices and I urge you to read this article about them here. These alternative fuels may not be ready to save everyone money now, but you will not know until you do some simple research.
3. Drive more frugally–I am not going to go over the hundreds of ways that you can save gas. However, i am going to say that you should immediately use 10 of these tips to cut down your costs. So get out there and clean out your trunk, check your tire pressure, and start eliminating unnecessary trips with some strategic planning.
4. Unplug 5 appliances around your house–Do you really need to keep your vcr plugged in when you might use it once a year on look at an old home video. is in necessary to keep alarm clocks on in spare bedrooms? Can you live without having the time being displayed on your coffee maker, microwave, toaster oven, and blender ( I might be exaggerating here with the blender)?
5. Decide on 3 home improvement projects to save energy–These projects can be as simple as investing in more energy efficient light bulbs, to installing a programmable thermostat, to investing in better windows. Before you decide on which project to complete, calculate how much you expect to save and how long it will take for you to get a return on your investment. Once you have recouped your initial investment, you should calculate how much you are saving a year–this will certainly put a smile on your face and make your wallet more difficult to close.
Of course, taking these steps alone will not solve our Energy crisis. Furthermore, the savings that you accumulate taking these steps will not solve your financial problems. However, becoming knowledge about the Energy issue and taking the lead in your homes to conserving energy (and perhaps even using an alternative energy), will certainly we a step in the right direction.
This post was featured in the 169th Carnival of Personal Finance