There are three ways to prevent pollution due to dirty, fossil-fueled energy from entering our atmosphere: efficiency, conservation, and clean energy. To some this is very obvious, but sometimes it helps "energy novices" to go over the differences so they can better plan their energy strategy and strengthen their ability to visualize energy. The better you know your enemy , the easier it is to defeat (fossil fuel energy is our enemy here people).
Energy Efficiency means using less energy to get the same job done. A CFL (compact fluorescent light) is the perfect example of this. As I showed in my lighting cost comparison between CFL's and incandescents post, a 14 Watt CFL light bulb uses about 4 times less energy than a 60-watt incandescent bulb. But while it uses much less energy, it puts out the same about of light, meaning that CFL's are way more energy efficient than incandescent.
Other examples of energy efficient products are shown with the Government's Energy Star program. These are appliances that meet a certain level of energy efficiency. Examples of energy efficient products that could save you a lot of energy due to superior design are refrigerators, washers/dryers, heating/cooling equipment, and other appliances that are used daily.
While Energy Efficiency involves using energy smarter, Energy Conservation means not using energy at all. As Amory Lovins says, Negawatts (not using energy at all) are the cleanest form of energy out there. Examples of energy conservation in the home are turning off the lights (manually or using lighting controls) or turning off appliances when not in use (you can even use an automatic timer) or programming your thermostat to come on less when you don't need AC or Heat. Another example of energy conservation is insulating your home so your programmable thermostat controlled energy efficient furnace doesn't have to work as hard to keep comfortable. Like layers of clothing help you keep warm in winter, energy conservation layers (more insulation + programmable thermostat) help you prevent that much more fossil fuel energy from being used in the first place!
I've even shown in one post how energy conservation is a better investment than the stock market!
Once you have installed energy efficient devices in your house and you have learned how to conserve the energy that you do use, the next step is using clean energy when you have to use it!
Clean Energy is energy that doesn't pollute and is renewable. The cleanest forms of this energy are Solar power and Wind power (which in itself is a form of solar power --> sun heats air, which causes temperature differentials, which cause wind). Installing Solar or Wind systems can be expensive up front, but there are Federal tax incentives, State tax incentives for many, and sometimes even utility rebates. While your very own Clean Energy generating system may be a longer term goal for some, it is definitely a pillar of getting off the fossil fuel strategy.
In a few years I hope to get a plug-in electric vehicle. The motor powering the car will be energy efficient and by driving it I will be conserving gasoline (because it wont use gasoline, it will use electricity as it's fuel) made from oil that came from the middle east. I hope to eventually power the plug-in with clean energy from solar panels installed on my roof.
Getting our society off fossil fuel energy is not going to be easy. It's going to need a change in attitude by the public, a large amount of education, and the help of many leaders to show the "holdouts" how rewarding it can be to help lower our dependence on fossil fuel. Let's install efficient devices, start conserving as much as possible, and look at installing clean energy now. Doing this will clean our skies, improve our national security, and fatten our wallets.
Sounds like a good strategy to me.