Dick Cheney's 10 energy-saving tips!

A few sensible ways not to end up like those losers in California.

Published May 10, 2001 8:00AM (EDT)

As vice president and head of President Bush's task force on energy, people ask me all the time, "Dick, what can I do to conserve energy?" First, I tell them that conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis, all by itself, for a sound, comprehensive energy policy. We can't simply conserve or ration our way out of this energy crisis, but there are some simple ways we can use power more efficiently, without having to do with less. Here are 10 ways we can all be better energy consumers:

Dick Cheney's 10 tips to conserve energy

Tip No. 1: Replace incandescent bulbs with much brighter incandescent bulbs.

A 250-watt bulb burns brighter than a 100-watt bulb: a lot brighter. Don't listen to the "dim bulbs" who insist that lower-wattage light bulbs are somehow more energy efficient. There's nothing efficient about staggering across a dark room bumping into furniture. Also, remember that 30 percent of the energy consumed by a light bulb is expended when the bulb is switched on. Keeping your lights on all the time is a simple but effective way to conserve energy.

Tip No. 2: Turn the air conditioning down to "medium" when you're not in the room.

By simply turning the air conditioning down to the medium setting (about 62 degrees) before you leave a room, you'll reap significant savings, while you and your family stay comfortable. You can further keep costs down by closing off sections of your house to trap cool air in occupied areas. At my ranch in Wyoming, for example, I like to blast the AC in the living room, family room, parlor, rec room and den, while keeping the AC set to "medium" in the library, conservatory, antiques room and aviary.

Tip No. 3: Wrap your hot water tank with "jacket" insulation.

More than 20 percent of the heat from your hot water tank escapes into the surrounding air. Wrap your water tank with a suitable "jacket" insulator. An old mink coat or chinchilla wrap is ideal.

Tip No. 4: Keep your SUV well-maintained.

SUVs are already incredibly energy efficient, meeting or exceeding federal mileage standards for large trucks and buses. But a little TLC for your SUV can make your mobile home-away-from-home even more energy-friendly. Keep power windows and locks well oiled, slow down to 75 mph on freeways, switch into two-wheel drive whenever practical and consider replacing the in-dash stereo system with a more efficient multiple-CD changer.

Tip No. 5: Replace old appliances with really big new ones.

Small appliances mean big energy bills. Think about it: By using an extra-large capacity washer and dryer, you'll only have to do laundry half as often, a 50 percent savings. Replace your current washer, dryer, refrigerator and dishwasher with the largest models you can fit through the door. Don't forget to upgrade minor appliances such as electric knife sharpeners, automatic can openers, juice squeezers, ice cream makers, bagel slicers, golf ball washers, etc.

Tip No. 6: Upgrade your hot tub.

Natural gas hot-tub heaters use less energy than electric heaters, cost less to operate and heat water faster, so you won't have to wait as long for the water to warm up. A low-cost motion detector (available at most hardware stores) connected to an appropriately licensed firearm (available most everywhere) will help keep out unwanted guests, further reducing your tub's energy consumption.

Tip No. 7: Be an energy-smart landscaper.

Cut down any trees on your property that block the sun, an important source of light and heat. Apply generous amounts of fertilizer and pesticide to your lawn weekly, or instruct the Mexican gardener to do so. Be sure to have your lawn watered at least twice a day. Remember, a green lawn is a "Green" lawn.

Tip No. 8: Don't fall for solar or wind power promises.

So-called renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power are, in fact, unreliable and even dangerous. During a typical 24-hour period, the sun is "off" 50 percent of the time, while oil, gas and coal still burn brightly. Wind power is practical only when it's windy, and a windmill's revolving blades pose a danger to unsuspecting children and pets. By contrast, there's an almost limitless supply of safe, clean-burning fossil fuels, provided we adopt sensible energy exploration policies.

Tip No. 9: Take control of your power needs.

America needs to build 1,300 new power plants over the next 20 years, or one additional plant every week. But don't expect the politicians in Washington to get off their keisters and make it happen. Instead, consider drilling for oil or gas in your own backyard. Many oil companies (including my old shop, Halliburton Co.) offer a Home Drilling Starter Kit, which provides everything you'll need to explore for energy right in your own backyard. Don't let the scaremongers convince you that a natural gas well in your yard is unsafe for children -- statistically, it's far less dangerous than a swing set or a jungle gym.

Tip No. 10: Make your voice heard.

Even the best conservation plan won't matter if our country doesn't adopt a coherent long-range energy strategy, one that includes oil and gas exploration in national parks and wildlife refuges, relaxed fuel efficiency standards and "fast-tracking" new oil, coal and nuclear power plants. We can all make a difference. The single greatest contribution you can make to America's energy independence is at the ballot box. Vote Republican.

By Tom Mcnichol

Tom McNichol is a San Francisco writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, and on public radio's "Marketplace" and "All Things Considered." He is a contributing editor for Wired magazine.

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