Change a Light, Change the World?

Buying an S.U.V. with fuel economy rated at 16 miles per gallon instead of 14 cuts oil consumption and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by three and a half times more than saving 2 miles per gallon in a typical car.

Published: 01-Jan-2007

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 — The Environmental Protection Agency kicked off Energy Awareness Month in October with the slogan "change a light, change the world," and encouraged Americans to buy compact fluorescent lights instead of conventional incandescent bulbs.

Useful as that may be, picking a large sport utility vehicle that goes two miles farther on a gallon of gasoline than the least-efficient S.U.V.’s would have an impact on emissions of global warming gases about five times larger than replacing five 60-watt incandescent bulbs. The dollar savings would be about 10 times larger. And the more-efficient light bulbs would have a negligible effect on oil consumption.

Almost everything Americans do uses energy, making the earth warmer and purses thinner, and often raising demand for oil from unstable places. People eager to reduce their consumption can take many steps, but the size of their benefit — or cost — is not always evident.

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