It’s a graph. Click on it for the full explanation on The Economist.
Here’s what it says: all the downwards pointing bars are energy savings that pay for themselves. The depth of the bar shows how much you save, and the width of the bar shows how much of that saving is available. It’s like saying “you can buy a unit of savings for $40, and there are 28 available.”
Here’s the point: the very, very large savings available in the “profitable” area – the energy savings which are also financial savings – these savings are by-and-large getting much, much less attention than the items further to the right, which involve financial sacrifice for environmental benefit.
Environmental issues are simply too important to be handled in a way which is financially irresponsible. We must prioritize making the energy savings which are profitable first. Everybody insulate your houses, your water heaters, your windows, your lofts. Get the easy stuff done. Once you’ve done that, and you’re saving money and energy, figure out what the next most profitable energy saving you can make is.
Eventually you’ll run out of money-and-planet saving steps, but until that happens, keep going.
When you actually calculate the return on investment for environmental improvements in the “Smart Green” box, they are often staggering. I was part of the editorial team on Small is Profitable, the Rocky Mountain Institute book on distributed energy generation, and when you see the numbers worked out, over and over again, every day, you come to understand: saving energy is a profit center, not a loss making activity.