Republicans won’t be nudged into cutting home energy
It was hailed as a breakthrough in the fight to cut carbon emissions. In 2007, researchers found that heavy electricity users cut their consumption after being told that they used more energy than their neighbours. Almost a million US households have since received similar feedback and have cut electricity use by an average of 2.5 per cent.
But a new study has identified a wrinkle in the plan: the feedback only seems to work with liberals. Conservatives tend to ignore it. Some even respond by using more energy.
The findings come from a study of over 80,000 Californian households, just under half of which received feedback on energy use. Overall, the technique worked: households who got the feedback cut electricity by around 2 per cent, say Dora Costa and Matthew Kahn at the University of California, Los Angeles.
But important difference emerged when Costa and Kahn looked at the political leanings of those in the survey. Homeowners who identified themselves as Republicans cut energy use by just 0.4 per cent on average. And those Republicans who showed no practical interest in environmental causes – people who did not donate to environmental groups and did not choose to pay extra for renewable energy – even increased electricity use by 0.75 per cent.