Report from America

I recently travelled to America for a holiday. It turned from a 15-day trip into a 24-day one and cost £ 1800 more because of the travel disruption caused by the Icelandic volcano. However, that's an aside. While I was there I took the opportunity to check how efficiently Americans were using energy - and the answer is "could be better".

I have stayed in a few US hotels and most have changed their lighting to CFLs - some CFLs are larger than the filament bulbs they replace and protrude from the shade so they look a bit odd. Most hotels have large plasma TVs that show CNN 24 hours a day.

Based on my sister-in-law's profile, domestic usage would appear to be fairly high. She's quite happy to leave lights burning most of the day even in unoccupied rooms. The kitchen had over 12 bulbs, all 50-75W standard filament and some on dimmers. They even left one dimmed bulb on all night.

Outside wasn't any better - the stable had a radio that played country music continuously for the horses, even when they weren't there. On a transformed pole outside there is what looks like a mercury lamp and this is on continuously. This could at least have been connected to a light sensor so that it only came on night. Perhaps the domestic price of electricity in America being only 5-6p/kWh, about half the cost in the UK, has led to this attitude.

Fuel prices (April 2010) were $2.80 for petrol and $3 for diesel per gallon. Bearing in mind that US gallons are smaller than UK gallons, the equivalent price per litre was £ 0.55 and £ 0.59 respectively. My brother-in-law had a Ford FD-150 with a 5.4 litre pertol engine. This managed 16mpg with normal driving but only 9mpg when towing a horsebox.

With the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, perhaps Americans will now cut back their oil consumption which should reduce the necessity to explore for oil in deep water.

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