Why Conservatives consume more electricity than the Left | RenewEconomy

Why Conservatives consume more electricity than the Left

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While Sarah Palin urged conservatives to take a Big Gulp of soda, a university survey showed Republican voters consumed more electricity than Democrats or Greens.

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When former US presidential running mate and Tea Party favourite Sarah Palin appeared at the CPAC conference on the weekend, the biggest cheer – and a standing ovation – reportedly came when she grabbed a Big Gulp soda and took, well, a great big gulp.

Palin wasn’t quite prepared to go the whole 91 grams (of sugar) that is contained in these popular drinks, the type that New York mayor Michael Bloomberg tried unsuccessfully to ban in the interests of reducing health costs, but she made her point: In the material world that dominates the thinking of the politically conservative, Palin wants to be known as the Material Girl.

And the Right wants to know that it has the right to carry arms, install the light bulb of its choice, and consume as much as it wants of whatever it chooses. It underscores the fundamental differences over consumerism, consumption and conservation, and how they influence policies on climate, clean energy and energy efficiency.

(Just for the record, the Big Gulp contains the equivalent of around 24 cubes of sugar. But it seems small in comparison to the Super Big Gulp, the Extreme Gulp, or even the Double Big Gulp, which has the equivalent of 45 cubes of sugar in a single drink).

It just so happened that on the same weekend that Palin was extolling the virtues of small government and unrestrained consumerism, a a university study of electricity use in the US provided further insight into the politics of consumption: it found that Republican voters were likely to consume more electricity than their Democrat and left-leaning rivals.

According to a report in Pacific Sentinel, two economists from Stanford University looked at the energy consumption habits of 280,470 registered voters, and found that left leaning voters are likely to use less electricity than their conservative counterparts. And Green Party voters are even more thrifty.

“Liberal households engage in voluntary restraint, largely by lowering air-conditioning in the summer relative to conservatives,” Dora Costa and Matthew Kahn wrote in the journal Economics Letters.

“Relative to Republican registered households, Democrats consume 5.1 percent less electricity, and Green party registered voters consume 15.1 percent less,” they said. “This differential grows larger in the hotter summer months,” according to the Pacific Sentinel.

“We estimate that during the summer, Democrats consume 6.6 per cent less electricity than observationally identical Republicans, while Green Party households consume 19.1 per cent less electricity than Republican households.” A lot of the difference is to do with air-conditioning demand.

“Because electricity consumption is private information that is not observed by neighbors,” they added, “our results are explained by ideology – not by peer pressure.”

That last point is important. As the Pacific Sentinel suggests, “voluntary restraint … helps to mitigate the challenge of climate change.” Voluntary restraint, however, is not something  that is likely to figure large in the land of the Big Gulp, the super Big Gulp, and double Big Gulp.

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2 Comments
  1. Beat Odermatt 8 years ago

    I am sure that is a very weak argument. The fact remains that left wing Governments in general were the biggest energy wasters. If you travel through former eastern bloc countries, you will see the massive energy waste which was carried out in areas such as former DDR and Poland. In America, you can look at the environmental devastation carried out by left wing Governments in Haiti. This can be compared to reasonable conservation efforts on the same island, the Dominican Republic.
    Whilst the majority of wealthier people may vote more for conservative Governments and often have the means to use bigger cars and have bigger homes, they have also the means to invest in energy conservation. In poor sunny countries we see fewer solar PV installations then in richer countries. I am sure that being a member of the Greens has nothing to do with using less energy. I am sure that the current and former leaders of our Green Party have far larger “carbon footprint” then most of us.

  2. John D 8 years ago

    Part of the reason that Brisbane was so successful at handling the water crisis was that people could see water cheaters cheating and who had thriving gardens.
    Perhaps all households should have a sign saying “My power consumption was …..% of household average last quarter.” With better than average showed in green and above in red?

    Public feedback is a powerful motivator.

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