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Save, Baby, Save: George Lakoff Reframes the Oil Problem

In a new op-ed, the left-leaning linguist George Lakoff argues that efforts to get us off oil have been poorly branded. Phrases like "energy efficiency" and "conservation," he says, miss the important point that we waste a lot of oil. He suggests we reframe the goal as saving as many barrels of oil as possible.

The Department of Energy has misframed the energy efficiency issue. The calculation made is in money, not in barrels of oil saved. How many barrels of oil will the 2010 energy efficiency programs save not only in 2010, but in 2011, 2012, and so on … for, say, the next 30 years. And if we putting [sic] the drilling investments into all the job-creating ways of saving energy, how many barrels will be saved on 2011's energy efficiency programs over the following 30 years. And so on. Will those multiplied, accumulated savings tell us that we don't need to do offshore drilling after all? Or that we can cut it down significantly?

And how many jobs will be created? Real, good-paying, non-exportable jobs!

We need to know. As soon as possible.

It may be the case that ending offshore drilling is good, not bad, for the economy – and the future of the world. Secretary Chu, please add up our energy efficiency savings in terms of barrels of oil saved, with cumulative estimates over the next 30 or so years.


His proposal is clever because it casts oil as something useful but costly, rather than as the root of all evil. And in doing so, it begins to put energy efficiency advocates, environmentalists, and drill-baby-drillers on the same page: As long as we need this stuff (and we do need some of it for the foreseeable future), let's exploit every opportunity to minimize oil waste.

Image: red oil barrels 02, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from ezioman's photostream

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