There is a good story by Salman Rushdie on Sloth in a recent edition of Granta magazine (Thanks, whoever sends that).

A recent report from researchers at Georgia Tech and Duke turns its attention to gluttony, particularly the energy gluttons also known as the Southern United States. Evidently, no other region uses more and tries less to save energy and stave off the need to build more power plants. For example take Arkansas (no Please… ):

With a population of about 2.8 million people,2 Arkansas represents about 0.9% of U.S. population, 0.7% of the nation’s GDP, and 1.1 % of U.S. energy consumption (Figure 1). Thus, compared to the rest of the nation, Arkansas has a higher-than-average level of energy intensity (i.e., it consumes more energy per dollar of economic activity).

Arkansas’ industrial energy consumption as a percentage of its overall energy consumption exceeds that of the nation and the rest of the South (Figure 2). This is one reason that Arkansas ranks 15th nationally in per capita energy consumption, well above the national average.

But not to pick on them – the story is the same all over the former former confederacy.

Relative to the rest of the country, the South consumes a particularly large share of industrial energy, accounting for 51% of the nation?s total industrial energy use. In addition, the region has a higher-than-average per capita energy consumption for each of the end-use sectors covered in viii

this report: the South consumes 43% of the nation?s electric power, 40% of the energy consumed in residences, and 38% of the energy used in commercial buildings. This energy-intensive lifestyle may be influenced by a range of factors including:

  • the South’s historically low electricity rates
  • the significant heating and cooling loads that characterize many southern states,
  • its relatively weak energy conservation ethic (based on public opinion polls),
  • its low market penetration of energy-efficient products (based on purchase behavior) and
  • its lower than average expenditures on energy-efficiency programs.
So excuse the pun but, by what lights do we ignore the growing pile of evidence that this wasteful nature is more expensive and more unpleasant than it clearly needs to be? Heritage? As the report reports, southern states are ignoring measures that have proven effective in other regions and other countries, basically in favor of nothing at all. And while there’s a certain heedless beauty about having your head in the sand, it’s not something you can put on a license plate or in a mason jar. So what good is it?