Are we ready for energy literacy?


There’s a few things people generally associate with energy: it’s boring to talk about, it costs money, rising gas prices suck, and Mom nagged you to turn the lights off as a kid. But — as our savvy readers know — energy, and how we consume energy, is fundamental to society and the economy, and being educated about how energy works is crucial for smart decision making on everything from infrastructure to policy. That’s why I’m excited that the “Energy Literacy” project is finally out, which is a 20-page document that lays out the fundamentals of energy, intended to be used by educators and policy makers (embedded below).

The document is a culmination of months of collaborative work by many people, including the Department of Energy and other government groups, and I attended one of the informal meetings on the document waaay back in December 2010. The project was led by Matthew Inman, an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow with the DOE (who I described after the meeting as the embodiment of your favorite high school teacher).

The document itself is very high level, and essentially a science lesson on how energy flows work. But I think it’s important to have some sort of definitive source on energy education. A couple years ago there was a survey published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that found that Americans overestimate the energy savings of actions like turning off lights, and riding public transportation, but underestimate the energy consumption of other things like using central air conditioning. A key to guiding people to make better decisions about their own energy usage, will be establishing the knowledge about how energy flows work at an earlier age.

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