Energy Efficiency

Published on May 6th, 2010 | by Susan Kraemer


Listening to Rush Raises Your Utility Bills

May 6th, 2010 by  

A widely hailed study last year found that people will try to keep down with the Joneses in energy consumption. If people know that their neighbors are using less energy than they are, they will themselves try to stop wasting energy. About a million US households have since received the feedback and, on average have cut their use 2.5% as a result.

But a new study finds that that response varies. It depends on political affiliation. The nudge only works on Democrats, it turns out.  Some Republicans actually increased their energy use in response to the neighborly nudge. Their increased use of energy could be an act of defiance, whether conscious or subconscious.


Listening to Rush Limbaugh go on about Al Gore and “enviro whackos” is now literally costing Republicans more out-of-pocket every month in higher energy bills.

A study of 80,000 California households by Dora Costa and Matthew Kahn at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that the nudge works on Democrats but it almost has a reverse effect on Republicans, and more so, the less interested in the environment they are.

By contrast, Democrats, regardless of whether they care about the environment or not, cut their use in response. To have the effect of reducing energy use overall, the nudge can only be effectively applied in districts that lean more Democratic.

However, Wesley Schultz is not giving up on finding a nudge that works on the Republican psyche. “No one is immune to social pressure,” says Schultz. “Even among those that increased electricity use there is a nudge that would work.”

Image: Flikr user Dianimall

Source: NewScientist

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

  • Sven


    So many contradicting statements? There’s literally 3 sentences there. I’m sure you could begin somewhere.

    Humans make messes by chopping down trees. Fossil fuel use allowed us to stop chopping down trees for fuel. But they have their own problems. Nuclear fission can solve them. Alas, nuclear energy has some (minor) problems as well. Nuclear fusion will solve those.

    The more energy we use, the better off we will be.

  • xoussef

    juangault: Political views are not hereditary as far as I know…

  • Alex


    there are so many contradicting statements in what you just said i don’t even know where to begin.

  • Alex

    Am i the only one who thought of the band when i read the title? LIVING IN THE LIMELIGHT THE UNIVERSAL DREAM!

  • Sven

    I’m an environmentalist libertarian that believes using more energy is the only way to clean up the messes we’ve made. Atomic energy is the way to end fossil fuel use. But keep on talking politics, you’re really making a difference:\

  • juangault

    There seems to be a inverse reaction between money and children with Republicans. The more money they have, the fewer offspring they share it with. A lot of Republican women choose to not have any children at all. Democrats on the other hand, might have a slight propensity to have more children as their income level falls. It may not be related to political affiliation at all, it just could be normal behavior of rich and poor people. It could be a “chicken and egg” scenario. I’ve coined my own phrase, “Societies fail when the men won’t work, and the women don’t labor” Maybe with enough money, they can make up for fewer voters, but time is against them. Hope the Republicans don’t have a “General Ripper” in high power somewhere.

  • J

    I’m SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO glad I’m not one of those baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad Whacko Republican Rush-heads. WOW, what a relief.

    Cause if I were, I wouldn’t be able to get more energy efficient or be concerned with the environment because of all my right wing extreeemist brain impediments.

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