Listening to Rush Raises Your Utility Bills

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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. Chip in a few dollars a month to help support independent cleantech coverage that helps to accelerate the cleantech revolution! 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

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