Wednesday, April 30, 2008From an Associated Press story by Anne Sutton:
JUNEAU, Alaska - First, there was a run on energy-efficient light bulbs. When those ran out, people began asking for lamp oil. But when they started demanding clothespins in this land of mist and rain, it was clear Alaska's capital city was caught in a serious energy crunch.
"We sold all our clothespins the first day," said Doug White, general manager at Don Abel Building Supplies. "I don't think kids even knew what they were for, but they're learning now."
Avalanches earlier this month knocked down transmission lines and cut off Juneau's source of low-cost hydroelectric power. Threatened with a fivefold increase in utility bills, Juneau quickly powered down.
Stores, though open, went partially dark. Neon signs were switched off and vending machines unplugged. At home, residents of this former Gold Rush town began living a little bit like pioneers, dusting the snow off the grill, stringing clotheslines in the backyard and flicking off their TV sets. Within a week, electrical usage across town was down as much as 30 percent.
Energy conservation is a hard sell in much of the U.S., but Juneau has proved that people will change their ways if the financial incentives are big enough.
"Turn off, turn down, unplug," said Sarah Lewis, chairwoman of the Juneau Commission on Sustainability. "That's what everyone is doing and being vigilant about and commenting when others are not. . . ."