Should Wasting Energy Be Illegal?

July 24th, 2008 by Kathy McManus

Store owners take heat for running the AC with the doors open.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

 Cold air is a hot topic.

Especially in summer.

‘Tis the season for cranking up the air conditioning, as shops and stores across the country blast arctic air out their front doors, wide open, non stop.

But if you embrace the door-busting chill, are you a cool customer or an unwitting accomplice to an irresponsible environmental crime?

“It’s about as wasteful an energy practice as one can imagine,” says an environmental attorney about running ACs full throttle with exterior doors open. “It’s like leaving the gasoline station pumps gushing fuel whether the vehicles are filling up or not.”

In New York City, where the mega-consumption of electricity in hot weather can lead to blackouts, brownouts, and assorted other meltdowns, some citizens are aghast at doors agape, with cold air "pouring wastefully, senselessly—outrageously—onto the sidewalk", as one newspaper columnist described it.

Consumers who confront store clerks about squandering energy are invariably dismissed with the most frigid of responses: “It’s company policy.” A city councilwoman introduced legislation to stop the practice, saying businesses won’t do the right thing unless the law forces them. Her proposal includes fines of $200 for each open door or window. But the initiative lacks the support of the mayor, who believes it’s not the city’s responsibility to force cold change.

That has left residents who see red to act green on their own, going to offending establishments and closing the doors. The super-heated debate could lead to a slippery slope, cautions a University of Toronto psychologist. People waste energy in all sorts of ways, he said. “Should there be a law against leaving the lights on unnecessarily?”

Tell us what you think: Should wasting energy be illegal? If it’s not cool to crank out cold air, who’s responsible for shutting the door?