Whiplash. In case you blinked and missed the news of May 4 - 10, 2009

The Second Annual Arkansas Energy Efficiency MakeoverThe big news last week surrounded release of the Johnson Controls study finding that while businesses have a greater interest in energy efficiency now than ever, they are not investing at the rate hoped because of economic restraints, an article that spurred commentary from bloggers ranging from Earth2Tech to Chloregy.

Although times are tight (and also because times are tight), the entire country appears to be asking for a dance with efficiency, with communities rallying together to reduce energy use in Vermont, and Austin Texas boasting that a (dare we say paltry) 20% of new buildings in that city are being built to the city's own energy efficient standards. Austin's numbers may be skewed slightly by Habitat for Humanity, which is building all of its Austin homes to green standards. While this may sound like a B- grade, Austin is charged up about its progress. "Everything out there is green," says Richard Morgan, Austin Energy's green building manager. "All of the homes are required to get at least a three-star rating (out of a possible five stars from Austin Energy's Green Building Program).  High marks for enthusiasm...

Some major players got into the mix this week, as The Washington Post responded to the Wall Street Journal's green house of the future contest, noting, as EcoGeek pointed out, that "focusing on hypothetical designs of free-standing houses can even be a distraction. It can mask a more serious aspect of the challenge: the diminished sustainability of low-density, residential subdivisions in suburbia where most free-standing houses of the future are likely to be situated."  As advocates of energy efficiency and actual usage reduction in existing buildings, we couldn't agree more. We were similarly non-plused by a biodiesel fueled building laying claim to "world's greenest building" (using LEED rating) when it has no energy efficiency data at all.

Cape Cod is embarking on an energy saving plan featuring off-peak usage elements and plans to make energy audits widely available. The plan is projected to save consumers more than $4 billion over the next three years.

The urgency of energy efficiency is not, of course, limited to the US, as our colleagues as far afield as Australia press efficiency as the smartest economic, as well as environmental choice .

In the nuts and bolts category, we wrote extensively about the infrared audit conducted on the Energy Circle house. It brought out our inner Rosie the Riveter, shocked the watts out of us, and helped us realize opportunites we'd missed in the past. The Baltimore Sun published a 'Heloise' version of Energy Saving moves that will save you money, including letting dishes air-dry in the dishwasher (reduces cycle time by 50%) and investing in a powerstrip (check out BitsSmart - the best there is).

And finally, a makeover contest we can believe in. The Second Annual Arkansas Energy Efficiency Makeover contest entitles the winner to $50,000 of home energy efficiency improvements! Beats the daylights out of a fresh dye job and tattooed eyebrows if you ask me. Contestants need only register, answer a few questions about energy use in their homes, take a photograph of their homes and include copies of their electric bills. All of which is reminiscent of a fantastic project in the making, the  Thousand Home Challenge, which we'll continue to talk about in coming weeks and months.

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