Thursday, September 8

Housewives: The Original Smart Meters

I'm fairly sure audio books weren't intended to be talked back to, but I couldn't help myself recently while listening to Mike Huckabee's A Simple Government. The man had plenty of commonsense things to say, but one comment really set me off: Mr. Huckabee is in favor of Smart Meters.

Are you familiar with Smart Meters? They're an “upgraded” version of your gas/electric meters that monitor the energy your home consumes and provide constant, specific feedback to the provider company about what you're using and when. Supposedly, they have many wonderful uses such as allowing cost differentials in your bill (based on whether you use energy at peak or off times) and generating reports on what appliance upgrades will give you the biggest bang for your buck (by assessing which ones run most often and create the biggest power drains).

Of course, anyone with an innate tendency towards skepticism or *ahem * subversion might be quick to point out that they are also programmed with capability to interface with the new “Smart Appliances” - to the extent that your power company (or other powers that be) can selectively turn off or cut off any appliances in your house that they feel are drawing too much power or being run too often. I'm sure I don't need to get into why that is not something most of us would cheerily sign up for on purpose. (Oh yeah - they may expose your family to unsafely high levels of radiation too.)

But, all ranting about the value of Smart Meters aside, what irked me most about Mr. Huckabee's support of the idea was that he'd just finished talking about how things like rising crime rates, falling literacy levels and the seriously precarious state of Americans' health were all family problems. We don't need new social service regimes or psychologically overhauled criminal justice procedures – we need to fix the family issues at the root of the problem! I completely agree with that assertion, which is why I'm baffled that he misses the same point when it's made in a different (but related) context.

Excessive energy usage is a family problem too.

There are abundant studies proving what should be common sense: every time a family fragments into divided homes, national energy consumption increases. Every person that lives alone, running their own heat, appliances, etc. is doubling the amount of energy needed over what would be required if they shared a home with their family.

Every family in which both parents work because they don't feel they can afford to live on one income almost automatically is forced to run numerous appliances at peak hours – because that's the only time they're home! They can't choose to run laundry in the middle of the morning, because everyone's at work. They can't choose to save money by hanging clothes on the line to dry because they don't get home until after dark and have to be out before the sun is up the next day. (Or because their HOA doesn't allow clotheslines, but that's a whole story unto itself.)

The most ironic part of this whole subject? Americans used to have Smart Meters. They were called Housewives. Women who were able to plan their days around what needed to be done at home were able to run laundry while the kids were in school (and hang it on the line to dry). Their households were able to accommodate live-in grandparents or single relatives. Guess what? They could carpool, make food from scratch and engage in a bunch of other “green”, “socially responsible” and “health conscious” lifestyle choices too! (In fact, some modern housewives are already getting plenty of press for doing just that!)

Am I saying every family must have a stay- at- home wife/mother? No.

Do I think it's foolish to praise such limited, potentially dangerous technology when there is an obvious and multi-beneficial alternative readily available to tackle multiple major concerns in one fell swoop? You bet.

What do you think? Could housewives be the secret weapon of the next Green Movement?

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