Mithra Moezzi and Maithili Iyer, Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, “What Else is Transfered Along with Energy Efficiency?” Human and Social Dimensions of Energy Use: Understanding Markets and Demand. 2002 Summer Study of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.
Our argument is not that technologies in general don’t often make people more comfortable or otherwise better off given the subjectivities of these notions.
But perhaps a good deal of the core of this concept of “standards of living” is supplied by mandates to consume and control that inhere in technology, its marketing, and its infrastructure.
Whatever one may think of the morals of this, the idea that promoting control through energy efficiency actually reduces energy consumption and carbon emissions deserves critical and multi-disciplinary reflection.
The current levels and configuration of standards and codes in the United States are not absolute and technically perfect. Rather, they have been shaped by extraneous factors such as manufacturer interests and changing definitions of comfort; they thus often follow technological trajectories which bring the “final” configuration something much different than might be consider socially reasonable).
Though the Green Revolution is often described as increasing agricultural productivity, it also replaced older methods of farming with new, more resource-intensive methods that basically increased the yield on the basis of higher inputs. There was no double-speak about what it was meant to accomplish: it was a new way of doing agriculture. Like the Green Revolution, such programs are justified on the basis of reducing environmental impacts, and opening up trade. And also like the Green revolution, there are both stated and unstated motivations for providing assistance.
We draw attention to the fact that there is a lack of consideration of key types of applicable experience and analysis, for example, theories from anthropology, social studies of technology, and past experiences of technology transfer. Attending to such experience is critical to the development and execution of standard and codes, if they are to fulfill the objectives of the transfer program. Technical assistance affects far more than “just” technology. Thus assistance programs like those we consider here cannot legitimately separate their responsibility from pre-assessing potential impacts, direct or indirect, technical, economic, or social. To do this requires engaging in discussions with specialists from disciplines outside of those now in the formal policy-making arena.