Save the planet this Christmas

With ongoing war in the Middle East, the Bush administration’s continued emphasis on fossil fuels, and destabilization of the oil-producing nations, it seems it’s going to be awhile before Americans can expect to see fuel costs become affordable again, if ever. Across the country, as happens every year in the wintertime, many poor people and older people on fixed incomes get to decide whether they’re going to spend their money on food or medication or heat.

The high cost of fuel and its impacts have become such a cliché that’s it’s barely worth mentioning on the news anymore. Certainly, the days when the government highlighted methods of energy conservation as a way of bringing down demand (and costs) are long over. Can you picture Leader George W. Bush wearing a sweater to work the way Jimmy Carter did a quarter century ago? Probably not.

At any rate, maybe you can do something for the poor, the planet and for yourself. Since we don’t really feel like editorializing again about the taxpayer dollars and political capital that were squandered on the persecution of flawed Nevada Controller Kathy Augustine, here are a few easy methods for decreasing fuel demand and the environmental impacts of greenhouse gas production, as provided by

Turn your refrigerator down. Refrigerators account for about 20 percent of household electricity use. Use a thermometer to set your refrigerator temperature as close to 37 degrees and your freezer as close to 3 degrees as possible.

Set your clothes washer to the warm or cold water setting, not hot.

Make sure your dishwasher is full when you run it. Allow dishes to air dry.

Turn down your water-heater thermostat. Thermostats are often set to 140 degrees when 120 is usually fine.

Set your thermostat at 68 degrees in daytime, and 55 degrees at night. Lowering your thermostat just two degrees during winter saves 6 percent of heating-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Clean or replace air filters as recommended. Energy is lost when hot-air furnaces have to work harder to draw air through dirty filters.

Wrap your water heater in an insulating jacket.

Use less hot water by installing low-flow shower heads.

Weatherize your home or apartment, using caulk and weather stripping to plug air leaks around doors and windows.

Whenever possible, walk, bike, car pool or use mass transit.