If you watched the news at all the last week, you can probably see the writing on the wall, financially speaking. Things are, to say the least, not going well in the financial markets. So you probably realize that this is good advice in at least one respect. But I bet some of you have no idea what debt has to do with energy usage. Why would I be advising you to get out of debt to save energy?
The fact is, that energy usage is heavily correlated with wealth. The more money we have, the more money we are likely to spend, and the more energy we use. It is true that wealth can buy you some fancy things like a Prius or solar panels, but generally speaking, rich people tend to use so many resources that any savings from their cars or solar panels are lost.
Now consumer debt in our society functions to expand our income - if you carry 8K in credit card debt, effectively, you are living as though your salary is significantly more than it is. If you start paying off your debt and living within your means, generally speaking, your energy usage will fall, because you'll be buying less. Now this is one of those things that has some exceptions, but not as many as we think.
The stuff we buy costs us energy - we have to house it, repair it, we use the electricity to run it and the gas to make it go. So the more stuff we have and we buy, the more energy we use. And the root issue is how much we spend on that stuff.
But there's more. Most of us work an average of 2 1/2 months per year for servicing the intereest we have on our mortgages, credit cards and car loans. Think about that - you are working your job for *months* every year just to pay the interest on your debt. The average American has a mortgage, car loan, and almost 10K in credit card debt. Think how much more relaxed the pace of your life would be without that pressure to put in overtime, or get a higher paying job. How many commutes could we cut?
And when you pay that interest, the company takes that money and reinvests it in all sorts of things, some of them perhaps environmentally sound, most of them not. You are passing off your money to credit card companies for them to make use of. Do you really think they are better stewards of your money than you would be?
Paying off your debt makes sense in lots of ways. The bankruptcy laws that were enacted a couple of years ago now make default or bankruptcy much, much more punitive. The financial markets are struggling, and the rest of the economy is teetering. So to preserve your personal security, it makes sense to pay those debts down. But it also reduces the energy you need and the energy you use.