Transparency in energy usage

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How can open soruce help solve a huge problem?

I'm pretty passionate about renewable energy. After I read Thomas L. Friedman's "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" I was sold on higher prices for gas and putting solar panels on every roof in America. In fact, I was so eager to contribute, I had 18 solar panels installed on the roof of my home.

When I was checking out the energy infographic, "Interactive Transparency: America's Energy, Where It's From and How It's Used" over at GOOD, I was re-energized on the topic of renewable and sustainable energy.

I couldn't agree more with GOOD's opening statement:

"To fully understand the energy issue, we have to understand how America gets its energy, and how it uses it." They go on to say that America wastes a lot of energy, 54.5 Q BTU (Quadrillion British Thermal Units) to be exact.

It's hard to solve a problem when you don't know what you're trying to solve. For the energy situation here in America, the talk has been about reducing our dependency of foreign oil, increasing our renewable energy sources, and increasing efficiency of our systems. The infographic clearly shows that there is room for efficiency, with the highest waste in transportation.

Solving these problems all starts with transparency, collaboration, and open data. Looking at the sources from the GOOD post, the data is open and available as public domain from US Energy Information Administration (Department of Energy).

So the data is open, but it takes more than that. The collaboration between GOOD and Hyperakt is important because it makes this transparency useful. Their work makes the information visible and consumable. Most people are not going to look at the raw data from the Department of Energy.

Which brings us back to solving the problem. Open data? Check. Transparent sharing of information? Check. Collaboration to make that information useful? Check. It takes all three to show where we, as a  society, have to focus and move forward with action. When we work together to understand the truth, the answers are right in front of us.

Jason Hibbets is a Community Director at Red Hat with the Digital Communities team. He works with the Enable Architect, Enable Sysadmin, Enterprisers Project, and community publications.

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