News Focus; Conspicuous Energy Consumption

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), August 4, 2000 | Go to article overview

News Focus; Conspicuous Energy Consumption


Consumption is a virtue.

Adam Smith (1723-90), in his ``Wealth of Nations,'' defined consumption as the ``sole end and purpose of production.''

Consumption has two faces. It should neither be excessive nor dull. It must be sound.

Advocating this basic and simple economic theory must be like teaching one's grandma to suck eggs.

Conspicuous consumption has emerged as a serious social question, particularly in the ever-increasing use of energy.

South Korea is a country with only a limited amount of natural resources and produces not a single drop of oil.

As the summer heat has been reaching its peak, with a seasonal record of 35 degrees Celsius in Seoul on Wednesday, energy consumption to lower the temperature has been snowballing, threatening the power supply.

Automobiles with no passengers jampack the streets bumper-to-bumper, creating rush hours all day long.

Lights are not turned off in most deserted offices during lunchtime, and air conditioners are left in full operation. Most computers consume electricity all day long.

A recent survey revealed that residents in many public buildings have been enjoying a ``winter of their own,'' thanks to excessive air conditioning. The average indoor temperature was 23.4 degrees C, compared to the appropriate and recommended temperature of 26-28 degrees.

Nearly half (46.2 percent) of the 500 Seoul residents questioned said that the felt cold at many public places. One of them said, ``You have to be sure to wear a suit there.''

Perhaps the worst case of energy abuse can be witnessed in Yongsan Electronic Market and Chonggyechon Street in Seoul, where several scores of lighting stores are crowded.

A vicious circle of energy wasting takes place there, and this is no wonder. Hundreds of various lighting fixtures are kept on day and night at every store, eventually warming the rooms. To reduce the heating effect of the bulbs and lamps, air conditioners have to be operated at full capacity.

No one can intervene. ``It's none of your business. It's me who pays electricity charges,'' one of the storekeepers said.

It is bizarre that the ``Citizens' Solidarity for Energy Consumption'' has not yet visited the area and asked the merchants to turn off the lights when their businesses allow it.

These are mere examples of energy misuse.

Koreans' spending spree places Korea in sixth place in the world in terms of daily petroleum consumption, and second in terms of the rate of increase in energy consumption.

In contrast, Korea is 26th in the world in population and 11th in economic size, next to the United States, Japan, China, Germany and Russia, which have abundant resources and much bigger populations for petroleum consumption. …

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