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Burgess’ summit promotes smart ways to use power

“Going green” means nothing if you’re color blind, so to say. That’s at least what home designer Armando Cobo believes.

Twenty-five years ago, Cobo and fellow engineers began teaching free classes on how to boost a home’s energy efficiency, as well as fundamentals behind engineering buildings that are naturally more efficient. He still designs energy-efficient and environmentally healthy homes.

Nowadays, with hundreds of companies vying for the consumer’s dollar, he’s noticed the ubiquitous color meant to be a stamp of approval has become a meaningless gimmick.

“Now, everybody knows what green building is. The problem is that there are different shades of green,” Cobo said. “The majority of the shades are wishy-washy. They’re just marketing gimmicks that try to tell consumers their houses are really good, when at the end of the day, they’re just as bad as 95 percent of houses in the U.S.”

U.S. Congressman Michael Burgess, R-Pilot Point, together with local leaders and industry experts, convened to highlight steps North Texans can take to become truly more energy efficient and reduce their energy costs at the annual Energy Summit and Fair at the University of North Texas’ Discovery Park.

Atmos Energy, CoServ, Denton County Transportation Authority, Peterbilt and other companies set up booths to teach visitors how to be mindful of their personal energy usage and how to reduce their carbon footprints, including simple actions such as minding what devices are plugged in and personal water usage.

Burgess emphasized the importance of holding oneself accountable for behavior impacting the environment, as well how data compilation aids in discovering areas to improve. 

“When you stop and think about it, we’ve grown a lot since we started keeping those records,” Burgess said. “Sure, we’ve still got problems and could’ve done a lot better. But if you stop and think about where we are since the 1980s and early '90s, it’s dramatically different.”

Outside, about a dozen protesters with Indivisible Denton, a grass-roots coalition of Denton County residents, picketed with signs in protest of the conservative agenda to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump’s administration, possible collusion with the Russian government and other subjects. Signs also advocated for alternative and renewable energy sources. 

Inside, attendees learned about and discussed efficiency in regards to home living and transportation.

Drew Campbell, president of Capitol Insight, a Dallas-based legislative and business consulting firm, gave a presentation about how the auto industry is transforming. He cited revolutionary hydrogen fuel cell engines and electric cars, as well as how citizens will likely see more autonomous, self-driving cars in the near future.

“Just like what we have with automobiles now, we’re going to be looking for federal standards so you can get in your [self-driving] car to go from here to California,” Campbell said.

Campbell mentioned how this developing technology will increasingly impact the economy. Whenever he spoke at Burgess’ summit in a previous year, he recalls paying $4.75 for a gallon of gas. On Saturday, he said he paid $1.97 per gallon.

Event attendee Larry Howe has driven a Nissan Leaf for the past four years, which requires no gasoline and operates entirely from electricity. Through his entire ownership, he claims to have spent less than $200 on maintenance — not counting work like changing tires — and pays only $7 for annual state safety inspections.

“I was trying to use it as a learning experience. It’s gone as well as expected,” Howe said.

Although there are noticeable benefits to this new technology, Campbell mentioned how more commercial drivers and those who work in the auto industry will begin to lose their jobs. That trend already has begun with factory automation replacing live workers, citing how the 3.7 million U.S. workers in 1970 has reduced to just 700,000 today, according to his research.

But such changes in the economy and workforce are to be expected as companies begin to develop new technology that will sculpt the new American standard for driving and as politicians lobby for legislation on new technology.

“Is it disruptive? Oh, baby, is it disruptive,” Campbell said. “But it’s exciting.”

MATT PAYNE can be reached at 940-566-6845.