Much of the potential to conserve resources in our society will come by increasing incentives for people to invest in more energy-efficient homes and vehicles, and to be more aggressive about maintenance. But people who are poor don’t typically have access to savings or credit, so they generally can’t invest in these things, even if the payback is excellent. Examples include buying a fuel-efficient car, installing thermal siding or attic insulation, sealing leaks in building walls, or replacing windows with thermal/solar windows to save on energy bills. This is one of the reasons it is hard to get out of poverty: you can’t afford to buy something that costs more up front, even if it would be cheaper in the long run. Deferring maintenance is also expensive in the long run, but when faced with a choice between getting the car tuned or buying food, few people will get the tune-up, even if it means wasting gas and paying more at the pump.
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