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Today's word on journalism

Friday, September 1, 2006

"[F]ew things are as much a part of our lives as the news. With the advent of sophisticated mass communication, the news has become a sort
of instant historical record of the pace, progress, problems, and the hopes of society. On the other hand--and here's the puzzle -- the news provides, at best, a superficial and distorted image of society. . . . The puzzle, simply put, is this: How can anything so superficial be so central to our lives?"

--W. Lance Bennett, political science professor, 1988

Higher gas prices are forcing many to find ways of saving money -- especially college students

By Emil Dixon

May 4, 2006 | In recent weeks, the price of crude oil has risen to more than $72 a barrel, resulting in higher gas prices across the nation. Even in Cache Valley, analysts predict the cost of gas to increase to $3 a gallon by the peak of summer, leaving many people looking for extra cash.

Dustin Deason, from Louisburg, Kan., said he has absorbed the extra gas costs by finding ways to save money on his monthly utilities bills.

"I talked with my roommates and got them to turn off the lights and shut the door once in awhile," he said. "Now I can kind of afford to eat and don't have to ride my scooter to school in the rain."

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average U.S. consumer spends more than $1,600 a year on utility bills, but can save up to 25 percent of that amount by using the department's money-saving techniques.

The department's website encourages consumers to use a whole home (or apartment) approach. Specifically, it recommends consumers focus on all of the little things in their home that use energy. For example, plug TVs and DVD players into power strips that can be turned off when they aren't in use, because even in standby mode the units use power that can add up each month.

From a real-world approach, Cheryl Taylor, from Kennewick, Wash., said she thinks the best way to save money on utility bills is to keep the thermostat around 65 degrees. "I keep a couple of extra blankets on my bed and wear a sweater around the house, but it saves me a lot of money," she said.

According to, Taylor's tip is a good one. The website recommends consumers use an electric thermostat that will keep the house cooler when they are gone, and then automatically heat up when they come home. Further, the website lists some general energy-saving techniques, including:

  • Setting your water heater at 120 degrees or turning the dial from high to medium
  • Running clothes- and dishwashers with full loads
  • Taking showers instead of baths, and
  • Cleaning the dryer's lint screen between each load

In order to help consumers save money on their electricity bills, Utah Power suggests:

  • Using compact florescent light bulbs, which use 25 percent less energy and last 10 times as long as typical incandescent bulbs
  • Turning off the lights in unused rooms and using lamps instead of overhead lighting
  • Using a microwave or electric heater to cook food instead of the oven, and
  • Spacing food in the refrigerator evenly so that it doesn't obstruct airflow

In addition to these techniques, Cheryl Perkins said she reviews her utilities bills each month to identify any cost changes. She said if she finds any positive patterns between her bill and the previous month's activities, she tries to repeat them.

"By keeping track every month, it makes me think before I turn anything on," she said. "I ask myself whether it's really worth the money. If not, I leave it off."

For more energy-saving tips review the websites above, and consult with local utilities providers.


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