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Sunday, May 2, 2010

It's a wonderful life

In an earlier post I happen to mention that I currently use about 5 - 10% of the fossil fuel energy that I used to. Because I'm a bit nutty, I'm worried about the remaining few percentages. Here's the bottom line, I'm living a good life using few fossil fuels. The lights are on. The house is heated. Laundry and dishes get done. Computers compute. The happy little lights from the Internet modem are on. Good food gets cooked. The bread is baked. Music is played. The beer is chilled. Life is lived.

There are plenty of ways that the average American can reduce their energy use. Lots of low hanging fruit out there. I'm amazed at the number of old fashioned incandescent light bulbs are still in use. What really pulls my chain is going into a house and seeing the the steady power drains that aren't even doing anyone any good. There are lights on in empty rooms. The TV blares out but no one is watching it. Unused rooms are heated or cooled. Empty refrigerators or freezers keep chugging away. Plenty of useless car trips.

If the price skyrockets, most people will become more aware of their energy use. However, they could get the benefits today instead of waiting until need drives them. They could use today's resources to plan for tomorrow. Say electric power becomes outrageously expensive. If all you've got are incandescent lights, it might be necessary to turn off all but one low powered light bulb off. For the same amount of power, it's possible to run four compact fluorescents. Not only that, should things become really dear, there's the option of running one or two florescent bulbs where it would be impossible to run even one incandescent. Having modern electric light bulbs, even one, beats the heck out of yak tallow candles. However, without a bit of planning, you'd be lucky to manage candles.

If you reduce your electric needs, suddenly things like solar electric make sense. You don't need 50 panels to power your house -a half dozen might do the job. One might handle the essentials.

During the oil shock of the 70's, my family would spend summers at the lake where I live now. Gas had doubled overnight and then continued to go up. There was about a dozen people camped out on the property. When anyone had to go into town, they'd announce it. If you needed anything: a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, a part from the hardware store, the person going into town would pick it up. Trips to town were greatly reduced this way. Not only that, instead of going into town that day, you could decide to go swimming or fishing. The only cost for that extra time was maybe doing a small extra errand when it was your turn to go to town.

Even though the price of gas had gone up, we ended up spending less money on it, plus had more free time. The cost was in having to cooperate, coordinate, and communicate with other people. Is that such a bad thing?

-Sixbears

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