How can we as individuals and a nation live with less energy?
We tell ourselves that we want to live simply. Below are some queries to begin discussion. None of us find this issue easy to confront. But those who are not yet born will have almost no choices - our failure to deal with energy issues will eliminate almost all of their options. The decisions we make will affect our children; our young people should help answer the queries. No one can know the answers to all these questions: these queries are to stimulate thought, inquiries, and possible action.
Energy efficiency and, sometimes, conservation have negative cost: they save us money, and therefore save us the time needed to earn the money. For example, compact fluorescents cost half as much as incandescents including the cost of bulbs even at the current subsidized energy price. Or compare the cost of a $0.30/mile car driven 6,000 miles/year ($1,800) with a $0.50/mile car driven 15,000 miles/year ($7,500) and consider the number of hours spent earning $5,700 net. But even in situations where saving energy costs time, consider whether we wish to take away the occasion that leads to war and whether we wish to leave those not yet born some oil, some energy choices, and a world less devastated.
The U.S. government could provide information so that we are not constantly reinventing the wheel. The complaint comes again and again from individuals: what choices should I be making, I don't have the information I need.
Some groups are more comfortable with the general query: how do we as individuals and a nation reduce our energy use and carbon dioxide production significantly? Others may wish the greater specificity of the queries below. The quality of answers is important, not the phrasing of the question.
1. How many gallons of water do I use daily? How many therms of natural gas and kWh do I use per day? How many gallons of gasoline do I use monthly? How many square feet does my house have per resident (count garage)? At what temperature is my thermostat set in winter? in summer? How many cars does my family have per capita?
2. Do I arrange my life to minimize the use of an automobile?
Do I live without one, carpool when possible, use bicycle or public
transportation when possible? If I buy a car, do I include energy efficiency
in my decisions? Are my vacations by train, bus and muscle? Do I select
my residence with direct and indirect transportation costs in mind? Do
I help prepare young people for the world in which they will live: teach
them bicycling safety and encourage them to use muscle power and mass transit?
If I live in a mass-transit friendly area, do I support a well-developed intermodal mass transit system? Do I support changing the infrastructure to become more bicycle and pedestrian friendly: sidewalks and bicycle boulevards? Does my government reward residences and businesses in high-density areas and charge true costs to people who live in low-density areas? Do I oppose roads not necessary for the future?
Do I work toward creating integrated, long term transit plans locally and nationally: plans that are friendly toward reduced fossil-fuel use. These would include improved intermodal access, and streets that are safe for smaller vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles.
3. Is my house energy efficient?
Do I minimize my use of air conditioning by good insulation, adaptation to the climate, air coolers, setting the thermostat to above 70* F? Do I minimize my use of heating by good insulation, adaptation to the climate, wearing more clothes, setting the thermostat to below 70* F? Do I take best advantage of passive or natural heating and cooling options (window shades, passive solar heat, etc.) for my home before turning to energy-consuming methods? Do I use energy efficient lighting (fluorescents, compact fluorescents) as well as energy efficient refrigerators, stoves and other appliances?
Do I close windows and shut off unused parts of the house when heating and air conditioning? Do I maintain these appliances, and use them in the most energy efficient manner? Do I use energy, when possible, at off-peak hours?
4. Am I energy efficient in the kitchen and rest of the house?
Do I avoid the use of packaged drinks, and avoid the use of aluminum foil when a less energy costly alternative is available? Do I take short showers? Do I hand wash dishes - but not with the water running, or use European energy-efficient dishwashers? Do I minimize my paper use, and use cloth rather than paper when practical? Do I request that the post office not deliver junk mail, and discourage companies from sending me catalogs and other solicitations? Do I eschew energy consuming devices such as leaf blowers in favor of hand labor?
5. Could I significantly lower my energy expenditure by buying less and choosing well?
Could I buy less? Do I buy objects that last, rather than objects that wear out quickly? Do I consider energy costs when selecting items? Do I share tools and cars with the neighbors, or rent them? Do I eat lower on the food chain? Do I avoid buying products from far away when there are local sources available?
6. Do I personally avoid (or sharply limit my use of) recreational vehicles, pick-up trucks and off-road vehicles used as family transportation, sports utility vehicles and other low-efficiency vehicles, motor boats, water skis, jet skis, snow-mobiles, barbecues, wood fires (except in environmentally correct wood stoves) and other environmental polluters?
Do I support bans on such items?
7. What am I doing to encourage our nation to change its energy habits?
Do I support raising the price of energy to the actual cost of energy? Do I use the opportunities I have to teach others, especially young people, about the real costs of energy use, and about alternatives to the usual patterns of consumption? Do I support less dangerous energy sources over more dangerous sources? Do I support research into energy conservation, energy production, and new transportation systems? Do I support educational efforts to raise the level of discussion on energy issues?
8. Do I pay attention to a company's energy policy as I might pay attention to its labor policy? Do I act on this energy information?
9. Do we care for those who will be hurt in the changeover?
What other questions
are Friends asking?
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