Diversifying and localizing our energy sources while also reducing our reliance on them will position us well in times of such stresses as Peak Oil, Climate Change and the current economic crisis. The issue of energy is ever present and yet at the same time it is something we take for granted. How can we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels while still providing a good quality of life? Below are some ideas of what we can do as a community and as individuals:
The cost of making these improvements are more than the cost of the energy that is saved.
The cost of energy is on the rise and is not expected to ever go down over time. The finite reality of fossil fuels means that as supply is diminished, the more expensive it gets. Our whole society is built around cheap fossil fuels and as it becomes more and more expensive to sustain the way of life we take for granted, hard choices will have to be made. The most cost effective thing to do is make the changes now while we still can afford to. This makes us all more resilient and part of the solution in reducing CO2 emissions.
If you find you are not in a position where you can significantly reduce your individual energy use, you can still make a difference by working on community-wide solutions to reduce energy consumption. Community-wide solutions have a greater impact, reaching people beyond the usual constraints of homeownership, capital, and know-how.
The U.S. is importing less oil now than it ever has because of improved domestic oil extraction.
True, but that oil will still eventually run out and when it does it will be pretty sudden because the latest extraction methods get the oil in a big gush unlike the conventional methods that get a more gradual extraction. Climate Change is already making off-shore oil drilling more risky in places like the Gulf where hurricanes are frequent which brings us to another challenging reality; even if we had all the oil in the world at our disposal, the problem of Climate Change means we have to find alternatives because the burning of fossil fuels is making our planet uninhabitable. For more information about these issues see the following:
I can’t get solar panels because A) my property is too shady, B) I rent, or C) my condo association won’t allow it.
It is still possible to get energy from renewable sources without getting solar panels and wind turbines installed on an individual’s property. NStar has a NStar Green program where you can buy 50% or 100% wind energy. You can read more about it at their website:
However, where there is a will, there is a way. Perhaps a group in a condo complex could work with a solar installer to find a way to make it work and then present the idea to the whole condo association. Many times people want renewable energy but think they can’t because they live in a situation where they don’t have total control. However, often these are just the places where the most impact can be made, affecting many more people than single family homeowners.
What difference does it make where my energy comes from?
Mercury and other poisons produced by coal plants—like arsenic and lead—cause birth defects, brain damage, premature death and cancers. Children are especially vulnerable. Over 400,000 newborns are affected by mercury pollution every year and the emissions are especially bad for Climate Change. Foreign oil makes us dependent on the Middle East for our way of life and our own domestic oil still has the problem of carbon emissions and environmental degradation. Fracking makes our water undrinkable and even flammable. Nuclear power has the spent fuel rods problem and the security issue. Even with those challenges put aside, the enrichment of the uranium has fossil fuel emissions. So, fossil fuels all have problems. Renewable energy, by comparison, has few and also has the potential to diversify the power supply, making it more resilient and more democratic.