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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

We have seen the Energy Enemy and it is US!

With the latest problem with nuclear energy in Japan following the Gulf oil spill of the past year and the coal mining disasters of past years it seems that we have retreated farther from finding a solution to our growing energy needs and reducing our "carbon footprint." With the hope of clean solar and wind energy seeming to be far down the road what is the solution until new technologies are economical and practical? The answer lies with all of us in terms of energy conservation. This solution flys in the face of the motto of “drill baby drill.” It unfortunately been associated only with liberal “tree huggers.”

About a year ago I watched a Netflix movie called “No Impact Man” that documented one man’s effort to reduce his carbon footprint. He did some radical things like not using electricity for 6 months, not using any paper products (including toilet paper—watch the movie to see how he did that!) and washing his family’s clothes in the bathtub. He lived in a Manhattan apartment with his wife and small child. Using public transportation and riding his bike may be more of a challenge for some of us in Howard County with our limited public transportation.

The point of the movie is not to expect everyone to live as extreme as he did but to truly look at our use of energy and decide what we can live without. For me I decided that I could live without using paper products like paper towel, napkins and plates (but not the toilet paper!). Not only was I saving trees but saving money on the cost of these paper products. Even buying these in bulk they used to be a major part of my bill at Costco or BJ’s. I still haven’t figured out a good replacement for the plastic freezer and sandwich bags but I have reused them more. I also reuse the trash bags that I use to put out for trash pick up. It doesn’t make sense to put degradable materials in plastic garbage bags. I have never understood why Howard County will let you put your leaves in plastic bags for pick up. Some jurisdictions have large mulching trucks with vacuum hoses that pick up leaves. Seems to be a better way.

As Americans it is embarrassing to hear how much more energy we use than any other country. If everyone in the world used energy like Americans we would need another 5 earths to meet our energy needs. We have become accustomed to having many of our electrical appliances on "stand by" even when we are not using them. Do we really need to have our electric toothbrushes charging and computer printers and speakers on all the time? Now that everyone is switching over to flat big screen televisions the energy used by televisions is substantially higher. Much of this is because of the larger size of the televisions. If you go big screen LCD is much better energy wise than the energy hogs of plasma. And do we really need 60-inch screens when 32 inch was great with the old TVs?

Super-sizing in America not only applies to fast food but to many other needs. The biggest energy hog that we have super-sized has to start with our houses. In the 1950’s the average house was half what it is today. Most of us grew up in a house with one bathroom. As homes grew the idea of family rooms, rec rooms, entertainment rooms and no one sharing bedrooms required more space. Three car garages are not uncommon.

Cars are another wasteful way that American’s lead the world in energy consumption. Apparently American’s love affair with SUV’s is not over. Do drivers of large SUV’s not see the connection between their need for size and horsepower causing our country to fight wars for oil in the Middle East? Just what statement does a Hummer driver need to make? Nothing is more satisfying than seeing a Hummer driver only being able to fill up ¼ their tank because of the cost of gas today.

Tomorrow I will talk about how to reduce your energy footprint in easy, realistic ways.

There is a great group in Howard County that is addressing the climate change issue. The Climate Change Initiative of Howard County and their webpage is
Go to their events page and attend one of their events.

1 comment:

JessieX said...

there is a program offered by the Maryland Fuel Fund; it's called Watt Watchers. now, i *know* this is but a pinch of a pinch of a percent in terms of The Real Issue ... but I like the concept in that the approach helps folks be more conscious about their energy consumption choices -

the program was designed -- i believe -- originally to help aid-dependent people need less financial aid by using less energy.