Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step


October 13, 2005

The End of Oil: The Five Percent Mission

Category: 5%'s Top 10 List,Economics,Policy,Political,Save Fuel,Technology – Tom Harrison – 9:07 pm

In 2004, Paul Roberts wrote a great book called “The End of Oil, On the Edge of a Perilous New World” that has inspired me to act. I will act by using 5 percent less energy this year than last.

Robert’ basic assertion is that we are running out of oil, and that our supply is falling as our demand is increasing. This is not a pretty economic picture. While this assertion is at some level unquestionably correct, it is not that we are running out of oil but instead what the causes are, what the trends are, and what we can do about it that make this book different.

His argument is well reasoned, balanced, and distinctly not a reprint of Chicken Little’s “The sky is falling” as you might expect from the title. While Mr. Roberts has a perspective that may not be embraced by the current U.S. administration, it is far from the usual liberal venom. Indeed, “The End of Oil” dismisses some of the frequently heard liberal positions. Instead, the book is based on careful research, and presents a well-reasoned argument, and in the last section some surprisingly reasonable and realistic measures our nation and world governments might take to address the problem.

A fundamental conclusion of the book is that we can take actions to avoid serious consequences of inaction, but like all big changes this will take time. But there is one thing we can do, and can do easily that will buy us the time we need: we can change our behaviors in a very small and almost costless way. In short, various simple measures of conservation have the potential to make a huge difference. If the USA were to reduce overall energy consumption by five percent, we would have the time we need for technology to mature and to make the structural changes needed to support a new energy infrastructure not based on oil.

There are many excellent ideas in this book, and some sobering conclusions. Many involve policy changes, political and environmental risks and directions, and technological changes. While I am glad to report that most are reasonable suggestions, I cannot do these things on my own. I have a job, a family and a life. But from this book, I have found one specific thing that my family and I can act on: we can use five percent less energy than we did last year.

In fact, with almost no pain, and with some improvements, I think my family has already reduced my consumption by a good deal more than this. You can, too.

I hope this web site can provide a forum for exploring the ways which each of us, and our country and world can change our behaviors a little such that we avert many of the perils that we face. The objective is to be practical and specific. I don’t think ranting or raging helps, although it is frequently justified. Instead, here are things to do and understand that will make a difference.

I hope it works!

Tom Harrison

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