Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

October 3, 2008

Talkin’ About Energy Independence

Category: Climate Change,Political,Rants – Tom Harrison – 3:29 pm

In watchin’ the VP Debate last night I now understand Sarah’s and John’s position on energy independence. See, I’ve been havin’ some problems understandin’ how these guys can be for it when all they’re saying is “Drill, Baby, Drill”.

The thing is, and I would like to shout out directly to Sarah here (can I call you Sarah?). You see, Sarah, energy is not exactly the same thing as oil, gas, and coal. Now I know you’re sittin’ right on top of a whole heap of oil and gas there in Alaska, and it seems like a gosh-awful lot of it that we can tap into, and for sure, almost everything we use to power our country with now comes from one of those taps. Yep, there’s some nu-cu-ler in there, too and a little other crazy stuff.

But Sarah, lemme tell it to you straight. A billion or trillion of barrels sure seems like a big ol’ number, but the thing about it is, though we do have a bunch of billions of barrels of oil that we could tap into, those billion taps would only make only one of New Jersey, North Carolina, or Georgia energy independent. Or if you want to make sure to catch Alaska in there, well we could instead do all of NH, HI, RI, MO, DE, SD, AL, ND, VT, DC and WY. You see, Sarah, either one of the first three, or all of the last 11 states I list have about 3% of the population of the US. And all that oil we can get offshore and in Alaska and other parts of the US, well that’s about 3% of what’s available, even though we’re using more like 25% of it.

Well that math just doesn’t add up for me. Sarah, if you’re buying candy at that general store on Main Street and it costs a quarter, and all ya have is three pennies, well you’re short by quite a bit there. Do you know the guy behind the counter or somethin’, Sarah?

OK, OK, you caught me on some fuzzy math (there I go again, just like those Washington and Wall St. fat cats). Of course there’s more to it than all that, but I’m bettin’ you’ll see that even though billions sounds like a lot, it’s kind of a drop in the bucket of what we use today.

So, sure, we can go after that oil, and we can make more of our buildings and ve-hicles run on natural gas so we can use the oil where we need it, like in planes and SUVs. Good luck gettin’ one of them nu-cu-lar plants built. It’s sure too bad all of these things take such a darned long time.

But there is a resource we have a huge amount of, we know how to use, and can increase production of right away if we put a little our our attention to it.

Oh, sorry Sarah, I had you going there for a minute — you thought I was going to say coal, didntcha?

Well yes sir, we sure do have a big old bundle of coal right here in the US. And no doubt, we’ll use more and more of it.

But there’s a little secret I hear about, livin’ hear on the East Coast amongst all the other commies — they say that there’s a lot of wind (and I’m not just talkin’ about the hot air in Washington!!), and also solar power here in the US of A. Well heck, that big commie T. Boone Pickens has himself a plan for tapping into it. And wouldntch know, our good ol’ American Ingenuity is making these things turn out a whole bunch of electricity, more every year. Why just this year, we doubled how much wind we use to make electricity.

So the thing about it is, you see Sarah, this energy thing isn’t just about oil. And you know what, I also mean that same old thing when I say “energy independence”.

Now I know that could come as a shock to ya, but I know once you see that wind and solar, combined with other things could actually fix most of our dependence on foreign energy, er, I mean oil, and make up for a whole bunch of those jobs that we’re losing on Main Street, well I think you’d see it’s a real good bargain.

See that’s the thing: we’re mostly dependent on oil, so it makes perfect sense that we get more of what we need from here. But Sarah, it’s just not that easy since that guy you want to buy a quarters worth of candy from for 3 cents, he’s not sellin’

And Sarah, I know you agree that we need to start doing a little more conservation of energy. Gol dangit, turns out we probably could reduce the amount of energy we use by 25% or more just by using less of it. And we can do that starting tonight.

Well now that I have explained that we really don’t even have enough oil anyway, I sure it’s a relief to know that we have such a great opportunity with wind and solar and conservation.

Oh, and by the way one of the neatest things about wind and solar is that, the good lord willin’, they won’t run out like oil will. And we know that conservation won’t run out, Sarah.

Oh, and there’s this one other thing is that when you burn pretty much anything, well this CO2 gas is released. Oh yeah, even that clean coal technology (which I am not sure actually exists for real), or ethanol from corn or whatever — they all burn.

Now what in tarnation does CO2 gas have to do with the price of eggs on Main Street? Sarah, I know you’re kind of not really all that convinced that us people had anything to do with this whole global warming mess we’re in now. Well, you can have your opinion, and all them hundreds of scientists who have spent the last 20 years thinking about it can have theirs. But it sounds like you agree we gotta do something about that global warmin’. So we might as well just do what them crackpot scientists say and try to put less CO2 in the air.

Well Sarah, have I got some great old news for you. We can have our cake and eat it too, seein’ as how wind and solar (get this) don’t burn a thing so don’t release CO2. And neither does not burning something in the first place. And that’s why it has to do with the price of eggs on Main Street.

I’m sure you’ll talk to John about this for me, wontcha?

And good luck in that next election — I sure hope the US of A makes the right choice we have comin’ up in just a few weeks.

Update: Here’s the SNL take on the VP debate. Tina Fey is just brilliant!


  1. Tom, the sky clouded up this afternoon and the wind picked up. The solar panels had the batteries almost full and the wind generator finished the job and is keeping them full. The amp hour meter on the kitchen wall reads 100%.

    The temperature in my solar closet is 100 degrees. The are thousands of BTUs being stored for the cold nights ahead.

    Wind and solar work. The problem is that they aren’t profitable.

    My solar panels will be working 50 years from now. They require almost no maintenance. The batteries will have to be replaced in a few years but will last much longer than an automobile battery. I buy a few gallons of distilled water each year.

    There’s more profit in oil. Energy independence isn’t the issue. It’s about profit.

    Comment by Paul Lambert — October 3, 2008 @ 10:06 pm

  2. Yes, profitable has been the issue for many years.

    That equation should change a little, regardless of which candidate is elected. McCain still thinks giving tax breaks to major energy corporations is the right thing to do. I would potentially agree if they had ever shown any predisposition to invest those breaks in development of alternative energy. But they call themselves oil companies, and as long as they do, they are part of the problem.

    I am glad to hear that both candidates support cap-and-trade, which if not perfect is a pretty good way to make CO2 emissions less profitable, thereby leveling the playing field a bit. Not to mention getting a tiny start on global warming issues.

    But even in the absence of significant federal support, states, researchers, and corporations with foresight have been making significant steps in the right direction, and these steps make the gap between profits from oil and profits from wind or solar smaller. Just this week in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) had its first auction, which exceeded most peoples’ expectations.

    As I see it, many things are lining up:

    • Technological advances in efficiency are improving wind and solar competitiveness
    • Volatility in oil markets are waking us up to the risks of energy dependence
    • The reality of global warming is beginning to be accepted at a policy level
    • “Peak Oil” is beginning to manifest itself, perhaps. At the very least, the marginal cost of getting new oil is increasing
    • Several major forces are pushing for large-scale investment in wind and solar (We Campaign, Pickens Plan)
    • The country seems ready for change in leadership (perhaps the understatement of the year)
    • The chance that we’ll have a unified Congress, Senate and Executive branch may make rapid action more likely

    On the other hand, several other factors may be disruptive:

    • The financial crisis may make us less willing to take on risk
    • Coal is a disaster. We have huge, huge supplies of it, and if things get any worse, there’s no doubt we’ll go after it even more under the absurd notion that it can somehow be “clean”. Coal is both a climate disaster when it is burned and an environmental disaster when it is mined. Clean Coal is the same kind of doublespeak as “Clear Skies Initiative”. But many people have jobs depending on coal, and we have enough that it could actually affect our overall energy dependence.
    • Growing unemployment and personal financial distress will make the idea of additional changes affecting costs now for future benefit less palatable
    • A failing economy will naturally depress the demand for oil and take off some of the pressure that have been, for better or worse, the thing that finally got us off our butts to make change
    • Democrats will somehow find a way to shoot themselves in the feet as they gloat over their new power (just like the Republicans did in the early 90’s)

    Still, there’s momentum now, and while we certainly need several orders of magnitude more momentum to begin to get things on a path to success, at least it is clear that the last several years have been huge in terms of making wind and solar a more realistic large-scale solution for at least some of the roadblocks that have hampered its adoption.

    Paul, your solar and wind installations are a model that are part of the solution. I am sure your initial costs and payback period were a lot larger and longer when you did your installations as they would be today. But by making this change, you advanced the cause by showing people who don’t believe that solar and wind (not to mention others) are real and feasible and just need a little extra help to make them also be the best financial choice, as well.


    Comment by Tom Harrison — October 4, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

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