Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Energy Independence??


ROBERTA: I'm guessing most of the country is watching what's unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico with absolute horror: pools of oil washing up on the white beaches, the oil-slicked animals, the enormous plumes of oil under the surface floating lord knows where and wreaking who knows what destruction. Even if we're not directly affected by the disaster right now, who knows where the damage will end?

It's such a helpless feeling. I've read a number of essays and op-eds that remind us that this should be a wake-up call. Sure we've been talking about how we need to conserve energy and change from fossil fuels to green energy for years. But is now the time to really do something about it?

Sooner or later, my family will need to buy a new car. So we've been looking into the choices--we need room for long car trips, and want comfort and good driving in bad weather. But now I've added another line to the list--must, absolutely must, get better than decent mileage.

HALLIE: I thought a lot about energy conservation when we were in Greece--there, hotel room keys not only opened the door, but when you got in the room you put the into a slot and it turned on the electricity to the room. So when the room was empty, ALL the electricity was off.

The truth is, we Americans take not even the tiniest step toward energy conservation. If we could just turn off all our appliances (except maybe the fridge) when we're not using them, we'd save so much. What would make us do it--nothing short of a huge spike in the cost of electricity. Gouge baby gouge...my new mantra. My product for the new millenium: : The Really Really Off Switch.

HANK: Oh, really really off. So interesting! I've been in a million hotels this week--and I've noticed that the rooms are now very dark. Even if you turn on all the lights (sorry). So clearly someone has realized at this level there are ways to save energy even with things on.

Isn't the answer is to find another energy source. And yet, when people start talking about wind turbines, it's all--not in my back yard!

(Digression: CONGRATULATIONS TO HALLIE for winning THE DAVID at Deadly Ink Convention! We're so proud! And well deserved...)

JAN: Congrats Hallie!! Energy conservation is tricky because you have movie stars promoting "green" as they fly between gigs in their private jets. People in 10,000 foot square foot homes point to SUVs as the culprit. Everyone blames someone else and gets all huffy about it.

I'm frugal by nature so I'd like to see everyone live more economically and modestly. But in a capitalist society, its not really going to happen unless economics dictate. In my formative years, I was impressed by research I did for a magazine article on alternative energy for The Real Paper. So I was appalled when people on the cape and Martha's Vineyard opposed the Wind Farm. And I still don't think it will destroy the view, but when I learned how much more expensive energy from the wind farm was going to be, I started to feel like I'd been had by a "feel good" solution.

I just don't believe that anything that's not driven by economics will succeed.

HALLIE: See? Gouge!!!! It's the only way. Oil and gas and coal have to get prohibitively expensive or everyone clutches their wallet and moans.

Thanks on the David... Is it 'energy-efficient' bulbs that make those rooms so dark?

ROBERTA: Just came across a very interesting article about whether people doing the little things can make a difference. This lady says yes, absolutely and references Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point. Once you're finished reading us, please hop over and take a look.

RO: I guess I think we do our own small part to conserve energy. We have one car, don't have a.c. in CT, I use a manual lawn mower, we put in a new energy efficient heating system, installed the smaller toilets which use less water, I no longer run the water while I brush my teeth, we use the goofy light bulbs and reuse or recycle. I have to think doing the little things matters - otherwise I wouldn't do any of it.
I remember going out with a colleague once and requesting skim milk for my coffee. She jokingly asked how many calories I was saving by not using the cream and I said I had no idea. But if I didn't do it, I might be asking for the dessert menu instead. Same principle.

RHYS: My congrats to Hallie too! Jungle Red Babes rock!
I've always been energy conservative. I think living in California we are so aware of water conservation. I also haven't run water while i brush my teeth for decades. We have all energy efficient light bulbs--they are somewhat dim compared to the old kind and they don't look pretty but the savings are enormous. We have our garden on a timed drip system. We've always made good gas mileage a priority. My last 3 cars have been Camrys and I will probably get the hybrid next time, unless they come out with a good electric car first.
What bugs me a lot is the absolutely wasted energy--skyscrapers with every office blazing light all night. Ditto department stores. I know they need some light for security, but surely there could be a night system.
I'd like a clothes line in my backyard as we get plenty of sun, but this is frowned upon. It's especially stupid not to dry clothes outside in Arizona where we have three hundred plus sunny days a year.
I'd like to be able to walk to stores and post office, but I can't, so a tiny plug in car for errands might be a great idea if they come up with an inexpensive one.

ROBERTA: Love the story about the skim milk Ro! Rhys, isn't that no-clothesline rule the ultimate in silliness? Maybe you can start a revolution in your condo complex! How about you guys? Are you noticing changes in your choices? And by the way, I have two brand new copies of UNSPOILED: Florida Writers Speak for Florida's Coast to give away to those who comment. It's a gorgeous book full of thoughtful essays.

And lest you think this will be a dreary week on Jungle Red, we welcome firecracker newcomer Sophie Littlefield to the blog on Wednesday. Then we'll be turning to food, glorious, food, and a surprise foodie guest on Friday. So come back often!

14 comments:

MaxWriter said...

I like the Power OFF ALL OFF button idea, Hallie. All those little lights on all the time - on the radio, the microwave, the clock, the computer - it's got to add up. And I really wish gas prices had stayed at $5 - that's the only thing that made SUV sales go down.

I have been delighting in the summer mileage on my Prius - averaging 62-63 mpg lately! (Roberta, FYI: I find it comfortable for long trips, commuting, and around town.) And I have been a clothesline user for decades. The dryer is only on when it's raining on a dark December day, and even then sometimes I just put it all on a rack next to the wood stove.

MaxWriter said...

I like Hallie's OFF ALL POWER OFF button idea. All those little lights on all the time: the clocks on the microwave, radio, TV. The power strip on. The digital clocks on. It's got to add up. I wish gas had stayed at $4/gallon. That's the only thing that has made SUV sales go down.

I have been delighted with the summer mileage on my Prius - averaging 62-63 mpg lately (and Roberta, it is a comfortable ride for long trips, commuting, and around town). And I've been a devoted clothesline user for decades (I even hang items sorted by owner and category...). I don't think I could live in a place that banned it. The only time the clothes dryer comes on is rainy dark December days, and even then sometimes I hang the damp laundry on a rack by the wood stove, instead.

Sheila Connolly said...

When I was working for an investment banking firm in California in the 1980s, one of our projects was looking at funding for wind energy. I even toured a windfarm near Palm Springs. What has happened with wind energy since then? Next to nothing. As Hank says, nobody wants a turbine in their back yard.

I've lived in two Victorian houses over the last 20 years. Neither has been a suitable candidate for air conditioning. What they did have, though, is excellent cross-ventilation. Have we all forgotten how to open windows to catch the breeze? And shut them again once the day heats up? Now we think we should be able to do it all with a button.

Cassy Pickard said...

Great topic, ladies. I spend a lot of time at our house in Italy. I am always taken back by my change in habits. Here in Connecticut I do run the AC (especially today at nearly 100 degrees) and I confess to not thinking too much about hopping in my car.

Yet, in Italy where the cost of energy is so expensive, I do change my habits. Hallie, you are right. Gasoline costs nearly four times as much as here, electricity is frightfully expensive, and all the costs are translated into each product. Combine that with the euro/dollar translation- yikes, it adds up.

Most people in Italy drive small cars. The refrigerators are smaller. The grocery shopping happens more frequently, yes that's time consuming, but the extras don't get lost in the back of the huge fridge- another kind of waste.

So, the question I keep asking myself is: Why can I behave one way in one place and revert to American behavior when I'm here?

MaxWriter said...

[I am trying for the third time this morning to post here - twice my comment was removed some minutes after it appeared.]

I like Hallie's ALL POWER REALLY OFF button idea. Those little lights are on everywhere: the time on the microwave, radio, TV, clocks. It must add up. And I wish gas had stayed at $5/gallon. Finally SUV sales went down.

I've been a clothesline user for decades, even hanging items sorted by owner and category. The only time the clothes dryer is on is dark damp December days, and even then I often hang the damp items on a wooden rack by the wood stove. And I've been delighting in my Prius' summer mileage, averaging 62-63 mpg lately (Roberta, FYI, it's a very comfortable drive for long-distance, commuting, and around town).

Edith

Kathy Thomason said...

My husband and I made the decision to garden the old fashioned way, without using any gas powered equipment, so we tilled our garden with rakes and hoes and now weed it either by hand or with a hoe.

P.A.Brown said...

People give a lot of lip service to cutting energy use, but when asked to give up something or make adjustments that resolve goes out the window. Both GM and Ford upped their production of SUVs in 2010 because that's what sells. I see calls to turn off lights in office buildings at night yet go into any large city and you will see lights blazing 24/7 -- and no doubt the air conditioning is also blasting away, keeping the empty building nice and cool.

People are still buying large, single family homes which they don't need, space wise, but want for the prestige. Then they spend huge amounts of energy dollars maintaining pristine and sterile lawns instead of vegetable gardens.

Three relatively simple ways to cut energy usage:

1. Cut back on your car use. Pressure your local city government to put more money in public transit, then use it. (Of the 6 members of my family, only 2 even own cars. I haven't owned a car in over a year. Sure, it's not always practical, but there are still people who won't go to the corner store without driving there in their car.

2. Keep things longer. Instead of needing to buy the latest gadget every year, keep your TV, computer, car, clothes, everything a year, two years, longer. We are manufacturing ourselves to death.

3. Buy locally. This is so simple, but is huge in two ways. You not only support your own community, but you cut down on shipping costs, another large consumer of energy -- shipping goods and produce all over the world, storing it, keeping it cold or frozen, etc.

I remember a year or so ago when President Obama came out with some ideas on cutting our oil consumption, he was mocked and one Senator even attacked his proposal to buy smaller cars by crowing that he wasn't giving up his SUV. The whole oil crisis has become a political game with anything the current party in power suggesting being attacked no matter what the merit of the idea might be. Maybe if everyone told their local/state/federal representatives to knock it off and come up with solutions, not knee jerk attacks on the opposition just because they are the opposition, maybe some real action could be taken.

Sadly, I think I'm a pessimist. The only thing I think is going to happen is everyone will go back to what they were doing before and more oil wells will be opened, off shore and on because everyone wants someone else to make the sacrifices, and no one wants to make any themselves.

P.A.Brown said...

People give a lot of lip service to cutting energy use, but when asked to give up something or make adjustments that resolve goes out the window. Both GM and Ford upped their production of SUVs in 2010 because that's what sells. I see calls to turn off lights in office buildings at night yet go into any large city and you will see lights blazing 24/7 -- and no doubt the air conditioning is also blasting away, keeping the empty building nice and cool.

People are still buying large, single family homes which they don't need, space wise, but want for the prestige. Then they spend huge amounts of energy dollars maintaining pristine and sterile lawns instead of vegetable gardens.

Three relatively simple ways to cut energy usage:

1. Cut back on your car use. Pressure your local city government to put more money in public transit, then use it. (Of the 6 members of my family, only 2 even own cars. I haven't owned a car in over a year. Sure, it's not always practical, but there are still people who won't go to the corner store without driving there in their car.

2. Keep things longer. Instead of needing to buy the latest gadget every year, keep your TV, computer, car, clothes, everything a year, two years, longer. We are manufacturing ourselves to death.

3. Buy locally. This is so simple, but is huge in two ways. You not only support your own community, but you cut down on shipping costs, another large consumer of energy -- shipping goods and produce all over the world, storing it, keeping it cold or frozen, etc.

I remember a year or so ago when President Obama came out with some ideas on cutting our oil consumption, he was mocked and one Senator even attacked his proposal to buy smaller cars by crowing that he wasn't giving up his SUV. The whole oil crisis has become a political game with anything the current party in power suggesting being attacked no matter what the merit of the idea might be. Maybe if everyone told their local/state/federal representatives to knock it off and come up with solutions, not knee jerk attacks on the opposition just because they are the opposition, maybe some real action could be taken.

Sadly, I think I'm a pessimist. The only thing I think is going to happen is everyone will go back to what they were doing before and more oil wells will be opened, off shore and on because everyone wants someone else to make the sacrifices, and no one wants to make any themselves.

P.A.Brown said...

People give a lot of lip service to cutting energy use, but when asked to give up something or make adjustments that resolve goes out the window. Both GM and Ford upped their production of SUVs in 2010 because that's what sells. I see calls to turn off lights in office buildings at night yet go into any large city and you will see lights blazing 24/7 -- and no doubt the air conditioning is also blasting away, keeping the empty building nice and cool.

People are still buying large, single family homes which they don't need, space wise, but want for the prestige. Then they spend huge amounts of energy dollars maintaining pristine and sterile lawns instead of vegetable gardens.

Three relatively simple ways to cut energy usage:

1. Cut back on your car use. Pressure your local city government to put more money in public transit, then use it. (Of the 6 members of my family, only 2 even own cars. I haven't owned a car in over a year. Sure, it's not always practical, but there are still people who won't go to the corner store without driving there in their car.

2. Keep things longer. Instead of needing to buy the latest gadget every year, keep your TV, computer, car, clothes, everything a year, two years, longer. We are manufacturing ourselves to death.

3. Buy locally. This is so simple, but is huge in two ways. You not only support your own community, but you cut down on shipping costs, another large consumer of energy -- shipping goods and produce all over the world, storing it, keeping it cold or frozen, etc.

Sadly, I think I'm a pessimist. The only thing I think is going to happen is everyone will go back to what they were doing before and more oil wells will be opened, off shore and on because everyone wants someone else to make the sacrifices, and no one wants to make any themselves.

P.A.Brown said...

People give a lot of lip service to cutting energy use, but when asked to give up something or make adjustments that resolve goes out the window. Both GM and Ford upped their production of SUVs in 2010 because that's what sells. I see calls to turn off lights in office buildings at night yet go into any large city and you will see lights blazing 24/7 -- and no doubt the air conditioning is also blasting away, keeping the empty building nice and cool.

Three relatively simple ways to cut energy usage:

1. Cut back on your car use. Pressure your local city government to put more money in public transit, then use it. (Of the 6 members of my family, only 2 even own cars. I haven't owned a car in over a year. Sure, it's not always practical, but there are still people who won't go to the corner store without driving there in their car.

2. Keep things longer. Instead of needing to buy the latest gadget every year, keep your TV, computer, car, clothes, everything a year, two years, longer.

3. Buy locally. This is so simple, but is huge in two ways. You not only support your own community, but you cut down on shipping costs, another large consumer of energy.

Sadly, I think I'm a pessimist. The only thing I think is going to happen is everyone will go back to what they were doing before and more oil wells will be opened, off shore and on because everyone wants someone else to make the sacrifices, and no one wants to make any themselves.

MaxWriter said...

[I am trying for the fourth time this morning to post here - twice my comment was removed some minutes after it appeared.]

I like Hallie's ALL POWER REALLY OFF button idea. Those little lights are on everywhere: the time on the microwave, radio, TV, clocks. It must add up. And I wish gas had stayed at $5/gallon. Finally SUV sales went down.

I've been a clothesline user for decades, even hanging items sorted by owner and category. The only time the clothes dryer is on is dark damp December days, and even then I often hang laundry on a rack by the wood stove. I don't think I'd be able to live in a place that banned them. And I've been delighting in my Prius' summer mileage, averaging 62-63 mpg lately (Roberta, FYI, it's a very comfortable drive for long-distance, commuting, and around town).

Edith

Pauline Alldred said...

I had a frugal Scottish mother so I've always been weird about saving energy. It's a relief to know I'm not going to be alone in my urge to turn off and unplug. I use cold water to wash clothes and I never iron. Where I live, a clothesline would work in the summer but in winter, I'd end up with frozen stiffs. I'm also looking into a hybrid for my next car. There are no natural gas lines where I live. Most homes are set up for oil heat. I'd be open for any suggestions for alternative heating sources.

Roberta Isleib said...

Here's what Edith Maxwell keeps trying to say but blogger is gobbling her up:

I always use the clothesline. I drive a Prius with mpg lately 62-63 mpg. Buy and eat locally grown food whenever possible.

She is a star! And good work Sheila, Kathy, and Pat too.. my sheets are on the line right now--and drying like nobody's business in this heat!

Barb Ross said...

Two years ago my husband and I gave up our second car. He can take the T to work and the days of running our kids from one activity to another were over. When we run into a conflict we can't negotiate our way around we rent a Zipcar. Zipcar is very educational because you're paying for your car, insurance, gas and garaging all in one hourly fee. It really gives you a sense of the cost of ownership.

Still, we could conserve more, especially me.